IOC Chief Bach Says Olympics Cannot Be ‘Marketplace of Demonstrations’

International Olympic Committee (IOC) President Thomas Bach said the Olympic Games are not about politics and must guard against becoming a “marketplace of demonstrations.”
Against the backdrop of the Black Lives Matter movement to protest racial injustice, calls have increased this year for a change to Rule 50 of the Olympic Charter, which bans any form political protest during the Games.
World Athletics chief Sebastian Coe said earlier this month he believes athletes should have the right to make gestures of political protest during the Games, contrary to official IOC policy.
“The Olympic Games are firstly about sport. The athletes personify the values of excellence, solidarity and peace,” Bach wrote in The Guardian.
“They express this inclusiveness and mutual respect also by being politically neutral on the field of play and during the ceremonies. At times this focus on sport needs to be reconciled with the freedom of speech all athletes also enjoy at the Games.
“The unifying power of the Games can only unfold if everyone shows respect for and solidarity to one another. Otherwise, the Games will descend into a marketplace of demonstrations of all kinds, dividing and not uniting the world.”
Bach said he experienced the “political impotence” of sport when West Germany was among several countries to boycott the 1980 Moscow Games.
“As chair of the West German athletes’ commission I strongly opposed this boycott because it punished us for something we had nothing to do with – the invasion of Afghanistan by the Soviet army,” Bach, the winner of team fencing gold at Montreal 1976, wrote.
“It’s no consolation that we were ultimately proven right that this boycott not only punished the wrong ones, but that it also had no political effect… the Soviet army stayed nine more years in Afghanistan.
“The Olympic Games are not about politics. The IOC, as a civil non-governmental organization, is strictly politically neutral at all times.”
The COVID-19 pandemic forced the IOC to delay this year’s Tokyo Games until 2021. 

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Bilingual Virtual Festival Features American, Russian Playwrights

A bilingual virtual festival featuring American and Russian playwrights is taking place as tensions between the two countries are high and serving as a reminder of how art can bridge differences. Maxim Moskalkov has the story.
Camera: David Gogokhia     

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US Judge Denies New Government Bid to Remove China’s WeChat From App Stores

A U.S. judge in San Francisco on Friday rejected a Justice Department request to reverse a decision that allowed Apple Inc. and Alphabet Inc.’s Google to continue to offer Chinese-owned WeChat for download in U.S. app stores.U.S. Magistrate Judge Laurel Beeler said the government’s new evidence did not change her opinion about the Tencent app. As it has with Chinese video app TikTok, the Justice Department has argued WeChat threatens national security.WeChat has an average of 19 million daily active users in the United States. It is popular among Chinese students, Americans living in China and Americans who have personal or business relationships in China.WeChat is an all-in-one mobile app that combines services similar to Facebook, WhatsApp, Instagram and Venmo. The app is an essential part of daily life for many in China and boasts more than 1 billion users.The Justice Department has appealed Beeler’s decision permitting the continued use of the Chinese mobile app to the Ninth Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals, but no ruling is likely before December.In a suit brought by WeChat users, Beeler last month blocked a U.S. Commerce Department order set to take effect September 20 that would have required the app to be removed from U.S. app stores.The Commerce Department order would also bar other U.S. transactions with WeChat, potentially making the app unusable in the United States.”The record does not support the conclusion that the government has ‘narrowly tailored’ the prohibited transactions to protect its national-security interests,” Beeler wrote on Friday.She said the evidence “supports the conclusion that the restrictions ‘burden substantially more speech than is necessary to further the government’s legitimate interests.'”WeChat users argued the government sought “an unprecedented ban of an entire medium of communication” and offered only “speculation” of harm from Americans’ use of WeChat.In a similar case, a U.S. appeals court agreed to fast-track a government appeal of a ruling blocking the government from banning new downloads from U.S. app stores of Chinese-owned short video-sharing app TikTok.

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American Film Institute Adjusts to Virtual Reality During Pandemic

AFI FEST, one of Hollywood’s most prestigious film festivals and part of the American Film Institute, was held virtually this year because of the coronavirus pandemic.  VOA’s Penelope Poulou spoke to the festival’s organizers and filmmakers about the challenges and advantages of the online platform. 
Camera:  Penelope Poulou   Producer: Penelope Poulou

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White House Halloween Event Tweaked for Coronavirus

Ghosts, goblins and other costumed kids are welcome to trick or treat at the White House on Sunday during a Halloween event that has been rejiggered to include coronavirus precautions.
The gates to the South Lawn will be opened to children from military families, frontline workers and others, from 3:30 p.m. to 7:30 p.m., Melania Trump announced Friday.
Extra precautions have been added to the spooky celebration.
President Donald Trump and the first lady — both recently recovered from COVID-19, the disease brought on by the coronavirus — will welcome guests at some point during the event.
Guests older than 2 are required to wear face coverings and practice social distancing. The same goes for all White House personnel working the event, while any staff handing out candy will also wear gloves.
Hand sanitizer will be available along the route and social distancing measures will be in place.
Participating federal departments will use a “no-touch” approach.
NASA will display space-related items, including an inflatable rocket. Costumed-clad kids can wave to the Agriculture Department’s Smokey Bear and pick up Junior Ranger badges from the Interior Department’s station.
The Education and Labor departments will offer photo opportunities, and the Transportation department will provide paper airplanes for children to take home.
The South Portico of the White House will be decorated with bright-colored leaves in various shades of autumn, chrysanthemums and pumpkins.

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