The Ivindo National Park

Today I would like to talk about a serious issue in my native country (Gabon), the struggle of a country in a development process (since 1960) where unfortunately most of the time development and economy is more valuable than preservation.

The launch of a huge project for the exploitation of iron from Bélinga, in the north-east of Gabon, is expected towards the end of this year, whit first shipments of iron exported to China (the only customer) scheduled for 2011.

According to most Europeans analysts, this is a flagship project for the development of Gabon after petroleum, with 1,600 billion CFA francs (about 3.5 billion dollars) investment, planned to build 560 km of railways track, a deepwater port, and created around 30,000 jobs, according to the Gabonese Ministry of Mines.
The Bélinga project aims to extract a billion tons of reserves of iron with a content of 60% for decades, said Auguste Richard Onouviet, the Natural Resources secretary of State. The project will be financed and executed by Chinese companies, Gabon have signed an exclusive contract with China.

However, the extent of environmental damage that could lead to the implementation of the project has attracted serious controversy since last month in this central African country, Non-governmental organizations (NGOs) from all over the World denounced the environmental damage that would lead to the realization of a hydroelectric dam in the forest of Gabon, notably in the Ivindo National Park.

Brainforest' President and my old friend, Marc Ona Essangui is well aware and quite worry about the danger of severe flooding in the National Park of the Ivindo. Like most NGOs, Brainforest has been deeply involve in fighting the Gabonese' government on different environment issues and strongly require a environmental impact studies prior to the start of any work on the Bélinga Project.

For those of you who never heard about Gabon and his awesome tropical forest, the Ivindo National Park is one of the most important cross-roads of ecosystems site in Central Africa for biodiversity conservation.
The Ivindo river flows among wide areas of primary rainforest, winding through a unique and spectacular succession of rapids and waterfalls (Kongou, Mingouli).
A variety of wildlife, such as forest elephants, primates (gorilla, chimpanzee, mangabey, colobus, mandrill....), birds and many others species (buffalo, sitatunga, duikers, bush pig, giant pangolin....) can be spotted.

The highest concentration of gorillas in Gabon has been found in the clearing of Langoue. The Ivindo national Park (3000 km2) was created in 2002 and includes the Ipassa Reserve, protected since 1971 where the Institut de Rechecrhe en Ecologie Tropicale (IRET) runs the Ipassa-Makokou Research Station.

In 2002 the President Omar Bongo Odimba decided to dedicate 10% of the territory to help protect the fantastic tropical forest which covert a huge part of the country and created 13 National Park, including the Ivindo Park, to be one of the few African leaders to be deeply concern about environment and pushing forward to a better preservation.

But today President Bongo launched several critical attacks on all NGOs involve in this matter by saying with authority :"Anyway, whatever happens, whatever people say or think, Bélinga Project will happen."
A fantastic u-turn for a man who pride himself to be a huge partisan of climate change.

But this is not about Omar Bongo Odimba or Leonard Moutsinga Kebila (governor of the Ogooue-Ivindo) who during his last visit to the site was really please to see that the road build through the Ivindo National Park was nearly finish and defended the Bélinga Project with a huge smile on his face, no this is about Gabon and the preservation of the rainforest and all rares species of animals who live there in peace, protected by a fantastic environment and the people who worked so hard since 2002 to help this place to be regarded as one of the most peacefully and natural environment sanctuary in the world, where men stopped to disturb or destroy and became spectator of an everyday show of gorillas and elephants living together along Kongou waterfall.

What's the big deal with Dwain Chambers....

"I'm being made to feel like a leper. A terrible stigma has been attached to me but people need to know I am clean. Yes, I did something wrong. I did the crime -- but I've done my time and now I've moved on."

"Other people are allowed to get on with their lives once they have served a punishment -- so why can't I get on with mine? "

"I respect people have opinions about me and they are entitled to those. I'm not going to get into a slanging match with them. But they should remember I'm only doing what I'm legally entitled to do."

"I have a lot to prove but all I want to do is let my legs do all the talking."

By winning the 60m at the national trials last Sunday in a time of 6.55 sec. Dwain Chambers was automatically selected to represent Great Britain at the Indoor Championship in Valencia next month. His form and running were just impressive the all week-end, his attitude and relaxation was so unbelievable for someone who had to suffer criticisms and insults from the UKA (the UK Athletics government), the media (specifically the BBC) and some retire athletes like Dame Kelly Holmes, Steve Cram or Roger Black.

But why? What's the meaning of this hunting to kill Dwain Chambers career when first he was banned 2 years for using the steroid tetrahydrogestrinone (THG) and offered to reimburse to the IAAF (International Athletics Federation) all his prize money and appearance fees he won during the period he was on steroids, then in 2006 the UKA were quite happy to welcome him back to be part of the UK team at the outdoor European Championship in Gothenburg (Sweden) where he won a gold medal as part of the 4x100 team relay squad, then what did change in the past 2 years to explain all this nonsense anger against him from the same Athletics Federation which was all open arms in 2006.....

