Weekend edition—Olympic cynicism, shorting Uber, Saudi youth dating

Good morning, Quartz readers!

In the run-up to Rio, cynicism about the entire Olympics project feels like a new competitive sport.

There’s no shortage of issues to harp on: the blatant commercialization, the specter of doping, the threat of Zika, the foul waters of Rio, the obscenity of paying billions for a sports carnival in a city that can’t provide basic services to its people.

But there are some great reasons to drop the cynicism and tune in.

There’s the obvious athletic spectacle, the thrill of watching near-superhuman athletes like Usain Bolt, Simone Biles, and Michael Phelps.

But there’s also the gathering of humanity—in all its fragmented, fractious splendor—in one place, with one lighthearted purpose. More than 200 countries will take part, not to hammer out a trade agreement or a ratify a climate accord, but to play games. 

This is particularly meaningful in a year when so much is pulling apart. From Europe’s reluctance to accept refugees and the UK’s rejection of Europe, to Donald Trump’s promise to build a wall along the Mexican border and the rising tension in the South China Sea, 2016 has been a year that’s tested the Olympic ideal of global harmony. And the games will reflect our troubled times with a team made up of refugees.

Sure, it would be naïve to think the Olympics can solve geopolitical rifts. Jesse Owens showed up Hitler in 1936, but it didn’t stop the Nazis from invading Poland. Jimmy Carter threatened to boycott the 1980 Moscow Olympics unless the Soviet Union withdrew from Afghanistan; the Red Army didn’t budge.

But it’s still worth marveling at the modest miracle the Olympics achieves just by assembling so many warring nations under one banner: Israel and Iran, North and South Korea, Russia and Ukraine. The Olympics are far from perfect, but the world’s better off for having them.—Oliver Staley

Five things on Quartz we especially liked

Please can we short Uber? In a wide-ranging survey of the future of ride-sharing and autonomous cars, Steve LeVine argues that Uber’s $62.5 billion valuation and vast fundraising rounds may be based on faulty premises. In fact, he concludes, it would be extremely tempting to short Uber shares—if only Uber hadn’t managed to make that next to impossible.

Learn to communicate like the Chinese government. The Communist party has mastered the art of saying nothing, conquering opponents, and sowing confusion among enemies, all by means of meaningless rhetoric. Nikhil Sonnad offers a tongue-in-cheek guide to transferring its tactics into the corporate workplace.

The Apple Watch may be bad for your health. When Mike Murphy started getting dizzy spells and blood pressure spikes, he eventually realized his Apple Watch, with its constant notifications, was triggering anxiety attacks. Even its hourly reminders to pause and breathe, meant to reduce anxiety, were just “another reminder from the Apple Watch that I’m anxious and should stop being anxious.”

How to decode Brazil’s Olympic opening ceremony. Adam Freelander deconstructs past Olympic ceremonies in this video, arguing that since Beijing in 2008, they have become remarkably telling representations of the host country’s aspirations, intentions, and self-image. What, then, will Brazil tell us about itself in Rio?

Does your flight have a ”corpse cupboard”? Leslie Josephs probes the uncomfortable question all airlines must face at some point: What do you when somebody dies mid-flight? Turns out they all have their own protocols—and they’re very reticent about them.

Five things elsewhere that made us smarter

The super-recognizers of Scotland Yard. Prosopagnosia, or face blindness, is a well-known condition, but there are also people with its opposite: an exceptional memory for faces. And a London police unit made up of just such people has helped catch a slew of serial criminals using CCTV footage. One day image-processing algorithms will take over, but for now, as Xan Rice relates in the New Statesman, humans are still the best at the job.

The Trump-Putin love story is an abusive relationship. “Putin sees in Trump a grand opportunity. He sees in Trump weakness and ignorance, a confused mind. He has every hope of exploiting him.” The New Yorker’s David Remnick on how the Russian president, like the trained KGB agent he is, is playing the Republican nominee for a chump.

On being young while Saudi. Via our friends at the Browser, this slide deck for a client by Studio D Radiodurans is a fascinating peek inside modern Saudi society, showing how young people use different apps for communicating, meeting, and dating within (or circumventing) the strictures of Saudi morality.

Can Twitter fit inside the Library of Congress? Since 2010 Twitter has been providing the library with every tweet that’s been posted publicly. It was supposed to be an archive for researchers. Managing that massive data dump, however, has proven to be a challenge the library has no idea how to handle.

Silicon Valley is making the whole world look the same. Every self-respecting coffee shop on the planet now has Edison lightbulbs and reclaimed wood. Writing in The Verge, Kyle Chayka coins a name for this minimalist aesthetic: AirSpace. Tech companies like Airbnb and Foursquare, he explains, have made it possible for travelers to seek out the same look wherever they go.

Our best wishes for a relaxing but thought-filled weekend. Please send any news, comments, Uber shorting strategies, and non-minimalist coffee-shop designs to hi@qz.com. You can follow us on Twitter here for updates throughout the day.