Sochi, Russia – The 2014 Winter Olympics is just weeks away, and this spectacle to be hosted by Russia is gaining all the publicity plus a lot of controversy. Among other things, there have been numerous attempts to organize a boycott of the Sochi Olympics because of laws enacted by the government of Vladimir Putin criminalizing the public display of homosexuality within Russia. And just last month, the White House announced that the official U.S. delegation won’t include a member of President Barack Obama’s family or an active cabinet secretary, but it will include openly gay athletes including Billie Jean King, the tennis legend; and figure skater Brian Boitano.
Today, in a statement that stunned the sports and political world circles, the U.S. National Olympic Committee (USNOC) said that it has chosen the U.S. flag bearer for the February 7 Opening Ceremonies. It will be none other than Edward Snowden, the American accused of espionage in connection with leaks of top-secret information from the National Security Agency. Snowden is now living in Moscow and has been granted political asylum by the Putin government – another stickler in the hot and cold diplomatic relations between the U.S. and Russia.
In justifying its selection, the Olympic Committee said that regardless of the charges against him, Snowden represents the true spirit of strength, courage and perseverance which are among the prime ideals of Olympic sports. The Committee also admitted that using a controversial and recognizable figure like Snowden would generate a lot of buzz and would add to the popularity of the U.S. Olympic team. It is also part of the USNOC’s continuing strategy at cost savings. “Since Snowden is already in Russia,” we won’t have to pay for any travel expenses,” a USNOC spokesperson said.
San Jose, California – If you think the Washington Redskins is the only sports team that is generating a lot of controversy over its name and mascot, think again. Other teams have had their share of criticism and protest, among them, the Atlanta Braves, South Florida University Seminoles, Cleveland Indians, and Chicago Blackhawks .
The latest sports team to face ridicule is the San Jose Sharks, the popular hockey team of the Silicon Valley.
In a letter to Sharks Executive Vice President and General Manager Doug Wilson, a group of international oceanographers demanded that the Sharks immediately change its name. The group said that sharks already have a bad rap because of the Hollywood movie, Jaws. “The last thing we need is to have a hockey team unnecessarily parading and promoting the ‘sharks’ name and mascot, especially if if loses its games,” the group said.
The San Jose Sharks has not issued any response to the oceanographers’ demand. It remains to be seen whether or not San Jose will remain “sharks territory.”
Sarangani, Philippines – While the Filipino people were still celebrating Manny Pacquiao’s victory over American Brandon Rios in last Saturday’s title fight in Macau, China, the Pinoy boxing champ has already set foot in the Haiyan typhoon-ravaged region of the Philippines, ready to personally provide relief to calamity victims using his own funds.
There was one problem. A Philippine court has frozen billions of pesos in Pacquiao’s bank accounts. The reason: the Bureau of Internal Revenue (BIR), the Philippine counterpart of the U.S. Internal Revenue Service (IRS), wants to see the original receipts to prove that the boxer paid taxes on his prize earnings.
The BIR, which has the distinct honor of consistently being voted the most corrupt government entity in the Philippines, seems to believe that the IRS issues “original receipts” for paid or withheld taxes like the ones customers get when they purchase items from a grocery store.
Both HBO and boxing promoter Top Rank have indicated that taxes were duly withheld from payments made to Pacquiao and subsequently electronically remitted to the IRS. But a statement from the BIR said, ” Well, we haven’t had our share of the pie.”
Upon learning of Pacquiao’s predicament, international fans of the boxer — individuals and companies alike — immediately set up a special relief fund for the boxer so that he can fulfill a promise he made earlier to personally help those affected by the super typhoon. As of this writing, the Manny Pacquaio Relief Fund has raised Two Million Dollars which is equivalent to over Eighty Million Philippine pesos. Offcials at the BIR are reportedly fuming because by law, they cannot touch a single centavo of funds designated for relief.
Double taxation has made a double champion of Pacquiao!