Putin: President, Athlete or Superhero?

In the eyes of many, Vladimir Putin is a complete badass.

Vladimir Putin

In Russia, sports are very popular to all ages, but as I have made clear in my previous posts, Russia’s view on popularity is distinct from others. From Formula 1 racing to chess boxing (yes, it really exists), it seems Russian’s desire for adrenaline is unlike all counterparts.

Chess Boxing in Russia

This need for adrenaline seems to be present in Russia’s president, Vladimir Putin as he enjoys hang gliding, sky diving and scuba diving.  Putin has played a major role in the development of sports in Russia. In 2007, Putin made a fully fluent English speech that resulted in a successful bid for Sochi to host the 2014 Winter Olympics.  He aided Russia in earning the right to host the 2018 FIFA World Cup for the first time.  Currently very popular online and through social media, Putin has been seen doing outlandish acts to promote sports and a healthy way of life to Russians.

Unlike the U.S.A. in my opinion, Russia has a greater appreciation for sports outside of the most popular ones (football, basketball, baseball and soccer).  Maybe this is because Putin leads by example.  Putin participates in alpine skiing, formula 1 racing and big game hunting, and at the same time,  people enjoy watching him.  Much like President Obama has been reported playing basketball with the University of North Carolina among other places, Putin competes, just at a more adventurous level.  Recently,

Adorned in white overalls – to resemble a bird – Vladimir Putin spent some of Wednesday leading in a different capacity, heading a flock of crane birds in flight from a hang glider. The stunt already has the Russian blogosphere alight. –RT.com

Such stunts have become a trademark of Vladimir Putin since he first became President in 2000. He once shot a rare tiger with a stun dart before putting a tracking device on him, and two years ago shot a whale with an arrow containing a tracking device from a crossbow. –RT.com

Putin flies with rare cranes 

In February 2011, Vladimir Putin promised to learn to skate well enough to play hockey. He started training with Alexei Kasatonov, a famous hockey player, and just two months later Putin was a confident skater. Recently Putin played in an event featuring Russian Legends of hockey against an amattuer team that Putin played with.

You read that correctly. Putin took the ice for an amateur hockey team that was squaring off in an exhibition game against a group of some of Russia’s biggest hockey legends. The match took place literally hours after Putin was sworn in. The fact Putin played in a hockey game might be surprising as is. The fact Putin set up the game-tying goal and scored the game-winning goal in a shootout is remarkable. –Bloguin

Vladimir Putin plays hockey vs. Russia’s Legends

At the age of 60, there are backlashes from Putin’s actions on the ice.  Recently reports have surfaced that:

Russia’s sky-diving, wolf-hunting, horseback riding president has suffered a “sports injury,” according to his spokesman, but some Kremlin watchers insist something more serious is afoot. – The Atlantic Wire

The injury is often talked about in the twitter world as well as people are concerned about the health of Putin, and how this lifestyle effects the President.

Twitter voices concerns on Putin’s health.

The fact that Putin leads the charge by playing sports and living a healthy life surely plays a role in the promotion of athletics, but how big of a role is uncertain. I think it would be exciting to see Barrack Obama strap on a helmet and pads and take part in the NFL Pro bowl, but I don’t ever see that happening.  I doubt it would be viewed  highly by Americans if our President was spending time shooting tigers and whales, but I personally would enjoy watching him do it, especially if it would promote young people to go out and be adventurous.


Putin: an end to match-fixing

Would you ever “throw” a sports game?
What if you were offered $100,000?

It is wrong to damage the integrity of the game, no matter how large the benefit is. For years there have been conspiracies of match-fixing in almost every sport. Russian President, Vladimir Putin, is trying to end this misconduct in his home country.

1919 Black Sox Scandal

When the topic of match-fixing comes up, the most famous event that comes to mind is the “Black Sox” Scandal that took place during the 1919 World Series. “Sport” Sullivan, a gambler from New York, offered $80,000 to eight Chicago White Sox players to “throw” the series so he could cash in on a bet. The scandal was brought to light and all eight players were suspended from Major League Baseball for life.

