Wayde van Niekerk – Four Questions and Seven Shots From the IAAF World Athletics Awards Weekend

Wayde van Niekerk meeting with the press in Monaco, December 2016

Wayde van Niekerk meeting with the press in Monaco, December 2016

Wayde van Niekerk, the Olympic 400m champion and world record holder, was one of 16 athletes who met with the press in the lead-in to last Friday’s IAAF World Athletics Awards 2016. Seven images snapped during the semi-formal get-togethers that took place at the Fairmont Hotel in Monaco follow below.

The 24-year-old South African followed up on his solid 2015 season in which he won the world title with a campaign that saw him unbeaten in 11 finals over three events, capped by his 43.03 world record in the Rio final which took down the record Michael Johnson held for 17 years.

Four Q’s and Four A’s

What was his key highlight from the 2016 season?

Wayde van Niekerk: There was no one highlight – everything about this season and Rio has been a blessing. It’s given me so much motivation and confidence to go out and try to achieve more.

Does he still hate the 400m?

Yeah, with everything. (Laughs). I am really not a fan of the 400 meters. But it brought me to where I am so I can’t complain.

After his success with the 400, will he continue with the shorter sprints?

Yeah for sure. I’m really looking forward to working on my 100m and 200 meters. I always say that my first love in the sport was the short sprints. That’s why I do track and field. The 400 meters has brought me this far, so I don’s see a reason to go out there and neglect it. I feel that I should still put in a lot of effort in the 400 but at the same time I’ve got such a massive hunger inside me to improve my 100 and 200 as well.

After running 9.98, 19.94 and 43.03 in 2016, can he consider himself the best all around sprinter ever?

I wouldn’t say, ‘No, thank you.’ (Laughs). But at the same time it’s opened up a door of confidence in myself mentally to want to go out there and improve in each and every one of them. I’m definitely working quite hard towards that. And I’m feeling quite confident.

Five Snaps (and a Bonus!)

 

Wayde van Niekerk in Monaco, December 2016

Wayde van Niekerk in Monaco, December 2016

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David Rudisha – Portraits from the IAAF Awards Weekend 2016

David Rudisha Monaco 1 Dec 2016

I’m in Monaco this weekend to cover the IAAF World Athletics Awards 2016, the season-capping event organized by track and field’s international governing body to recognize the past year’s best athletes and their achievements.

Two-time Olympic 800m champion and world record holder David Rudisha is one of 16 athletes who has or will meet with the press in the lead-in to Friday’s ceremony. Seven images snapped during the semi-formal get-togethers that took place at the Fairmont Hotel in Monaco follow below.

Also below are a few outtakes from his Q&A session today and a handful of images snapped during his meet and greet at the Fairmont.

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On whether any doubts lingered in his mind about successfully defending his Olympic title after suffering two stinging early season defeats:

David Rudisha: It’s always tough when you get beaten. Although those races – the IAAF World Challenge, the Diamond League – they’re different than championship races and championships running. Championships create a lot of pressure. It’s very hectic. You need a lot of mental strength. That’s I think a reason why some of the very good athletes don’t get through to a final.

So since I’m strong and experienced, and I know how to handle the pressure, the rounds, the heats, just running in control to secure a place in the final.

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Several Hundred Rally Against ‘The Elite’ in Ljubljana – 11 Images and Notebook

Half Jansa Half Cerar posters at a protest in Ljubljana

There were two political gatherings in the Slovenian capital Ljubljana today.

The first, held this morning, was organized by Janez Janša, a former prime minister, and a coalition of right wing parties, who gathered to express their patriotism, to “defend Slovenia” and its values and rally against the government of Prime Minister Miro Cerar.

I didn’t attend that one.

Here are 11 images from the second which I did attend, an afternoon gathering of several hundred to rally against a host of grievances that include Slovenia’s growing poverty and unemployment, the exploitation of workers, the rise of racism and xenophobia, and the lack of opportunities for young people.

Music Cart leads marchers in a demonstration through the center of Ljubljana

Music Cart leads marchers in a demonstration through the center of Ljubljana

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Five Central and Southern European Mayors Meet in Ljubljana for Sustainability Round Table: Notebook and Images

Zoran Jankovic and Kadir Topbas

Ljubljana Mayor Zoran Jankovic with Kadir Topbas, Mayor of Istanbul

 

Mayors of five central and Southern European cities met for an informal round table meeting in the Slovenian capital Ljubljana on Thursday (March 10) to discuss ongoing efforts in their respective municipalities towards achieving urban sustainability. (See below for photo availability.)

