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Politics, COVID-19 front and centre during Beijing Olympics Opening Ceremony – Sportsnet.ca

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The world’s best winter athletes promise to put on a spectacular show for the next 16 days at the Beijing Olympics.

They’ll do so with an ominous political cloud hovering.

The Opening Ceremony on Friday signalled the start of a Winter Games not only taking place during the midst of severe COVID-19 pandemic restrictions in China, but with several countries, including Canada, staging diplomatic boycotts because of human rights violations.

Even the choice of torchbearers to light the Olympic flame – Chinese cross-country skier Dinigeer Yilamujiang and Nordic combined skier Zhao Jiawen – had political undertones, reported Tom Schad of USA Today.

The flame was placed inside a giant snowflake, officially making Beijing the first city to host both a Summer and Winter Games after staging the warm-weather version just 14 years ago.

The Bird’s Nest stadium hosted the Opening Ceremony for both events.

Here’s a look back at this year’s version.

How it started

The show began with a countdown from the No. 24 – representing the 24th Winter Olympics as well as the 24 solar terms in the Chinese Lunar calendar.

From there, it was a light and firework show followed by the first introduction of dignitaries – IOC president Thomas Bach and Chinese President Xi Jinping, socially distanced by well over six feet and both wearing masks.

That introduction led to a focus on the host country. The Chinese flag came out and was passed along by outstretched arms meant to represent the 56 ethnic groups of the country – a controversial move because of human rights violations – before going to military members.

Parade of nations

As usual, Greece was first to enter the stadium.

Taiwan was one of the first countries to be introduced – after reports emerged that it did not want to march, but was told to do so by the IOC.

As India walked in, no one from one of the world’s largest countries could see it on TV. India decided not to show the Opening Ceremony this week after China chose a military commander involved with deadly clashes with Indian border forces in 2020 to be a torchbearer.

About 90 Canadian athletes from the 215-member team marched in their red jackets. They were led out by flag bearers Marie-Philip Poulin (hockey) and Charles Hamelin (short-track speedskating).

“We’re here representing Canada, there’s no better feeling than that,” Poulin told CBC before walking in. “We can not wait to walk right in there.”

The Russian Olympic Committee, not allowed to be called Russia officially because of doping violations, received a cheer that could be heard clearly on the television broadcast.

Russian President Vladimir Putin also was in attendance, unlike many of his counterparts because of diplomatic boycotts.

As Ukraine entered the stadium, Putin was shown on the NBC broadcast. American and Ukrainian officials have estimated Russia has stationed about 100,000 troops close to the Ukraine border, causing fears of an invasion.

Bach talks

Bach touched on politics and the pandemic during his speech.

He appealed to political leaders to “observe your commitment to the Olympic truce. Give peace a chance.”

Bach also thanked the medical community for their work during the pandemic.

He had a message for athletes unable to attend because of COVID-19.

“Our heart goes out to all the athletes who because of the pandemic cannot make their Olympic dream come true,” he said.

Jinping declared the Winter Games open after Bach’s speech.

If you needed proof that the Olympics is about far more than just sport, this ceremony provided more than enough evidence.

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It's all about the stats: What politics and baseball have in common – CBC.ca

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In his final column as host of The House, Chris Hall talks with three political strategists to examine the intersection between two of his favourite subjects: politics and baseball.

There’s a saying that life imitates art. But for my money, there’s another comparison that’s equally true. Politics imitates baseball.

Here’s the pitch.

Politics and baseball are filled with tradition. There are a lot of rules; some are written, and some really just time-honoured traditions. 

Today, both are becoming more reliant on modern-day metrics — data and statistics — to attract new supporters, and to win.

In baseball, those stats help managers decide when to deploy the infield shift, or put an extra person in the outfield to prevent the best hitters from getting on base.

In politics, the numbers tell campaign managers which ridings to visit and which campaign promise to promote. They know how many swing votes are available in each voting district. Parties keep data banks that tell them which address is home to a supporter, and which is home to a voter who might be convinced to join their side.

So it’s not surprising that many politicians and their strategists are also baseball fans. 

