TIME Sports

Don’t Let the IOC Ruin Ultimate Frisbee

Pittsburgh Central Florida ultimate frisbee
Chris Bernacchi—AP University of Pittsburgh's Ethan Beardsley (28) dives for a disc against Central Florida's Matt Capp (9) during the USA Ultimate Open Division I College National Championship final held in Madison, Wisconsin on May 27, 2013.

Bryan Walsh is the Foreign Editor at TIME, handing international news in the magazine and online. Previously he covered energy and environmental issues for TIME, and was the Tokyo bureau chief in 2006 and 2007.

The International Olympic Committee's decision to recognize the sport could kill what makes it so special

One Friday night in the spring of 1998, I found myself sitting in the front passenger seat of an ancient Toyota Corolla packed with four of my college classmates, somewhere in South Carolina, on the way to an Ultimate Frisbee tournament. Because stereotypes are sometimes true, we were arguing over which Grateful Dead tape to play when the cops pulled us over for speeding. This was concerning—a bunch of vaguely hippieish college students in a car with New Jersey plates getting escorted into a police station in a very small Southern town. And we had a tournament to get to, which is what we patiently explained to the police officer on duty, who kept one eye on the NCAA tournament game playing in the background. An Ultimate Frisbee tournament, where we would compete against other college clubs in Ultimate Frisbee! To which the cop responded, looking at each of us in our Umbro shorts and faded T-shirts: “So which one of you is the dog?”

Go ahead, laugh—Ultimate players are used to it. There’s no getting around the fact that this highly athletic, highly competitive sport involves grown men and women, often wearing extremely silly shirts, running, jumping and diving (sorry—”laying out“) after what is ultimately a child’s toy. Or that even Ultimate games played at the very highest of levels often go unrefereed, with players instead calling their own fouls and settling any disagreements through on-field discussions that sometimes end only slightly quicker than the U.S.-Iran nuclear talks. Or that college Ultimate clubs—of which there are now more than 700 throughout North America—have names like Süperfly (Yale, which of course adds the umlaut); Army of Darkness (the wild men of Amherst); Nun Betta (Catholic University, and hats off to them); or the Apes of Wrath (University of Oklahoma by way of Steinbeck). Or that matches often end with each team improvising a cheer for the other—the more NSFW the better, which is something I must say that the Clockwork Orange at Princeton University excelled at during my time there, even if we were less great at the actual winning.

The point is that Ultimate is, at its heart, a goofy, spirited sport, even if it’s often played by very serious and very athletic people. (If you doubt the latter, check out this highlight reel from the legendary—within Ultimate, at least—Brodie Smith.) The actual 10th commandment of the sport makes it clear—Ultimate is about “the basic joy of play.” No coaches! No referees! No pressure! That was what attracted to me the sport when I was a college freshman burned out from playing varsity sports in high school. (Well, that and access to 21-year-old teammates who could buy beer.) We had fun! We had discs—no one calls them Frisbees, FYI—that had Malcolm McDowell’s mascaraed eye from the Clockwork Orange movie emblazoned on them! And absolutely no one thought that Ultimate would lead to anything but playing Ultimate.

And that’s why the news that the International Olympic Committee (IOC) had decided to recognize Ultimate Frisbee—or rather, the World Flying Disc Federation (WFDF), the closest thing the sport has to a governing body—has left me concerned. There’s a simple reason: the IOC, which is prevented from being the most corrupt body in international sport only by the existence of FIFA, has the unique ability to suck the life out of sport. While I’m all for the best players in the Ultimate world getting a chance to represent their country at the Olympic Games—although, guys, watch out for the drug testing—the sheer bureaucracy of the IOC, and the increasing commercialism of the Games themselves, go against the spirit of Ultimate. This is a sport with rules only slightly more complicated than those of checkers. The first ever game of Ultimate was played by New Jersey high schoolers in 1968, and it pitted the student council against the student newspaper. (And the journalists won!) Ultimate belongs to the people, not the sportocrats of Lausanne.

