In case you weren’t aware, I’m kind of a fan of the Olympics. Yes, I know about the drones, and the surveillance, and the IOC’s stupid rules about social media, and the rest of the free speech issues, and of course it angers me just like anything else. And I’m just as disgusted by the corporatization of the Olympics as the rest of you.
But I also really love the original spirit of the Olympics, and the idea of so many nations coming together in competition, and oh how I love Olympic trivia. For example, did you know that women were allowed to compete for the first time in 1900 but only 5 of the 24 official countries sent them and that it took 56 more years for all of those 24 countries to send women at all? Betcha didn’t know that.
In particular, I’ve loved following the participation of athletes from the Middle East and North Africa for the past eight years, especially since women’s participation has increased so rapidly in that time. Back in 2008, when I wasn’t writing about China’s Olympic-level censorship of the Internet, I was blogging about Moroccan participation in the Games, which I watched from my Global Voices editor Amira Al Hussaini’s then-apartment in Canada.
So you can imagine my excitement this year when, after a spate of random Olympic trivia tweets, I was contacted by the good folks at Al-Monitor and asked if I would like to blog the Olympics for them. Since the site focuses on the Middle East and North Africa, I was given free reign to blog about any aspects of that region’s participation. And indeed I have, writing about numerous topics, from the first Palestinian judoka to the introduction of women’s boxing to the globalization of artistic gymnastics (that piece should go up tomorrow). I also wrote a full-length piece on women in the Olympics, which required significant research to figure out the region’s history.
My own Olympic highlights are yet to come, as women’s gymnastics has only barely begun (though sadly, the two Egyptian gymnasts I was excited about watching were already disqualified from the individual all-around), but I am excited to see today that Saudi judoka Wojdan Shaharkhani will be allowed to wear hijab to compete after all, a precondition for her participation.
My blog is up at http://olympics.al-monitor.com/. Have a story idea? Let me know!