The House’s politics (and baseball) panel, left to right: Anne McGrath, national director for the NDP, Jason Lietaer, president of Enterprise Canada and the former Conservative strategist; and Zita Astravas, former Liberal spokesperson and current chief of staff to Bill Blair. (Submitted by Jason Lietaer and Zita Astravas, Fred Chartrand/Canadian Press)

There is a powerful connection between running the bases and running a campaign, according to Anne McGrath.

“I think that all campaigns are, or strive to be, data-driven now,” said McGrath, the NDP’s national director and a veteran of both federal and provincial campaigns.

“It is the key in politics. You have to find the people who support you and get them out to vote. So you have to know who they are and know where they are and know what they care about.”

McGrath was a die-hard fan of the Montreal Expos. The club moved years ago to Washington and she’s still not over it. But McGrath sees a lesson in the move, about the importance of not just maintaining a fan base, but finding ways to get new ones to the ballpark.

“You do have to know who your base is and you have to expand it. You have to bring more people in. And you have to do it in a way that is attentive to changing demographics and changing ways of communicating with people and getting people interested and involved and motivated,” she explained.

CBC News: The House9:32Take me out to the poll game

In one of his last shows, host Chris Hall combines two of his passions: baseball and politics. He speaks with three fellow baseball diehards who happen to be political insiders: Liberal staffer Zita Astravas, Conservative strategist Jason Lietaer and NDP national director Anne McGrath.

Jason Lietaer grew up reading baseball box scores and waiting impatiently for the weekend newspaper that included the stats for every American League player, including members of the hometown Toronto Blue Jays.

Lietaer, a former Conservative campaign strategist who now runs the government-relations firm Enterprise Canada, is a believer in mining data for insights into a player or into a campaign. But just gathering that data doesn’t guarantee victory in either baseball or politics, he said.

Sometimes the bottom of the ninth happens a month before the game even starts.– Jason Lietaer

The players on the field, or the candidates knocking on doors continue to play a key role in determining whether you win or lose. Plus, it’s important to interpret that data correctly

“And I would say in politics, we’re still sort of struggling with some of that,” Lietaer said. “You know, is there only one or two ways to read the data? How important is digital communication? How important is this piece of information?”

The Toronto Blue Jays Alejandro Kirk hits a single during a game against the Boston Red Sox in Toronto on June 28, 2022. (Jon Blacker/The Canadian Press)

A key lesson is figuring out what the statistics are telling you before the end of the game or before election night, to better adapt to the changing circumstances and give your team a better chance at victory.

“Sometimes you don’t realize you’re winning or losing an election [until] you’ve already won or lost it,” he said.

“Sometimes the bottom of the ninth happens a month before the game even starts.”

The politics and baseball panel was one of the last interviews Chris Hall did as the host of The House. He retired from CBC in June 2022. CBC Radio created this ‘farewell’ baseball card to mark the occasion. (Ben Shannon/CBC)

Zita Astravas is another political insider who spends a lot of time watching baseball. She’s worked on both federal and Ontario Liberal campaigns and is now chief of staff to Emergency Preparedness Minister Bill Blair.

“I think one of the things that drew me to politics and baseball is statistics, and I think it’s one of the things that you can find common ground in,” she said.

“You do it every day on a political campaign: you look at different ridings and craft who your best candidates are, what your target ridings are, just as you do on different players.”

It’s all about finding a hidden meaning in the numbers, an edge to exploit on the field or in the hustings.

It’s all in the hopes of answering the key question, McGrath says: “Did we hit it out of the park?”

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Politics Report: The People Asked for Time and Now They Get Time Because What They Really Wanted Was Time – Voice of San Diego

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Early Monday, our Lisa Halverstadt learned that the City Council was not going to vote on a proposed settlement over 101 Ash St. after all. Serves us right for expecting a climax in any long-running San Diego political affair. 

Maybe the settlement didn’t have the five votes it needed, maybe some new information materialized, or maybe the mayor’s explanation that they heard the public’s call that it needed more time to process the terms of the agreement was all there was too it. That last explanation would perhaps be the most exciting, since it would mark the first time in city history that a proceduralist consideration wasn’t just poorly disguised cover for some substantive difference of opinion. 