Of course, Ultimate still has a long road to go before you’re watching Olympians hucking and pulling and flicking. Just ask billiards, netball and waterskiing, all sports recognized by the IOC that aren’t close to actually making the Olympics. But in a world where commercial values trump sporting ones, and the only countries that seem eager to host the Olympics are authoritarian ones, inclusion in the Games with its winner-take-all attitude could dilute what makes Ultimate so special. I call foul.

Bryan Walsh is TIME’s foreign editor. He was a member of Princeton’s Clockwork Orange Ultimate club team from the fall of 1997 to the spring of 1999, when he quit because they started doing wind sprints in practice. Wind sprints!

TIME Ideas hosts the world's leading voices, providing commentary and expertise on the most compelling events in news, society, and culture. We welcome outside contributions. To submit a piece, email ideas@time.com.

TIME portfolio

Documenting the Hard Life in Russia’s Frozen Arctic

“The Arctic is like a blank sheet on which you could see all the tensions of Russia played out."

The Soviet Union was known for its doublespeak, but when Moscow bureaucrats called the 7,000-km area of the Russian Arctic the “zone of absolute discomfort,” they were speaking the truth. Temperatures in the settlements of the far north, which spans from Alaska to Finland, can dip below –45°C in the winter. Living conditions are wretched, which is one reason Stalin used these towns as gulags. Descendants of some of the prisoners still live in these Arctic communities. Among the people who seem adapted to the conditions are the indigenous herders known as Nenets, who live in tents called chums.

Yet there are billions of tons of oil and natural gas locked beneath the permafrost—a fact that has drawn a new wave of workers to the Arctic, as the photographer Justin Jin documents. It’s not an easy place to work as a photographer—Jin once got frostbite from the cold metal of his camera pressed against his face—but the material is worth it. “The Arctic is like a blank sheet on which you could see all the tensions of Russia played out,” says Jin, who has worked in Russia for years. “You have the extreme expanse of space, the endless nature, the riches trapped in the tundra. It’s all the contradictions and juxtapositions of Russia.”

Justin Jin is a documentary photographer based in Belgium.

Bryan Walsh is TIME’s Foreign Editor.

TIME Apache

#theBrief: The Battle for Apache Land

The land swap was hidden in the defense spending bill's "rider"

In December 2014, Congress passed the defense spending bill. And amid all the talks about expansion of military power and the treatment of suspected terrorists, one thing — totally unrelated to national defense — was able to slip through the cracks: the selling of sacred Apache land to an Australian mining company.

Now, Arizona Apache Indians are occupying that land in protest. And tribal leader Terry Rambler said the swap is a gross violation of Apache rights.

In 1955, President Eisenhower put forth an executive order protecting the land from mining and in 1971, President Nixon renewed the order.

So how did Congress manage to pass the land swap bill? TIME Foreign Editor Bryan Walsh explains in the above video.

TIME Foreign Policy

What’s Wrong With U.S. Foreign Policy?

Google executive chairman Eric Schmidt speaks on technology on March 18, 2015 at the American Enterprise Institute in Washington, DC.
Nicholas Kamm—AFP/Getty Images Google executive chairman Eric Schmidt speaks on technology on March 18, 2015 at the American Enterprise Institute in Washington, DC.

Identifying the major challenges as America navigates a new world

In this week’s issue — and at greater length in his new book, Superpower: Three Choices for America’s Role in the World — TIME foreign affairs columnist Ian Bremmer diagnoses the drift that has afflicted U.S. foreign policy, and the desperate need for a new direction. Bremmer has a few ideas himself, but he also reached out to major figures in international business and government to ask them to complete this sentence:

The biggest problem in American foreign policy today is …

“The growing trend toward isolationism given seemingly endless frustrations with the world.” —Admiral James G. Stavridis, dean of the Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy at Tufts University

“Maintaining domestic support for American underwriting of an open global system.” —Larry Summers, former U.S. Treasury Secretary

“[That] we focus on states but need a strategy for people too.” —Anne-Marie Slaughter, president of the New America Foundation

“[That] we have substituted comprehensive foreign policy with reactive, improvisational tactics.” —Greg Brown, CEO of Motorola

“[There is] no national alignment, and a leadership vacuum on where we’re going and how to get there.” —Jack Welch, former CEO of GE