I mean did we heard Steve Cram or Dame Kelly Holmes in 2006 at Gothenburg slapping Dwain Chambers with hard and unfair comments, did we heard any angry comments or report from the BBC crew (Colin Jackson and Jonathan Edwards) and did we see the UKA fighting to make sure that Dwain "the cheater" Chambers would not be include in the 2006 British team..... Well as far as I remember we only heard praise and admiration for the courage he showed at the time by making his return and helping Great Britain to win.

Yes his interview by Matthew Pinsent for Inside Sport (BBC) last year didn't do him any good, saying in front of a camera that you have to take drugs or steroids to win an Olympic medal was definitely not really cleaver and this was probably to much for the British sports media and UK Athletics officials at the time, knowing that people like Kelly Hol
mes (2 Olympics Gold medals), Steve Cram (Silver Olympic medal), Sebastian Coe (2 Olympics Gold medals), Colin Jackson (Silver Olympic medal) and Jonathan Edwards (Gold & Silver Olympics medals) are today some of the most respected role models in Britain and spend a lot of their time to give back to their sport by helping kids around the country to enjoy running or training.

But hey come on, did we forget that Justin Gatlin and Marion Jones won 8 Olympics medals since 2000, including 8 World medals since 1997 without talking about the big sponsorship endorsement from NIKE and others companies....seem to me that Dwain Chambers somewhere had a point here....

My conclusion on Dwain Chambers is that he should be allowed to move on with his career and have the freedom to enjoy his second chance as an athlete and I deeply believe that as a clean athlete today, he can be a good example to kids around the world that you don't necessarily need to take anything to win medals, what you need is dedication and passion.

For the people out there who thing that Dwain Chambers back in the UK team created controversy and whatever, my guess is thing about the prospect of having Justin Gatlin running at the Beijing Olympics this summer after nearly 3 years of legal battle in federals courts of law which could see his 8 years ban reduce to 2 years and would allow him to represent the USA in China....

This should be the sports and Athletics headlines not Dwain Chambers.....

LeBron V or Jordan XXIII, which sneakers would you buy ?

Last week, one of the most recognize brand in the world, "Air Jordan", released the latest model of his "Airness" basket shoes in blue North Carolina : Jordan XXIII.

Other colors will be available on the market after the NBA 2008 All Star Game and to be honest with you I can't wait to get myself the White/Red model and maybe the Black one.

According to different sources on the net, the XXIII will be the last one in the Jordan series which started in 1984 and could beat any precedent selling record in the shoes industry, where a lot of this selling records are already owned by the Jordan Brand.

Like any Jordan fan, I'm a true collector and did manage over the year to own or wear each of the previous 22 Jordan released every February just because today like yesterday, wearing a Jordan sneaker is cool and fashion, no matter what you wear them for, as charismatic as Michael Jordan was and still is, his shoes always had this touch of class and taste without losing any strength or skills the game itself required at this level, and somewhere we all love it.

But what about the 2007/2008 LeBron V, the last model of Lebron James 7-years contract with Nike, which by the way will end in 2010, what about the design, the look and the success of the LBJ23 series since 2003.

In today NBA games, James, along D. Wade and TMac, is my favorite player and probably a strong candidate (with KG) to be MVP at the end of this season, but you know what, I never bought one of his shoes and know anyone around me who did. I've got a TMac 6 (Maui 2006 Edition), had the Wade "Christmas" Edition in red (nice looking shoes) and I'm on Ebay mostly everyday to get the Wade I (I love this model), I've got a Zoom Kobe 2006 model....but no LBJ23 shoes.

And let me tell you why, first I don't like any of the previous model or the new one, the look is just awful, I see no class in this shoes and the design is so far from what you would expect when you buy a sneaker you want to wear with your jean's or baggy short and $150 is a lot of money for what you get, I mean the Wade I and II were around $90, the new Zoom Kobe 3 come around $120 (the 81 points game shoes was $150) and yes the Jordan XXIII will probably cost a fortune.

I highly recommend a really good post on Brian Berger Blog, Sport Business Radio, who talked about the next big shoes contract LeBron James will look to sign in 2010 and on why he is so far behind Tiger Woods and Michael Jordan in sale success.

Meanwhile, I have to get myself ready to queue at the NikeTown shop on Oxford Street, London in two week and explain to my wife why I have to blow over $250 on sneakers, be ready for the 2008 NBA All Star Week-End in New Orleans, be ready to accept the fact that my Miami Heat won't be part of any playoffs this year, be ready to see Jason Kidd with a new jersey pretty soon maybe and before I forget, be ready to buy something for Valentine' day if I don't want to sleep on the sofa....

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