Mayor of Ljubljana Zoran Jankovic hosted the event which was also attended by Mayor of Sofia, Bulgaria, Yordanka Fandakova, Mayor of Budapest Istvan Tarlos, Mayor of Istanbul Kadir Topbas, and Sinisa Mali, the Mayor of Belgrade. Violeta Bulc, the European Commissioner for Mobility and Transport, from Slovenia, and Erion Veliaj, the mayor of Tirana, Albania, also addressed the attendees.

Some scattered notes:

Topbas on the refugee and migrant crisis: “You must keep your doors open”

In one of the more interesting exchanges, Topbas, who has served as Istanbul’s mayor since 2004, strayed briefly from the main theme to address in broader terms Europe’s most recent response to the ongoing refugee crisis which has effectively sealed entry into the EU at the Greek-Macedonian border.

“You must keep your doors open,” Topbas said, speaking through an interpreter. “Refugees and migrants will always find a way. If one is closed, another will be opened. We have to solve this problem. If not, the planet will be facing even bigger problems.”

“It is the cities where most (migrant-related) problems arise,” he said, adding that Istanbul is hosting more than 500,000 of the estimated 2.7 million refugees that Turkey claims are now in the country.

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The Syrian Refugee Crisis in Lebanon – a Notebook and Primer

Young Syrian refugee boy selling flowers in Beirut. 09-Nov-2015

Young Syrian refugee boy selling flowers in Beirut. 09-Nov-2015

Cross-posted from my blog, Piran Cafe

NOTE: When I was in Beirut last month I met with country officials from the UN High Commission for Refugees (UNHCR) and UNICEF for a briefing on the situation of Syrian refugees currently living in the country. It’s one that has reached crisis proportions in less than four years: Lebanon now hosts more than one million Syrian refugees (some estimates are twice that), representing 25% of the population. That’s the world’s highest number of refugees per inhabitant.

I was planning to write a more complete story on the situation there but time constraints and other work commitments didn’t allow me the opportunity to visit any of the refugee settlements to speak with and collect stories from the refugees individually and directly, so the story was killed.

But rather than have the information I compiled sit on a hard drive gathering dust, I’m presenting my notes here for the benefit of others who may find the data informative and useful. To reiterate: this is not a complete article, only notes based primarily on interviews with relief agency officials in Beirut shared here because they are timely and relevant to debates transpiring around the world. My thanks again to Lisa Abou Khaled, the Assistant Communications Officer at UNHCR Lebanon, and Luciano Calestini, the Deputy Representative for UNICEF Lebanon, for sharing their time and insights.

In Conversation with Lisa Abou Khaled, Assistant Communications Officer at UNHRC Lebanon and Luciano Calestini, the Deputy Representative for UNICEF Lebanon, on the Syrian refugee crisis in Lebanon

To most Europeans and North Americans, the Syrian civil war was little more than another headline from another of the world’s conflict zones. Until this summer that is, when the humanitarian crisis that has already displaced more than ten million people both externally and internally over the past four years began to more forcefully spill onto and into the borders of the European Union. Upwards of a million refugees are expected to enter the EU this year, according to the UNHCR – a four-fold increase over 2014— with the majority fleeing the violence in Syria, a war which has already cost a quarter of a million lives, leveled large parts of many major cities and towns, and rendered much of the country ungovernable and on the verge of total collapse.

Yet those figures dwarf the numbers seen in Syria’s neighboring countries which have been both literally and figuratively on the front lines of the humanitarian crisis since the war erupted in the middle of 2011. There are about 1.9 million Syrian refugees in Turkey, and about 630,000 in Jordan. But in relative terms, it’s been Lebanon that has been forced to absorb with the brunt of refugee flow over the course of the four-year war.

Since the conflict began, the number of Syrian refugees registered by the UNHCR in Lebanon has mushroomed: from 9,106 in March 2012, to 251,407 in March 2013, to 945,922 in March 2014 and to just under 1.2 million in March of this year. That in a country with a population of just over 4 million in an area smaller than the US state of Connecticut, half the size of tiny Slovenia and one one-thousandth the size of the US.

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