“Our inability to develop a bipartisan national strategy and stick with it.” —Jon Huntsman, former U.S. ambassador to China

“Short-term partisanship and a lack of long-term strategy.” —Joseph Nye, former dean of the John F. Kennedy School of Government at Harvard University

“[That] American politics can’t resolve what global power America should be.” —Kevin Rudd, former Prime Minister of Australia

“That it seems to be stuck between self-doubt and stupidity.” —Martin Wolf, chief economics commentator at the Financial Times

“A world in which disruptive non-state actors are as prominent as nation states.” —Mohamed el-Erian, chief economic adviser at Allianz

“The absence of policy consensus coupled with domestic political dysfunction.” —Richard Haass, president of the Council on Foreign Relations

“A bipartisanship deficit, obscuring national strengths and undermining global leadership.” —William Burns, president of the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace

“The lack of prioritization and dedication.” —Javier Solana, former Spanish Foreign Minister

“Our failure to understand how quickly order collapses into chaos.” —Robert Kagan, senior fellow, Brookings Institution

“Believing that there is a U.S.-imposed solution to every problem.” —P. Chidambaram, former Indian Finance Minister

“Reallocating resources [and] leadership from 20th century legacies to address today’s realities.” —Dominic Barton, managing director of McKinsey

“[That] no one totals the immense costs in lives and money accurately.” —Eric Schmidt, executive chairman of Google

“Finding unifying, organizing principles for dealing with a diverse, multipolar world.” —Gary Hart, former U.S. Senator

“Domestic politics/system which impedes development/execution of coherent strategy.” —K. Shanmugam, Singapore’s Minister of Foreign Affairs

“To help reduce geopolitical risks in a period of growing uncertainty and danger in the world system.” —Fernando Henrique Cardoso, former President of Brazil

“The difficulty of focusing on the important rather than the urgent.” —Fareed Zakaria, host of CNN’s Fareed Zakaria GPS

“Not overreacting to terrorism.” —Francis Fukuyama, political scientist and the author of The End of History and the Last Man

“Credibility.” —Jacques Attali, economist and first president of the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development

TIME World

#TheBrief: Who Is Responsible for Migrants Who Seek Asylum?

Who is responsible for migrants seeking asylum? Italy? Or the European Union?

At least 700 refugees are feared dead after their boat capsized off the coast of Libya.

With countries in Europe closing up borders to prevent the influx of refugees fleeing war and conflict, migrants—mostly from Syria and Eritrea, but also from sub-Saharan Africa—are opting for the risky voyage across the Mediterranean Sea to reach Italy.

From Italy, they travel to countries like Spain, Greece, and the U.K.—all in search for asylum and better job opportunities.

But it could come at a price.

TIME TIME 100

Here Are the 5 Things TIME 100 Says About the World

Malala Yousafzai after being announced as a recipient of the Nobel Peace Prize in Birmingham, England on October 10, 2014.
Christopher Furlong—Getty Images Malala Yousafzai after being announced as a recipient of the Nobel Peace Prize in Birmingham, England on Oct. 10, 2014.

The most influential people in the world, from around the world

The annual TIME 100 list of the world’s most influential people is out—and looking very international. Fifty-one selectees were born outside the U.S., ranging from national leaders like Tunisia’s Beji Caid Essebsi to financiers like Brazilian multi-billionaire Jorge Paulo Lemann to artists like the novelist Haruki Murakami—a favorite of mine, as I’ve been trying to get him on the list since around when the TIME 100 started in 2005.

It’s a large and diverse list, hailing from five continents. But there are a few lessons we can draw from who made the TIME 100–and who didn’t:

1. Asia has a crop of strong leaders: China and India may be two of the most dynamic countries in the world, but for years their leaders were anything but. From 2002 to 2012 China was run by the colorless and cautious President Hu Jintao, though most decisions were made not by the president alone but through consensus among the top tier of the Communist Party. In India, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh presided over a decade of increasingly listless rule, ending in 2014 when he left office at the age of 81.

But today, both China and India are run by forceful leaders eager to to put their stamp on history. In the TIME 100 issue President Barack Obama notes that Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi has “laid out an ambitious vision to reduce extreme poverty, improve education, empower women and girls and unleash India’s true economic potential.” Unlike many of his predecessors, Modi has worked to lead from the front, and he’s already carved out an impressive international profile—not too many other international leaders can pack Madison Square Garden for a speech, as Modi did last September.

