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India’s ‘Operation Isolation’ and the soft power of sports

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Govts are now using alternative modes of diplomacy, sports included, to achieve political goals and shaping images.

“Our message is stronger than ever. Please stop the fighting. Please stop the killing. Please drop your guns.” Juan Antonio Samaranch, President International Olympic Committee speaking at the Winter Olympics, 1994.

The sports arena has often been used in modern-day diplomacy to advocate for peace, but it has also been used to aggravate existing conflict. George Orwell wrote in The Sporting Spirit (1945) that sports is “war, minus the shooting” and has the potential to bring out the worst characteristics of nationalism. How that is controlled, or even amplified, is in the hands of those who hold the political controls. 

In the days following the Pulwama incident, tensions once again began to escalate between Pakistan and India. While India’s very first reaction was the imposition of a heavy economic sanction, many of the responses which followed came in the form of sports sanctions, primarily impacting something very close to the hearts of people on both sides: cricket.

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The fourth edition of the Pakistan Super League (PSL) became the primary target of the increasing hostility and vitriol. Prominent Indian-owned media companies and broadcasters, including IMG Reliance, D Sports and CricBuzz, terminated their contracts and coverage of the tournament, leading to a virtual PSL blackout in India. The Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI) also came under extraordinary pressure from prominent Indian sporting personalities, media outlets and ordinary citizens, to boycott the upcoming Pakistan-India match at the cricket World Cup (June 2019).

Outside of cricket, other sports have also been effected. It is suggested that Pakistan supplies 90% of the hockey sticks used in India, and would suffer heavily from an increase in customs duty of 200%. As a result, the hockey fraternity in India would have to quickly find new suppliers who could match the demand, as well as replicate the quality from across the border. The Shooting World Cup, which was taking place in New Delhi a week after the attack and was intended to be an Olympic qualifier, also got dragged into the conflict when Pakistani athletes were not granted visas to participate in the tournament.

Further economic sanctions would come later, followed by military responses, but it appears that the use of sports sanctions was going to kick start this ‘Operation Isolation’.

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However, these sanctions did not prove to be effective in isolating Pakistan on the sports field. We saw the PSL replace its distributors almost immediately and have yet another successful edition. Regarding the World Cup, wide coverage of the discussions between the BCCI and the International Cricket Council (ICC) were made public, including copies of the communication between the two bodies. It is clear that the ICC and the organising team of the World Cup do not condone any political battles being played out on the cricket pitch.

Perhaps the most surprising stance came from the International Olympic Committee (IOC) in response to Pakistan’s plea regarding the Shooting World Cup. Not only did the IOC revoke the tournament of its Olympic qualification status for the particular discipline, they further went onto suspend all discussions with the Indian government regarding hosting future sporting events in India. The IOC also recommended that all international federations should refrain from hosting any international sporting events in India until written guarantees are provided assuring participation of all athletes.

This may prove to be a landmark ruling from the Olympic governing body, which has traditionally not taken such a publicly strong stance on political matters. This is especially true as the initial plea was only to do with the shooting event. However, India is no doubt going to work to revoke this suspension as quickly as possible, even if it means salvaging its ties with Pakistan. Failure to do so could mean that a number of its hosting rights and bids would be up on the chopping block, including the FIFA Under-20 Women’s World Cup (2020), the Hockey World Cup (2022/2023) and ICC Cricket World Cup (2023), among others.

This of course is not the first time tensions have escalated between the two neighbours, nor is it the first time that the field of play is used for sanctions to be deployed and political statements to be made.

India-Pakistan cricket relations have been turbulent ever since they kicked off in 1952. There have been many positive outcomes where both countries have hosted each other on multiple occasions and opened up their borders for citizens to travel in support of their teams. At the same time, boycotts from governing bodies and protests from ordinary citizens have also had the opposite impact on cricket and other sporting ties between the two nations.

The Indian cricket tour to Pakistan (2004) is considered as one of the four most prominent acts of sports diplomacy, with the ‘Christmas Truce’ of World War I (1914), where German and British soldiers were said to have held informal sessions of casual football on Christmas day, being number one.