Match-fixing is still commonly talked about on Twitter, especially after a referee makes a bad call. Whether the accusations are true or not, people love to talk about it.

Twitter on Match-fixing

In Russia, there have always been conspiracies of match-fixing, and rightfully so, with the numerous instances that seem obvious. The Fix Is In, home of the nation’s most skeptical fan and #1 sports conspiracy theorist, listed many times match-fixing may have played a role in sports. To point out a few from the list that  occurred in Russian sports :

1970s-80s – During the height of the Russian hockey program, its greatest team was known as the Moscow Red Army (TSKA). During this time, the team’s skate sharpener, the president of Sparta Moscow (TSKA’ chief rival), TSKA St. Petersburg team president and the president of the Russian Ice Hockey Federation were all murdered by the Russian mafia. Most believe all of these murders were linked to gambling and game fixes.

2003 – Belarus goalie Valery Shantolosov was arrested for attempting to fix two Euro qualifying matches. Though Shantolosov did not play in either game, he was connected to Russian gamblers and accused of attempting to bribe and otherwise influence the outcome of these games. His team lost both contests.

2009 – The WTA looked into a suspicious ending of a tennis match between U.S. Open finalist Caroline Wozniacki after she unexpectedly retired from a match winning 7-5, 5-0 (meaning she was a single game away from winning). Wozniacki claimed afterwards that she was injured early in the first set, and her father instructed her to quit when she did, afraid of her further injuring herself. Betting on the match had swung heavily to her opponent prior to Wozniacki quitting.”

Putin discussing match-fixing

President Putin has decided to step up his effort to end corruption in Russian sports. Putin will introduce a bill into Russia’s parliament that increases jail time for anyone involved in match-fixing. Violaters will be subject for up to seven years in prison, which also includes fines up to 1 million roubles ($32,000).

Reported by Gennady Fyodorov of Oztips on Yahoo Sports, “FIFPro, the global union for professional players, published a survey of nearly 3,400 players from Eastern Europe this year that attributed match-fixing in Russia was as high as 43.5 percent.”  While I think the new law is a step in the right direction, 43.5 percent is a significant amount of corruption.  It remains to be seen how effective these measures really are when the odds are stacked against them. Just how big of an effect can this really have, considering the scope of this worldwide problem? I can’t respond with a definite answer, but at least we have a starting point.

With Russia set to host the 2014 Winter Olympics and 2018 World Cup, there is no room for match-fixing. It is important for Russia to implement these laws promptly, before they are set to be on the world’s stage.


Russia: What Makes You so Popular?

If I were asked to name the most popular athlete in Russia, I would be far from correct. I would have guessed an athlete from one of the major sports such as football, tennis, or hockey. After a recent poll, the winner of this honor went to a modern rhythmic gymnastics star Alina Kabaeva with 22% of the vote. Second place went to Irina Slutskaya, a figure skater that I have never heard of. With athletes such as Maria Sharapova, Alex Ovechkin and Andrei Kirilenko that everone in the world knows, why do Russians feel their most popular athletes are not among the most famous ones?

Alex Ovechkin is a tremendously famous athlete, as he is the best hockey player for Russia who has one of the best International Hockey teams of all time.  The thing is that he is not as popular in his home country as some might think and this might be because he plays in the National Hockey League in the United States.  If he were to stay in Russia and play in a local hockey league, many think his popularity would explode.  For Russians, not having the chance to watch him play often live, they  lose interest in him.

In the United States, we watch mainstream sports such as football, baseball and basketball.  Stars like Lebron James, Peyton Manning, Tom Brady and Derek Jeter are known worldwide for their superlative play in the major sports in the U.S.  The difference is that Russia excels in sports that are not so popular.

The United States is dominated by all of the best sports leagues in the world.  With the National Basketball Association, National Football League and Major League Baseball, the U.S. draws in all of the best athletes from the mainstream sports.  These leagues get the best athletes because they are able to pay them incredibly  high salaries to play a game. Therefore, sport finatics in the U.S. have many different teams to follow and star players to watch all year long.