If anything, Chinese President Xi Jinping is even more powerful—and more determined to exert direct control of his country. In the TIME 100 former Australian Prime Minister Kevin Rudd—a Mandarin speaker and China expert—writes that Xi is now “likely to be China’s most powerful leader since Mao.” That’s not always a good thing. While Xi is carrying out reforms that are needed to make China’s economy more sustainable, he’s also ruthlessly cracked down on civil society and challenged the U.S. for global leadership. Joining Xi on the list is his tough-minded Internet czar Lu Wei, who’s strengthening the Great Firewall.

A third new Asian leader also made the list: new Indonesian President Joko Widodo. Former World Bank president Paul Wolfowitz writes in the TIME 100 that Widodo “has brought youthful energy and a popular touch to his large and diverse nation.” But after a promising start last fall, Widodo has faltered in his first year in the office—as Wolfowitz goes on to note, he’ll need to “overcome the entrenched interests in Indonesia that resist change.”

2. Latin America…not so much: Just one Latin American leader made the TIME 100 this year. From Mexican President Enrique Pena Nieto—dodging corruption allegations and public anger over a bloody drug war—to Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff, who may be impeached just a few months after winning re-election, it can seem like every Latin American leader is struggling to stay above water. Even politicians who have had success in the past are flailing—Chile’s widely respected President Michelle Bachelet, who was on last year’s TIME 100 list, has seen her family tainted by corruption allegations.

The one leader bucking trend: Cuban President Raul Castro, who has presided over a historic rapprochement with the U.S. And the region has influencers outside politics. Two Brazilians made the list—the surfing champion Gabriel Medina and the multi-billionaire dealmaker Jorge Paulo Lemann (who’s no slouch of an athlete himself, winning Brazil’s national tennis championship five times in his youth). The courageous Guatemalan human rights activist Aura Elena Farfan was saluted for “fighting for justice for the tens of thousands who were disappeared or killed during the civil war. CNN’s Christiane Amanpour hailed Telemundo anchor Jorge Ramos, born in Mexico City, as a reporter “determined to get an answer or go down trying.”

3. Japan is a cultural superpower: Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe didn’t make the TIME 100 list this year—though having been decisively reelected in December, he had a pretty good claim. But two other representatives of Japan did. The home organizing maven Marie Kondo introduced audiences around the world to the happiness of a scrupulously clean living space. (Her most important piece of advice: if an object doesn’t bring you joy, chuck it out.)

And the novelist Haruki Murakami more than earned his spot—his most recent novel sold half a million advance copies in Japan before it was even printed, and became a bestseller around the world. For the TIME 100 we paired him with his countrywoman Yoko Ono, who knows a thing or two about succeeding globally, who celebrated Murakami’s “great imagination and human sympathy.”

4. Africa’s time is now—and Nigeria leads the way: Seven Africans made the list—and more came from Nigeria than any other country. That includes the new president-elect of Africa’s most populous nation, the man TIME’s Aryn Baker called a “born-again democrat” who will face the difficult challenge of defeating the Boko Haram insurgency. Doing so could mean killing another TIME 100 selectee: Boko Haram’s enigmatic leader, Abubakar Shekau, whom retired U.S. General Carter Ham warns “is the most violent killer their country has ever seen.”

But the African spots on the TIME 100 list go beyond strongmen. We selected Obiagali Ezekwesili, an anticorruption activist in Nigeria who has dedicated her life to ensuring that the hundreds of girls kidnapped by Boko Haram aren’t forgotten. The actor Idris Elba hailed Dr. Jerry Brown of Liberia for his heroic work to help stop the Ebola outbreak that killed thousands in West Africa. “It is because of this man’s actions—rather than his words,” Elba wrote, “that many lives were saved.”

5. Women are changing the world: Women make up nearly half the TIME 100 list, ranging from the pinnacle of power to activists on the ground. The German Chancellor Angela Merkel isn’t just the most powerful women in the world—she’s one of the most powerful people period. “Angela Merkel,” writes Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko, “managed to leverage German economic power into diplomatic power.” France’s Marine Le Pen isn’t loved by everyone, but she’s become a major force in French politics—and Europe could be next.