Even outside of the subcontinent, sports have always been a feature of international diplomacy, albeit a more subtle one. We have seen countless protests and boycotts when it comes to international sports, such as the Black Power Salute (at the 1968 Olympics), America’s boycott of the 1980 Olympics during the Cold War,  the Soviet Union’s boycott of the 1984 Olympics, and the international sporting boycott of Apartheid South Africa. However, it would not have been difficult to foresee the potential for sports to have these impacts when the Olympic movement was first initiated. After all, it was developed on the sole idea of using sports to encourage and improve peace among the warring kingdoms in Ancient Greece.

The way international sports are conducted and covered today, indicates their potential and ability to bridge gaps between nations. With massive potential to be used as a catalyst in international diplomacy and break barriers, the power of sports can only be as strong as the will and commitment of our global leaders. In an era where hard power is frowned upon by the international community, governments are increasingly inclined to use alternative modes of diplomacy, sports included, to achieve their political goals and shape their international image. If we, the people, can understand the relationship between the two, then we can also influence its impact.

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This isn’t the first time sports have been used to convey and act upon undertones of conflict and hate, and it unfortunately won’t be the last. For now, we can be aware of how these actions relating to the field of play can be used to condition or influence certain emotions within us, and also pray that our leaders use the pitches and courts to help us come together, rather than to push us apart.



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Here’s what your shoes say about your personality

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They say you are what you eat, but really it’s you are what you wear! Your wardrobe can give away a lot about you – and not just about your taste but also your personality. We often think it is the colour or the style of clothes that define us the most but no, it is actually the kind of shoes you are most comfortable in that speaks volumes about the kind of person you are.

A stiletto and sneaker girl cannot scream the same personalities and we all know it. Compiled from Reader’s Digest, here’s a list of which shoes reveal what about you.

High-heeled boot wearers take charge

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Taller, smarter, and clearer! In times of crisis, a person who loves wearing high-heeled boots will always be quick on their feet and take control of the situation. Leadership qualities are a plus one with high-heeled boots! Boots generally scream confidence and with heels added, this woman’s self-assurance makes her seem trustworthy and safe for people to depend on.

Running shoe fans are goal-oriented

We all have a friend who wears running shoes everywhere! Well, it’s not always a bad thing. It signifies that they enjoy challenges and are very goal-oriented; whether it’s finishing a silly new hobby or standing your ground on New Years’ resolutions. Naturally, they’re organised and very social too. With running shoes on, multi-tasking is an art they master.

Flats fans are behind-the-scenes leaders

Flats, like the name suggests, are at the lower end of the food chain but that doesn’t mean they’re not hardworking. They just do not enjoy the limelight but are geniuses through and through. Despite ensuring a perfect product in the end, they enjoy being behind the scenes. Essentially, they’re the humble backbones that don’t require applause but deserve it all!

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Women in flashy stilettos work hard

Just like in movies, women who wear flashy stilettos own the energy in the room. They have drive, determination and a standout work ethic. Apart from being open to new ideas and opportunities with an adventuristic spirit, they’re also appreciative of the beauty around them. Their work is inspired by aesthetics and they make the space around them welcoming for people to feel comfortable in.

Flip-flop fans are laid back

If you can think of a person who procrastinates a lot and lives by the “go with the flow” and “live in the moment” mantras, then we bet they’re always in flip-flops. They’re not really bothered by societal pressures of fulfilling a certain aesthetic, rather they follow their own bliss and stay unconventional with their easygoing nature — and it definitely is a vibe!

Sneaker buffs get along with everyone

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Sneaker lovers are social butterflies and you can’t fight us on it! They have a knack to connect with people much younger than them but can also somehow comfortably converse with people much older than them. They are the life of the party always because of how versatile and fluid their energy is.

Pump fans are boss women

Be honest, pump fan, you’re a total “girl boss” and you know it. The first “compliment” you often get is how intimidating you look and yet you’re the most caring person in the room always. From being powerful, competitive, and resolute to being reliable and dependable, pump women are mostly in leadership roles. It suits them the most!