In Russia, not having sports leagues that draw the best of the best athletes caused them to develop a different type of sport environment.  As a benefit, the Russian International Teams have a tremendous amount of fans, so to them, their most popular athletes are among these teams, rather than the ones competing in the U.S.

Russians love their Olympic team as they have placed high in the medal count every year.  Russia is considered to have the best rhythmic gymnasts in the world as they have dominated the olympic podium for the sport recently. For that reason alone, Russia considers rhythmic gymnastics one of its most popular sports.  Because of their dominance in this sport at the olympics, no namers such as  Alina Kabaeva, Evgeniya Kanaeva and Daria Dmitrieva have become among the most popular Russian athletes to fellow Russians.

Now I understand why the Russians feel that their most popular athletes are not necessarily the most famous ones, nor do they need to come from a mainstream sport like soccer.  To them, the Olympic team is bigger than any single sport team and the MVP’s of the olympic team are the most popular athletes in the country.  Having such a dominate olympic rhythmic gymnastics team makes it is easy to see why they are voted the most popular.  These athletes may not be famous world wide, but they are superstars in their own country just like Lebron James is a superstar in the U.S.






Naked Rugby Grows in Europe

Like many other countries, Germany enjoys indulging itself in the excitement and action of sports.  Everyone knows Europe is famous for its wild affection for soccer.  How could you possibly beat the fun of a such a classic recreational activity?  Just like with America’s obsession with football though, some people are getting bored with the normal and turning to something, let’s say, a bit more untraditional.

In the last couple of years, sports that take certain aspects down a twisted and beaten path, have gained a cult following.  Since about the 1980’s, people all over the globe have been searching for something strange and different to grab and keep their attention.  Most of these abnormal sports stem from somewhere in America and slowly gain popularity across the ocean after their foundation.

Sports like Sheep Rodeo, “Octopush,” Naked Rugby, Segway Polo, and Cardboard Tube Fighting have all made their way around Western Europe in the past two decades.  Sheep rodeo is a sport for young “mutton busters” (generally ages 2-6 or so) in which kids get on top of sheep and try to hold on as long as possible until they absolutely can’t anymore.  It’s a sport strictly for children (riders must be under 60 pounds) and it has caused a bit of a stir within socially liberal circles, claiming that it is bad for both the rider and animal.  However, the spectacle of it all continues to draw attention.

Octopush is a game founded in 1945 by Alan Blake for his Southsea diving club to stay entertained during the winter.  It is a team sport in which eight members use a small stick to get a puck into a goal.  In so many ways, it is nearly exactly like underwater hockey.  It is most often played in Britain and areas in northern Europe.  The rule-book is long and extensive, leaving no ends left untied.

Naked Rugby, by nature of being so… naked, is a sport originating, not in the United States, but instead in New Zealand. It has become such a widely watched and played sport that there are even World Master Games between, for example,  The UK and Spain.

The first game of Segway polo was played in 2004 on July 11th during halftime of a Minnesota Vikings game.  It founded the Bay Area segway polo club, which continued to grow in strength across America and into Europe.  The sport was deemed official and rules were created.  Once the sport had gained enough teams, the WOZ bowl was founded, named after Steve Wozniak, an avid segway polo player and Apple founder.  Outside of the USA, teams exist in New Zealand, Germany, Barbados, Sweden, Austria, Switzerland and the United Arab Emirates.

Reminiscent of the Gladiator ages, Cardboard Tube Fighting is another strange sport that has caught on among young children, primarily boys, reminiscing about the history of weapons in one of the most untraditional ways possible. Many children have picked up a cardboard tube from a paper towel roll some time in their life and bonked a friend or sibling on the head.  Some people have taken this to the next level, creating a Cardboard Tube Fighting League.  The league sets distinct rules and offers set competitions for all people interested.  Having started in Washington, USA, the sport has spread out across the states and has started to catch interest of children and adults abroad in Europe and Japan.

The future of strange sports is open to the imagination!  What could catch on next?