But for every political or business leader, there are women like Chai Jing, the courageous Chinese journalist whose environmental documentary Under the Dome was watched by more than 200 million people in China. Dr. Joanne Liu, the Canadian-born head of Doctors Without Borders, got the Ebola crisis right when so many of her peers got it wrong. And of course, there’s Malala Yousafzai, the young Pakistani activist who first made the TIME 100 in 2013 at age 15. All she’s done in the meantime is win a Nobel Peace Prize—so we decided to put her on the list again. And that gave us the chance to publish another young woman, the Syrian Mezon Allmellehan, who wrote that “yes, I can make a difference, and I have to continue to fight for what I believe in.” Fitting words for an extraordinary—and influential—collection of women and men from around the world.

TIME Environment

Burmese Pythons Are Taking Over the Everglades

Biologists Track Northern African Pythons In Florida's Everglades
Joe Raedle—Getty Images Edward Mercer, a Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission non-native Wildlife Technician, holds a Burmese Python during a press conference in the Florida Everglades about the non-native species on January 29, 2015 in Miami.

Burmese pythons aren't your normal predators

True to their name, Burmese pythons are native to the tropics of southern and southeastern Asia, where the gigantic snakes—they can grow as long as 19 ft.—have carved out a comfortable niche for themselves, squeezing their prey to death. But sometime over the past few decades, Burmese pythons began appearing in Everglades National Park in south Florida. The snakes were most likely either pets that had been released into the wild or their descendants, and, like countless tourists before them, they took very well to the tropical heat and lush greenery of Florida.

Too well, as it turns out. A new study published in the journal Proceedings of the Royal Society B confirms what scientists have feared: predation from the Burmese pythons is already changing the delicate balance of the national park’s food chain. Scientists from the University of Florida, the U.S. Geological Survey and the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission released 26 marsh rabbits fitted with tracking devices into the park. The aim was to find out what effect the pythons would have on the rabbits, which are native to the Everglades but have all but vanished over the past decade—the same period of time when sightings of Burmese pythons became more frequent.

In the fall and winter, the marsh rabbits thrived, reproducing rapidly. But when the weather began to warm—which would have made the temperature-sensitive pythons more active—the marsh rabbits began to disappear. Where? Into the bellies of the Burmese pythons. The snakes hunted the rabbits ruthlessly—the researchers found that 77% of the tracked rabbits were eaten by Burmese pythons, a fact scientists knew because the trackers led them to the digested bodies of the rabbits inside the stomachs of the snakes. (At a control area outside the park, by contrast, no rabbits were killed by pythons, and most that died were eaten by native mammals like bobcats.) So voracious were the Burmese pythons that they essentially hunted the marsh rabbits to the point of extinction.

And that’s what worries scientists so much. Earlier research had linked a drastic decrease in the population of small mammals to the presence of the Burmese pythons, but those findings had been indirect—other factors, like environmental change, could have been behind the decline. The new study makes it much clearer that Burmese pythons are indeed changing the ecological balance of the Everglades for the worst—and perhaps singlehandedly.

That’s incredibly unusual—when it comes to invasive species, only human beings have managed to do so much damage on a continental mammal community. (There are frequent examples of invasive species, including snakes, eliminating species on small islands, but not in a large territory like the Everglades.) As study co-author Bob Reed of the U.S. Geological Society told CBS News:

All of us were shocked by the results. Rabbit populations are supposed to be regulated by factors other than predation, like drought, disease. They are so fecund. They are supposed to be hugely resilient to predation. You don’t expect a population to be wiped out by predation.

But Burmese pythons aren’t your normal predators, as I discovered for myself when I visited the Everglades for a cover story on invasive species. They can disappear at will, go months without eating and they’re afraid of absolutely nothing. The only way to save the Everglades may be to find and remove the snakes—but as this video above shows, that’s far from easy.