Nonetheless, former Mayor Kevin Faulconer jumped on KUSI Thursday to say he was happy that Mayor Todd Gloria had decided to delay the vote for a month until the public had ample time to fully absorb the particulars of a settlement that would have ended some city lawsuits, continue others, and lead to the acquisition of two massive pieces of downtown real estate for a City Hall redevelopment that hasn’t been planned and won’t be within the next month. The public would also then have enough time to grok the city attorney’s dissenting opinion on the settlement, or both legal and policy reasons. 

“I think you have to make sure that any proposed settlement is going to be a benefit to the city, a benefit to taxpayers and it’s not something that should be rushed,” he said. “I think we’ll hear a lot more about that in the coming months.” 

Clearly, now that we’ve made the difficult, brave decision not to rush the matter, ignoring the screaming hordes from the pro-rush caucus, we don’t need to be in any hurry to articulate whether the deal actually is a benefit to the city and taxpayers or not. The important thing is that now we have time.  

Brief CAP Opposition from the Cap’s Top Champion 

Back in Gloria’s first stint in the mayor’s office – in an interim position that didn’t really exist – Nicole Capretz led the charge within his administration for what became his landmark achievement during that time, even though it wasn’t passed until Faulconer was in office: the city’s Climate Action Plan. 

The city adopted a plan that said it would half its carbon footprint by 2035 by, among other things, transitioning to 100 percent renewable energy and getting half of people who live near transit to bike, walk or take transit to work by that same year. San Diego basked in national praise from the New York Times and elsewhere.  

This week, though, Capretz – who now runs a nonprofit group that pushes San Diego and other cities to do more within their climate plans – came out as an opponent of the updated version of the same Climate Action Plan that Gloria is now trying to pass. Even though the plan is ramping up its goals – the city would now by 2035 reach “net zero,” when the level of its greenhouse emissions are equal to the level absorbed by the environment (or new technology that removes carbon from the atmosphere) – Capretz and her group urged a “no” vote from a Council committee, because the city lacked a timeline and cost estimates for its commitments. They eventually got on board when city staff agreed to provide that by February. 

Still, it was interesting to hear Capretz, maybe the city’s top salesperson for the climate plan, acknowledge that proponents had made mistakes with the first plan by not setting clear cost and time requirements for each of the policies included in it. 

“We did not insist on an implementation plan for the first Climate Action Plan,” she told our MacKenzie Elmer. “We’re not going to make that mistake again.”  

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Murphy's Logic: Politics trumps public interest | CTV News – CTV News Atlantic

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The initial reluctance of governments, federal and provincial, to appoint a public inquiry into the N.S. mass shooting, was difficult to understand. It took the heartfelt pleas of the victims’ families and the fast rising tide of public opinion to make the politicians act.

And now we likely know why they were so reluctant.

Imperfect though it may be, the inquiry eventually appointed has now exposed the obscene political considerations that were already at play in the days that followed the horror of April 2020.

The evidence reveals that political leaders, who should have been overwhelmed only with grief and concern for the trauma and misery wrought by a madman, instead seemed to seize an overwhelming opportunity to advance their own partisan interests in toughening gun control.

There is reason to believe the PM or his people, certainly his Ministers, were attempting to dictate, manipulate or at least influence parts of the RCMP the narrative. That’s unacceptable, a brazen display of politics put ahead of public interest, moreover, it’s heartless.

The Commissioner of the RCMP should not have been making promises to her political masters about the release of information about the sort of weapons used by the shooter but more pointedly, the politicians shouldn’t have been asking for such promises about that or anything else.

The Mass Causality Commission has already exposed many shortcomings on the part of the RCMP.

The force’s politically charged relationship with the government is yet another fault, yet another reason to demand changes in the way the RCMP operates.

The arrogance laid bare by the Trudeau government’s apparent willingness to interfere, to capitalize on the timing of a tragedy for crass political advantage, also suggests it may also be time to change the government.

   

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