Caffeine culture: Austria’s Red Bull creates its own extreme world

Source: funsporting.com

Arnold Schwarzenegger isn’t the only extreme American icon to come out of Austria. As is turns out, Red Bull, the first and most popular energy drink, also has Austrian origins.

Since it was first sold in Austria in 1987, the brand has moved into global markets in over 160 countries and obtained almost 50 percent of the energy drink market share with approximately four billion cans consumed each year.

The energy drink claims to enhance users’ mental and physical performance through a combination of natural and added ingredients, including taurine, glucuronolactone, caffeine, B vitamins, sucrose and glucose. The brand’s only major problem is that the drink doesn’t taste very good.

Now you may be wondering, how did Red Bull become so popular? The answer is that the company has created its own young, active culture — “the World of Red Bull,” as its commercials claim — to surround the brand. Red Bull has used this culture to pound their message into the heads of youth all over the world: To be active you need energy, so guzzle our caffeinated drink.

Red Bull makes it clear that no matter your lifestyle, Red Bull helps you do what you need to do better by enhancing your energy, strength, concentration, and alertness. Whether you’re an athlete who wants to up his or her performance in extreme sports, a student who needs to do some extreme studying, or a professional that wants to breeze through the work day, Red Bull is for you.

Red Bull’s key to success has been to create a truly extreme culture to surround the brand. Those who drink Red Bull don’t just use a brand; they live an extreme lifestyle in one way or another, and Red Bull makes that possible.

Let’s say you’re a young person, and you ask, “How do I know Red Bull aligns with the type of activities I like to do?” As could be expected, the brand advertises their extreme message and culture using sports heroes as spokespeople. But the company has also taken their marketing to the next level by Red Bull sponsoring all kinds of sports and recreational activities that appeal to this young crowd:
• it sponsors air racing, extreme sports teams and soccer teams internationally.
• it sponsor seven more types of sports teams in Austria.
• it has its own culture website with dance, music and film related to Red Bull.

Source: redbullillume.com

Red Bull has even created its own publications and shows for all of the major media platforms, including television, magazines, blogs, videos on the web, and a handful of interactive websites. Red Bull Media House—the brand’s subsidiary media company—coordinates the company’s media efforts to promote Red Bull-infused lifestyles, sports and entertainment.

If anything, Red Bull’s marketing mantra would have to be: extreme marketing for an extreme lifestyle.

“Red Bull gives you wings.”

Written by: Jamie Tanner and Claire Taylor

Roger Federer’s Switzerland

With more than 9 million facebook page likes and his own profile page on IMDb, Roger Federer has become more than a tennis genius, but also a world icon. In addition to Federer’s official website, numerous fan websites of Federer have been set up by his followers. At any given moment,  over 44,000 people are talking about the Swiss tennis player on facebook.

While the world follows the star, Federer generates Swiss-red waves all over the world. Federer might have become the new symbol of Switzerland after the Swiss Army knife. If that’s the “Federer Effect” in the world, what is the “Federer Effect” back home in Switzerland?

Credit: USA Today

But their love for Federer didn’t come overnight. Roger Federer didn’t become popular until after a phenomenal  2003 season. That was the season in which he first won his first Grand Slam at Wimbledon. This was the win that propelled him from a good tennis player to tennis star. This stardom brought along the large fan base in his home country of Switzerland. The Swiss people love him so much that they let him carry the Swiss flag at the Athens Olympic’s in 2004. Federer has won 16 Grand Slam titles, Olympic gold in doubles, and he has been named season champion 5 times.

In 2007, Federer became the first living person to feature on a Swiss stamp, and his first plaque or statue was set up on the day after Federer won the 2009 French Open. It was also decided that Basel’s (Federer’s hometown) international tennis venue would be renamed the Roger Federer Arena. More and more children have started picking up tennis racket.

Fans created “Map of Roger Federer’s Switzerland” which marks the places in Switzerland that Federer is related to. For example, his birthplace in Münchenstein or even his wife Mirka’s parents’ house in Schaffhausen.

Co-writer: Devin Robinett