Israeli tanks reach central Rafah as strikes continue

Rushdi Abu Alouf,David GrittenShare

Reuters A man and a young boy walk among ruins in Rafah

Israeli forces have reportedly reached the centre of the southern Gaza city of Rafah and seized a strategically important hill overlooking the nearby border with Egypt.

Witnesses and local journalists said tanks were stationed at al-Awda roundabout, which is considered a key landmark.

They also said tanks were on Zoroub Hill, effectively giving Israel control of the Philadelphi Corridor – a narrow strip of land running along the border to the sea.

The Israeli military said its troops were continuing activities against “terror targets” in Rafah, three weeks after it launched the ground operation there.

Western areas of the city also came under intense bombardment overnight, residents said, despite international condemnation of an Israeli air strike and a resulting fire on Sunday that killed dozens of Palestinians at a tented camp for displaced people.

The Israeli military said it was investigating the possibility that the fire was caused by the explosion of weapons stored by Hamas in the vicinity.

It also denied reports from local health and emergency services officials on Tuesday afternoon that tank shells had hit another camp in al-Mawasi, on the coast west of Rafah, killing at least 21 people.

Reuters news agency cited local health officials as saying the blast occurred after Israeli tank shells hit a cluster of tents in al-Mawasi on Tuesday. An official in the Hamas-run civil defence force also told AFP there had been a deadly Israeli strike on tents.

Videos posted to social media and analysed by BBC Verify showed multiple people with serious injuries, some lying motionless on the ground, near tents and other temporary structures.

There was no clear sign of a blast zone or crater, making it impossible to ascertain the cause of the incident. The location – verified through reference to surrounding buildings – is between Rafah and al-Mawasi, and lies south of the IDF’s designated humanitarian zone.

The IDF said in a statement: “Contrary to the reports from the last few hours, the IDF did not strike in the humanitarian area in al-Mawasi.”

Israel has insisted that victory in its seven-month war with Hamas in Gaza is impossible without taking Rafah and rejected warnings that it could have catastrophic humanitarian consequences.

The UN says around a million people have now fled the fighting in Rafah, but several hundred thousand more could still be sheltering there.

The Israel Defense Forces (IDF) began what they called “targeted” ground operations against Hamas fighters and infrastructure in the east of Rafah on 6 May.

Since then, tanks and troops have gradually pushed into built-up eastern and central areas while also moving northwards along the 13km (8-mile) border with Egypt.

On Tuesday, they reportedly reached the city centre for the first time.

The al-Awda roundabout, which is only 800m (2,600 ft) from the border, is the location of major banks, government institutions, businesses, and shops.

One witness said they saw soldiers position themselves at the top of a building overlooking the roundabout and then begin to shoot at anyone who was moving.

Video posted online meanwhile showed tank track marks on a road about 3km west of al-Awda roundabout and 300m from the Indonesian field hospital, which was damaged overnight.

Reuters A Palestinian girl sits on top of possessions being transported by a cart in Rafah, in the southern Gaza Strip (28 May 2024)
The UN says around a million people have fled Rafah since the start of the Israeli ground operation in the city

Earlier, residents told the BBC that tanks seized Zoroub Hill, about 2.5km north-west of al-Awda roundabout, after gun battles with Hamas-led fighters.

The hill is highest point along the Egyptian border and its seizure means the entire Gazan side of the border is now effectively under Israeli control.

Zoroub Hill also overlooks western Rafah, where residents said there had been the heaviest air and artillery strikes overnight since the start of the Israeli operation.

A local journalist said the bombardment forced hundreds of families to seek temporary shelter in the courtyard of a hospital, while ambulances struggled to reach casualties in the affected areas.

At dawn, thousands of people were seen heading north, crammed into cars and lorries and onto carts pulled by donkeys and horses.

“The explosions are rattling our tent, my children are frightened, and my sick father makes it impossible for us to escape the darkness,” resident Khaled Mahmoud told the BBC.

“We are supposed to be in a safe zone according to the Israeli army, yet we have not received evacuation orders like those in the eastern [Rafah] region,” he added. “We fear for our lives if no-one steps in to protect us.

