london olympics 2012

The Olympic Games and the World Cup offer host cities and countries a unique opportunity to make their mark on the world stage. However, such global sporting events aren't always held just for fun. According to Loïc Ravenel, the Games are always viewed as a statement on the national and international stage.

South Korea faces off against the northern neighbor it is still technically at war with at Olympic table tennis on Saturday in what is sure to be one of the most politically charged contests at London 2012. Uncertainty about secretive North Korea and its new leader and rumored development of nuclear weapons have created a tense backdrop for the six players preparing to meet in the team event.

There's a strange sense of deja vu in Jamaica at the moment. Bunting adorns buildings. Roadside vendors sell the national flag. Patriotic songs are on everyone's lips, and breasts swell with pride. Politicians are enjoying a holiday from scrutiny as citizens tune in to Usain Bolt and the gang chasing Olympic glory in London. It's 6 August 1962 all over again.

Waitresses walk past in Swiss lederhosen. ‘Carbivores’ chow down on traditional Swiss potato cakes. And images on the walls depict trains climbing the Alps in the Bernese Oberland. But this isn’t a scene from a Swiss tourism pamphlet. It’s a typical afternoon in a converted English pub—normally known as the Mudlark—a few meters from the London Bridge Tube Station.

The first week of the Olympics may have provided us with enough drama and sensation to last a lifetime but, for many, the real theatre of the Games is only just beginning. Today the classic track and field events begin, including several sports that the Ancient Greeks would have recognised.

The Olympic play-to-lose badminton fiasco took a fresh twist when China's Yu Yang quit the sport in anguish, and later on Thursday black belt President Vladimir Putin and British leader David Cameron will grapple over Moscow's position on Syria in a day of judo diplomacy. Cameron welcomed Putin, honorary president of the International Judo Federation, to Downing Street and will urge the former KGB spy to take a tougher line on the civil conflict in Syria, Russia's firmest foothold in the Middle East.

The State Department, like the rest of America, has its eyes fixed on the London Olympics. But officials there aren’t just rooting for Team USA — they’re also looking for new recruits. Today’s gold medalists, after all, are tomorrow’s sports diplomats.

...Deng Xiaoping met Henry Kissinger... and asked him: "Doctor, are you familiar with Confucius?" In uncharacteristic modesty, Kissinger said: "Not in detail". Although the Chinese are nowadays trying to return to their traditional culture and values to boost their soft power and political influence, I am afraid most of them have to echo Kissinger's answer, "not in detail", when prompted with the same question.