While you were watching the Olympics…

The Iconic Image of the Event: Celebrating brilliance is one thing, forgetting the rest of the world is a mistake. © The Guardian

Now don’t get me wrong, I’m all for celebrating British achievement and the fact that the Olympics weren’t the fiasco everyone was expecting them to be. The Olympics have been here, there and everywhere these past two weeks as people from all over the country have taken leave of their prejudices, their differences (and sometimes their senses) to come together and stick to their televisions for up to eight hours a day.

However in all this ‘We are #teamGB’ we have seemed to forget that a real world exists outside the shiny, happy wall to wall coverage of attractive, athletic types winning Gold medals.

For instance, a twelve year old girl, Tia Sharp, disappeared from her home in Croydon last Friday and her body was discovered the following week in her grandmother’s house. Her grandmother and two men have been arrested on suspicion of her murder.

On a national level, David Cameron has abandoned plans to reform the House of the Lords and pave way for the major reform promise of all three major parties at the last election out of fear for back bench rebellion angering his coalition partners, the Liberal Democrats into threatening the stability of the coalition by rebelling over boundary reform.

Across the pond, Republican presumptive nominee Mitt Romney announced his running mate for the American Presidential election in November, a pro-life, economic liberal called Paul Ryan who has been branded as an ‘extremist ideologue’ by the Obama camp with a budget plan that supposedly only benefits billionaires. Romney also used the opportunity to add another gaffe to his collection by calling Ryan the ‘future President of the United States’.

In other world news, Syrian rebels have been promised an increase in ‘non-lethal’ aid by British foreign secretary William Hague despite being accused of human rights abuses by Human Rights Watch as the civil war moves into the second city, Aleppo.

In another part of the world recently touched by the Arab Spring, Egypt’s President Mohammed Mursi has ordered the retirement of the country’s powerful head of the armed forces, Field Marshal Mohamad Hussein Tantawi. This has widely been seen as a strike against the narrow limits imposed by the Generals during the election. He has also announced a constitutional declaration to curb Presidential power has been shelved.

Finally, there was a massive earthquake in the north west of Iran and about 250 people have died with over 2000 people being injured and homes and villages flatten. The relief effort is now on to get people into adequate shelter before the onset of winter. Casualty figures are expected to rise as hospitals are struggling to cope with the influx of patients.

Iranians mourn over the covered bodies of loved ones in the village Baje-Baj, near the town of Varzaqan, © ATTA KENARE/AFP/GettyImages/Sky News

I’m not saying the Olympics isn’t important. I am not saying I wasn’t cheering on Mo Farah like everyone else but I can’t say it made me any prouder to be British (or from Yorkshire). There are individuals who have succeeded and I will cheer them on but I don’t feel they really represent me; the girl who disliked sport at school and loathed her self-aggrandising PE teachers even more. I was however proud to be an alumi of the University of Birmingham when Usain Bolt and Yohan Blake (possibly my two favourite athletes ever) praised ‘Birmingham People’ for doing such a good job hosting them before the games started because of my personal attachment to the place and the people in it.

The overwrought and overstated emotion attached to these games is misplaced. A video montage detailing Tom Daley rise to promience ahead of the diving final yesterday treated him like he was poised to pull a sword out of a stone, not get a bronze in the diving. Why is this necessary? Ultimately all sport is just a game and it will be played over and over again. It makes the individuals money and it makes many others happy but it doesn’t change the world and it certainly won’t change London.

Yes its great that this country has so many talented young people, yes its great that they can excel, but that doesn’t make the other citizens any less obese, any richer and it certainly doesn’t make Britain more ‘great’. We are still a fading world power that is so riven with internal division that we can’t get the other 90% of young people who weren’t blessed with athletic ability out of the dole queue.

The Olympics won’t change us. We may be united on Twitter and in front of the television now but how long will this last? I give it until Wednesday until we’re all bickering again. What has the Olympic said about us? We can make the trains run (sort of) on time for two weeks of the year? Some of us run fast?

I’m not saying the Olympics shouldn’t be on television, I’m not saying it shouldn’t be celebrated. However ultimately its just a sporting tournament that happens every four years and given London has hosted it more often than any other city on Earth and is full of tourists all year round anyway I think its probably time the Tube got a rest.

We can dangle the gold medals in front of faces to distract ourselves all we like but the real world isn’t going away. Young girls are still getting murdered, Middle Eastern dictators are still waging war on their own country and their citizens are committing atrocities in retaliation. Natural disasters  will still kill more innocent people .

By all means, celebrate tonight and go back to hating each other in the morning. I have no problem with the Olympics being front page news, it just shouldn’t be the only news. I know its a miserable thing to say but the real world isn’t going away just because we want it too.

A Review of the Year: Oceania and the Pacific in 2011

Contrary to popular belief, stuff happens in this part of the world and not just in Australia. With population change, climate change and regime change Oceania in 2011 moved just as fast as the rest of the world; so fast some of it even jumped over the international dateline.

Australia’s ‘Stop The Boats’ Campaign: Every country in the world has its problems with immigration. However, the conflict between the perceived threat the original inhabitants feel, the need of refugees escaping war or suffering and the realities of labour shortage is most keenly felt in Australia. The conservative opposition has ramped up popular pressure on Labor Prime Minister Julia Gillard to end the acceptance of asylum seekers into Australia who are currently being detained on Christmas Island. Although they currently make up only 2 per cent of immigrants in Australia every year, there is a perception of these people as ‘freeloaders’ who are coming to Australia purely to live on more generous welfare provision. The anti-immigration lobby seemed to have won a major battle when an agreement was reached with Malaysia to keep asylum seekers in detention centres in Asia whilst their applications are reviewed. However a a High Court ruling in September overturned the decision as Malaysia hadn’t signed up to a crucial human rights declaration which Australia had pledged to honour in its dealings with other countries. Thus, the lobby were back to square one.