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London Fashion Week begins with tributes to Queen Elizabeth

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LONDON:

From an open all-black look to models carrying a picture of Queen Elizabeth, London Fashion Week kicked off with tributes to the late monarch as fashionistas paid their respects during the period of mourning national.

Organisers announced last week that London Fashion Week would be run as a “business-to-business event” respecting royal protocol and paying tribute to the 96-year-old queen, who died on September 8. Holidays have been postponed and performances on Monday, the day of the Queen’s state funeral, have been rescheduled.

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While major brands such as Burberry and Raf Simons, among this season’s most anticipated highlights, pulled out of the September 16-20 event, for smaller labels to do so is somewhat misleading.

“So the shows and presentations, which is the business-to-business part where designers show their collections to international media, retailers, designers… (is) part of a global fashion calendar. It can’t be displaced,” Caroline Rush, chief executive of the British Fashion Council, told Reuters.

“London is a platform for incredible creative businesses, a lot of independent businesses, and they’ve already made the spend. So we need to make sure we’re supporting them to be able to continue.”

Among the planned tributes is a book of condolence from the fashion industry to be shared with the royal family, and fashionistas will join in a national moment of reflection – a minute’s silence – on Sunday evening at 8pm (1900 GMT) ahead of Christopher Kane. 

On Thursday evening, designer Daniel W Fletcher held a minute’s silence before sending out his first model in a black suit and a black armband.

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“I thought as we were opening the event it was important to mark that moment,” Fletcher told London’s Evening Standard newspaper.

Spanish sustainable brand Sohuman ended its show on Friday with models, their eye make-up smudged as if they were crying, holding a picture of Elizabeth and with drawings of the crown or “RIP” written on their hands.

Designer Javier Aparici’s colorful collection consisted of dresses in bold hues or floral prints. “After the pandemic, the situation around the world is very complicated,” he told Reuters. “And we think it’s important to empower the woman with many colors of flowers, attitude, energy.”

Have something to add to the story? Share it in the comments below. 



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Fashion fails at Emmys 2022

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Emmys 2022 was one of the first star-studded, power-packed nights since the outbreak of the Covid-19 pandemic in 2020, which put a myriad of award shows on hold.

As stars put their best foot forward, celebrities including the likes of Zendaya, Sandra Oh and Elle Fanning, dazzled on the red carpet. But the evening, unfortunately, witnessed a plethora of fashion faux pas too, with some celebrities not getting the memo and turning up in disastrous ensembles.

Compiled from Daily Mail, here is a lowdown of the stars who missed the mark at this year’s event.

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1. Julia Garner

She is undeniably a stellar actor and winning the best supporting actor award is proof of the same, however, Garner’s outfit for the Emmys was one big fashion fail! Flaunting her belly in a black velvet dress, the cut-out design was positioned over her stomach in the shape of a large diamond and did not appearing flattering at all.

The dress featured shoulder pads with dull floral sequin appliques dominating the neck and hemline. Garner rounded out the look with a pair of nude sky-high heels and her bright blonde hair was swept up in wild curls.

2. Sydney Sweeney

While the world was surprised with her flawless performance in Euphoria, it was as astonished by her custom Oscar de la Renta dress. Despite being known for her petite hourglass frame, the outfit’s pleated design and weighted taffeta fabric created a clunky silhouette. It was covered in beaded floral appliques and looked nothing like a luxury designer gown.

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3. Kaley Cuoco

She arrived in a bubblegum pink tulle dress that looked straight out of Katy Perry’s stage costume look. The Big Bang theory alum’s bizarre getup was asymmetrical with an A-line skirt in the front and a floor-length tulle train. Plastered across the front were an array of fuchsia, hot pink and baby pink flowers – many of which were doused in glitter or decked out in sequins. Sorry to say but she really did not dress for her age!

4. Laura Linney

Linney was a big disappointment as she graced the event in an unflattering black and white gown.
There were layers of ruffles around the neck and on the hips that distorted her otherwise slender physique. Each layer of ruffling was lined with black piping that matched a bizarre two-dimensional belt high up on Linney’s midsection. The only thing that worked for her was that messy updo and minimal diamond studs.

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