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New York University's independent student newspaper, established in 1973.

Washington Square News

New York University's independent student newspaper, established in 1973.

Washington Square News

The Soapbox: Olympic concerns in France, Indigenous festival in Australia, soccer federation scandal in Spain

The Soapbox is a weekly column by WSN covering major news developments at NYU’s campuses and study away sites abroad. Global consciousness for a global university.
Max Van Hosen
The Soapbox is a weekly news column rounding up stories worth reading for a global university. (Max Van Hosen for WSN)

In France, Olympic Games face safety concerns

French president Emmanuel Macron warned on Monday that the opening ceremony for this summer’s Olympic Games may be relocated from the River Seine due to security concerns. The Games are set to be held in Paris in just under a hundred days, from July 26-Aug. 11.

The security concerns stem from fears of potential terrorist attacks, following threats made by the Islamic State group targeting Champions League quarterfinal soccer games in Paris, Madrid and London. The opening ceremony was set to host 600,000, and would have allowed fans to watch for free from the riverbanks. Spectators can now only access the ceremony through an invitation.

Among the backup locations are the Trocadéro — the esplanade overlooking the Eiffel Tower from the opposite side of the Seine — and the Stade de France, the country’s national stadium. Currently, the opening ceremony would be the first to be held outside of a traditional stadium, a milestone that Macron noted he hopes to follow through with.

“This opening ceremony … is a world first,” Macron said in an interview with French media outlets, according to the BBC. “We can do it and we are going to do it.”

Macron’s announcement comes amid other safety concerns regarding the suitability of the Seine as a central location for the Summer Games. On Tuesday, the Surfrider Foundation Europe warned that due to heavy rain, samples of the river water have shown dangerous levels of E. coli. This could result in the delay or cancellation of the swimming leg of the Olympic triathlon. Great Britain’s team has begun to take this warning seriously, having their athletes take more probiotics to ward off infection.

Despite these concerns, some athletic officials maintain a marked optimism regarding the Seine’s suitability as a stage for the Olympic games.

“There’s some fantastic imagery that you get standing on that bridge looking towards the Eiffel Tower,” Mike Cavendish, the performance director of the British Triathlon Federation, told The Guardian. “It will be amazing. And whatever happens we’ll be ready.”

In Australia, Indigenous cultural festival sponsored by controversial mining company

The Jamba Nyinayi festival returned for its second year, celebrating Indigenous culture and community in Western Australia. However, the sponsorship of the event by Rio Tinto, a mining giant responsible for recently destroying nearby Indigenous lands, raises questions about the company’s relationship with Aboriginal Australians.

The festival took place from April 11-13 on Baiyungu Country, along Australia’s western coast. Its organizers see the celebration as a homecoming, given that for thousands of years, the area served as a meeting ground for various Indigenous language groups. The festival aims to reconnect with these roots, drawing diverse people from across Australia with traditional music, dance and other programming.

Hazel Walgar, a traditional owner of the Baiyungu land and festival organizer, was forcibly removed from her land and family at the age of six and moved to a nearby Christian mission. After the mission and land were eventually returned to the local Indigenous people, Walgar was able to return home. She views the festival as a reunion for Indigenous community members who had lost each other and as a declaration of their original ownership of the land they own along the Ningaloo coast.

“Here we are today, walking in the footsteps of our old people and looking after Ningaloo,” Walgar told The Guardian. “This place is a gem and no one will ever take it from us.”

However, Rio Tinto is listed as a “major supporter” of the cultural event, despite its history of taking land from Indigenous Australians. As the world’s second-largest metals and mining corporation, Rio Tinto has consistently run into land disputes with the Aboriginal community.

In 2020, the company blasted a 46,000-year-old Indigenous site to pave way for an iron ore mine. The decision, permitted by outdated Western Australian law, led to “international outcry,” according to The Sydney Morning Herald. 

In response to such disputes, Rio Tinto has pledged to work with Indigenous communities, “putting in place measures to ensure greater awareness, respect and preservation of cultural heritage.” 

In Spain, scandal mires appointment of next soccer federation president

On Tuesday, the Spanish government announced it may suspend Pedro Rocha, the current frontrunner in an election to replace former Royal Spanish Football Federation president Luis Rubiales, following his resignation last September.

Rocha was the vice president of RFEF under Rubiales and has since stood in as president of the organization. He resigned from this interim post last week in order to run for the presidency in the upcoming election. 

Recently, however, Rocha has been implicated in two legal battles. On Monday, Spain’s sports administrative court, TAD, accused the former vice president of “very serious misconduct,” alleging he overstepped in his role as interim president. 

The former RFEF president and his associates have been under investigation since 2022 for their involvement in a corruption scandal, which has raised concern over Rocha’s role in the issue. The RFEF reportedly engaged in a quid pro quo to relocate the Spanish Super Cup to Saudi Arabia in exchange for 120 million euros, or $129 million. 

Despite ongoing investigations, Rubiales did not step down from his position as federation president until Sept. 10, three weeks after an incident where he kissed Spanish soccer player Jenni Hermoso on the lips after the Women’s World Cup final. Government prosecutors accused him of coercion and sexual assault in an ongoing case, and he was recently arrested for involvement in the Spanish Super Cup corruption case.

Spanish lawmakers are striving to rebuild a soccer federation plagued by scandal before co-hosting the Men’s World Cup in 2030.

“I have conveyed to (FIFA) our concern and our determination to take every measure to ensure that a reputational crisis such as this can never happen again,” Jose Manuel Rodriguez Uribes, president of the Spanish Superior Council of Sport, and overseer of hiring Rubiales’ successor, said, according to Reuters.

Contact Anna Baird-Hassell at [email protected].

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About the Contributor
Anna Baird-Hassell
Anna Baird-Hassell, Copy Chief
Anna Baird-Hassell is a junior studying Sociology with a minor in Irish Studies. She is an at-home barista fond of hugs, meditation, speaking her limited Irish Gaelic and reviewing films on Letterboxd @abairdhassell. You can also find her on Instagram @annabairdhassell or email her at [email protected].

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