Samoa Jumps Over the Dateline: Samoa and Tokelau choose a very unconventional way of celebrating New Year’s Eve this year, they did it a day early. On 29th December they went straight to 31st and forgot all about the 30th. This is because Samoa lies along the international dateline that marks the very edge of the timezone map; an invisible line in the heart of the Pacific with Australia on one side and America on the other. Although they originally moved to be closer to America, in recent years as Australia and New Zealand became their main trading partners they have chosen to bring their business hours more in line with their neighbours. It is also a way of making travel for native Samoans living abroad, New Zealand in particular has a massive Samoan immigrant population, easier.

New Zealand Earthquake: New Zealand suffered its ‘deadliest disaster in 80 years’ this February as a 6.3 magnitude earthquake struck its second city, Christchurch in February killing at least 180 people. The earthquake struck at midday on a Monday when the city was at its busier, 120 people were rescued alive from the wreckage. The damage was supposed to be worse than the 7.1 earthquake that struck the same city in September 2010 that left no fatalities. Eyewitnesses said they saw people wandering around the city in shock and most of the deaths have attributed to two buses hit by falling debris. The Australian government, the UN and the European Union pledged financial support for New Zealand’s recovery and it was reported that NZ$12 billion, this was the third most costliest earthquake in human history. The tremors even caused the iconic spire of Canterbury Cathedral in Christchurch to be toppled. There was further devastation when Christchurch was struck for a third time in June by another earthquake that killed one more person.

Papua New Guinea’s Political Crisis: Papua New Guinea reached a political stalemate that not even Belgium, the land of no government, could have imagined; it was torn between two. Sir Michael Somare, who had run the country as Prime Minister since its independence from Australia in 1975, left the country to seek medical treatment in Singapore in August and Parliament sworn in Peter O’Neill as Prime Minister in his place. The Supreme Court then voted by three to two that O’Neil’s appointment was not legitimate but Parliament ignored this and continued to recognise O’Neil as Prime Minister despite Somare having not stood down. This has led to a bizarre political impasse where the country has two Prime Ministers, two police chiefs and two governor generals. There have been no reports of violence between rival groups yet but state police are out in force to warn against any protest groups taking to the streets. So far, the police force and the army insist they will remain neutral but tensions could spill over if they are forced to pick sides. If this were to happen, essential services would shut down over insecurity fears. On 15 December, 500 supporters of O’Neill and more than 150,000 union workers gave the rival leaders 48 hours to negotiate, threatening to shut down public services. rallied outside parliament.UN General Secretary Ban Ki-Moon has called for political reconciliation and for the leaders to ‘to exercise maximum restraint and to avoid an escalation of the situation’. Papua New Guinea is no stranger to bloodshed, in 2002 a disputed election was one of the bloodiest in recent memory.

Tuvalu Drought: The small island chain in the South Pacific, Tuvalu is suffering a severe drought after months of low rainfall. Although Tuvalu is a tiny group of eight islands that is not home to more than 10,000 people, it has failed to see substantial rainfall since November 2010 and is suffering the adverse effects of the La Nina weather pattern that sees a year of enhanced rainfall than a year of drought.The government has issued a state of emergency and said it is unlikely to see rainfall until January. There have also been concerns raised over whether this is to do with man-made climate change, the science of climate is mandatory in all primary school syllabus on the island. Tuvalu is only five feet above sea level and the rise in sea water is threatening their fresh water lagoons. Saufatu Sapo’aga, a former Tuvaluan prime minister, called climate change ‘no different to a slow and insidious form of terrorism’ against Tuvalu.

Fake Bomb Attack in Sydney: Finally, a teenage girl in a wealthy suburb of Sydney was given the fright of her life this August as a Balaclava wearing strangers burst into her home and strapped what she thought was a bomb to her. 18-year-old Madeleine Pulver was studying for her exams at home when the stranger burst in and was forced to hold the bomb to prevent it detonating for 10 hours before police determined it was a fake. The daughter of a wealthy businessman,reportedly one of the wealthiest in Sydney was said to have ‘interacted’ with the hoaxer and a 50-year-old man, Paul “Doug” Peters was later arrested in Kentucky over an alleged extortion attempt.

Australia’s ‘Stop The Boats’ Campaign Is Rooted In Naive Rhetoric

Children Waiting To Be Let In. © Australian Democrats

The world population is approaching seven billion.  According to UN estimates revised in 2010, by 2050 it will have hit 9.3 billion, by 2100; 10.1 billion.

It would seem that the world is getting fairly crowded.

This will strain the earth’s resources and the disparity between rich and poor will increase as the accessibility of goods like food, water and sanitary living conditions will become even harder for certain parts of the world.

According to experts this will create a huge flood of asylum seekers across the world as wealthier countries have to deal with the burden of foreigners on their strained natural resources.

Australia’s anti-immigration lobby suffered a set back this week with its High Court ruling that the deal to process 800 Malaysian asylum seekers offshore in Malaysia in exchange for receiving over 4000 Malaysian refugees that have already been processed is unlawful.

Of course, this measure was largely symbolic of the anti-immigration campaign as it does little to curb the number of immigrants arriving in Australia but it does highlight the tension in the country over the arrival of ‘boat people’.
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