The deadlock in the US Congress, influenced by the spectre of former President Donald Trump’s return to power, has cast a shadow over potential military aid to Ukraine, leaving the nation vulnerable in the on-going conflict.
Dose the Seine, in Paris, stink? Well, an unambiguous answer to that is that it can be odoriferous, intermittently but unmistakably. Visitors to the exciting, stimulating and attractive city are told a lot of nose-in-the-air stuff about how important to culture-conscious Paris and its people the river is, but the smell, when you sniff it, is mildly comparable to warts on a pretty face. Next year’s well-informed, Olympic visitors to the vibrant city have already betrayed signs that they are quite aware there is pollution behind the malodorous experience the Seine can be, and they are probably not quite tickled pink that a part of the triathlon and some swimming in the Games will need it to be clean enough for the experiment to succeed.
There is a bit of bother there. Paris wrote up the historic waterway when making its pitch for the quadrennial showpiece event, saying it could well be the jewel in its sporting crown, though it might not have been disclosed that a king’s ransom would be required for the Seine to play up to its role in the script. Paris’ emblematic river is made horribly toxic by upstream industries and by 23, 000 illegal link-ups with it which release their waste into it. It is a horror story. But mayor Anne Hidalgo insisted on the Seine when choices and preferences had to be specified. “The glass must be seen as half-full,” thundered French sport minister Amelie Oduea-Castera, having listened to mutterings of dissent when swimmers spoke of the need for chlorine tablets.
And then, in August, some test competitions had to be scrapped as the Seine seemed way beyond attempts, however sincerely and assiduously made, to clean it up. That got splashed across the world in eye-arresting headlines and you could do nothing about it. Paris simply lumped what it did not quite like and, acutely embarrassed, took stock of the sea of troubles it was adrift across. The Olympics, to tell the truth, are being looked upon as a disaster waiting to happen.
There is Russia, to begin with, virtually sidelined after the Ukraine war but it is hardly a problem solved to everyone’s satisfaction and moved on from. It will fester as the countdown has to begin at some point in time, with Moscow and Vladimir Putin raising an Israel-related query: how come Russia and Belarus are chucked out but the Zionist state can carry on in spite of what has been happening in the Gaza Strip?
A double standard is sure to be alleged in at least a substantial part of the world. It is there that the International Olympic Committee will reach for the flak jacket, given easily imaginable ramifications, but Paris, given its security collywobbles, will need sleeping pills galore. Mention trouble and France’s capital city feels petrified. That hints at really scary possibilities when chlorine might not be its chief concern. And that will not make things easier by a bit either.