MORE: Invasive Species, Coming Soon to a Habitat Near You

TIME nation

The American Century Isn’t Over

Bryan Walsh is the Foreign Editor at TIME, handing international news in the magazine and online. Previously he covered energy and environmental issues for TIME, and was the Tokyo bureau chief in 2006 and 2007.

China won't end U.S. dominance—but political gridlock and isolationism could

As Harvard political scientist Joseph Nye takes a seat, he glances at the portrait that looms over the conference room. “There he is,” says Nye.

“He” is Henry Luce, the founder of TIME and LIFE magazines. (Hence the portrait–we’re at TIME’s offices.) In a 1941 editorial in LIFE, Luce urged the U.S. to enter World War II to defend democratic values and “create the first great American century.”

That term became shorthand for the period of U.S. geopolitical dominance that began around the end of the war. But from the moment the American century was born, Americans have fretted over threats to the country’s pre-eminence. In the 1950s the Soviet Union seemed poised to bury the U.S.; in the 1980s the Japanese were going to outwork lazy Americans.

Today a rising China is the great rival. A 2013 Pew poll of 39 countries found that most people believed China already was or would eventually become the world’s leading superpower–and that included nearly half of Americans.

To which Nye says: Not so fast. A pioneer in the theory of soft power and the dean of American political scientists, Nye knows geopolitics. In his new book, Is the American Century Over?, Nye makes a strong case that American geopolitical superiority, far from being eclipsed, is still firmly in place and set to endure. And the biggest threat isn’t China or India or Russia–it’s America itself.

It’s easy to forget what a global behemoth the U.S. remains today. Take military power: the U.S. not only spends four times more on defense than the No. 2 country, China, but it also spends more than the next eight countries combined. The U.S. Navy controls the seas, and the country’s military has troops on every inhabited continent. America’s armed forces have become more dominant since the dawn of Luce’s American century–not less. For nearly 50 years after World War II, U.S. power was checked by the Soviet Union. No longer.

The relative decline of American economic clout might seem obvious. By one measurement, China has already passed the U.S. to become the world’s largest economy. But that’s in part a trick of perspective. In 1945, thanks largely to the devastation of World War II, the U.S. produced nearly half the world’s GDP. By 1970 that share had fallen to about one-quarter, but as Nye points out, that was less a matter of American decline than a global return to normality. Nearly half of the top 500 international companies are owned by U.S. citizens, and 19 of the top 25 global brands are American.

But the most important reason the U.S. will continue to dominate is the lack of a viable rival. Nye dismisses each in turn: the European Union is too fractured, Japan is too old, Russia is too corrupt, India is too poor, Brazil is too unproductive.

As for China, Nye expects that as the country keeps growing, it will take up more space on the international stage. But Beijing faces major internal challenges that could derail its rise: a polluted environment, an aging population and inefficient state-owned industries. More important, China conspicuously lacks the ingredient that has made the U.S. unique–an openness toward immigrants. “As Lee Kuan Yew once told me,” Nye says, referring to the founding father of modern Singapore, “‘China can draw on a talent pool of 1.3 billion people, but the U.S. can draw on the world’s 7 billion.'”

It’s the potential loss of that openness that worries Nye. Should the U.S. decide to shut its borders or turn its back on international affairs–two recurring impulses in U.S. history–all bets are off. If political gridlock becomes permanent or income inequality keeps rising, that too could threaten American supremacy. “The question is whether we’ll keep living up to our potential,” says Nye.

He bets yes–and believes that on the whole, that’s a good thing for the world. A strong U.S. has helped keep tensions in check in East Asia and has worked to integrate a rising China into the existing international system. In July a NASA probe will visit Pluto for the first time ever, and our exploration of the solar system–led from start to finish by the U.S.–will be complete.

America is far from faultless: the invasion of Iraq and intransigence on climate change stand out as two major mistakes. But it’s difficult to imagine that the world would be a better place if Vladimir Putin’s Russia or Xi Jinping’s China were running things. “I believe this is a different country,” says Nye. Henry Luce couldn’t have said it better.


This appears in the March 23, 2015 issue of TIME.

TIME Ideas hosts the world's leading voices, providing commentary and expertise on the most compelling events in news, society, and culture. We welcome outside contributions. To submit a piece, email ideas@time.com.

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