The Israel Defense Forces (IDF) did not comment on the various reports but put out a statement saying that “overnight troops operated on the Philadelphi Corridor while conducting precise operational activity based on intelligence indicating the presence of terror targets in the area”.

“The activity is being conducted as efforts are continuing to be made in order to prevent harm to uninvolved civilians in the area,” it added.

“The troops are engaging with terrorists in close-quarters combat and locating terror tunnel shafts, weapons, and additional terrorist infrastructure in the area.”

The IDF has told civilians in eastern Rafah to evacuate for their own safety to an “expanded humanitarian area” stretching from al-Mawasi, a coastal area just north of Rafah, to the central town of Deir al-Balah.

EPA A Palestinian woman reacts next to tents destroyed by a fire triggered by an Israeli air strike in western Rafah on Sunday, in the southern Gaza Strip (28 May 2024)
Israel’s prime minister said the killing of civilians in an air strike and resulting fire in Rafah on Sunday was a “tragedy”

On Sunday night, at least 45 people – more than half of them children, women and the elderly – were killed when an Israeli air strike triggered a huge fire in a camp for displaced people near a UN logistics base in the Tal al-Sultan area, according to the Hamas-run health ministry.

Hundreds more were treated for severe burns, fractures and shrapnel wounds.

The IDF said it was targeting two senior Hamas officials in the attack, which happened hours after Hamas fighters in south-eastern Rafah launched rockets towards the Israeli city of Tel Aviv for the first time in months.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said a “tragic incident” had occurred “despite our immense efforts to avoid harming non-combatants” and promised a thorough investigation.

IDF chief spokesman Rear Admiral Daniel Hagari said on Tuesday that the strike had targeted a structure used by the Hamas commanders which was away from any tents, using “two munitions with small warheads”.

“Following this strike, a large fire ignited for reasons that are still being investigated. Our munitions alone could not have ignited a fire of this size,” he said.

Rear Adm Hagari added that investigators were looking into the possibility that the fire was caused by the explosion of weapons or ammunition stored in a nearby structure, and played what he said was an intercepted telephone conversation between two Gazans suggesting that. The audio recording could not immediately be verified.

Sam Rose of the UN agency for Palestinian refugees, Unrwa, told the BBC from western Rafah that the killing of so many civilians could not be dismissed as an accident.

“Gaza was already one of the most overcrowded places on the planet. It is absolutely impossible to prosecute a military campaign involving large-scale munitions, strikes from the sky, the sea, the tanks, without exacting large-scale civilian casualties,” he said.

“It seems like we are plumbing new depths of horror, bloodshed and brutality with every single day. And if this isn’t a wake-up call, then it’s hard to see what will be.”

Last week, the International Court of Justice (ICJ) ordered Israel to “immediately halt its military offensive, and any other action in the Rafah Governorate, which may inflict on the Palestinian group in Gaza conditions of life that could bring about its physical destruction in whole or in part”.

Israel launched a military campaign in Gaza to destroy Hamas in response to the group’s cross-border attack on southern Israel on 7 October, during which about 1,200 people were killed and 252 others were taken hostage.

At least 36,090 people have been killed in Gaza since then, according to the Hamas-run health ministry.

Russian plot to kill Zelensky foiled, Kyiv says

Telegram/SBU Footage shows a man being arrested
Ukraine said it arrested two Ukrainian officials who worked with the Russian security services

The Ukrainian security service (SBU) says it has foiled a Russian plot to assassinate President Volodymyr Zelensky and other high-ranking Ukrainian officials.

Two Ukrainian government protection unit colonels have been arrested.

The SBU said they were part of a network of agents belonging to the Russian state security service (FSB).

They had reportedly been searching for willing “executors” among Mr Zelensky’s bodyguards to kidnap and kill him.

Ever since Russian paratroopers attempted to land in Kyiv and assassinate President Zelensky in the early hours and days of the full-scale invasion, plots to assassinate him have been commonplace.

The Ukrainian leader said at the start of the invasion he was Russia’s “number one target”.

But this alleged plot stands out from the rest. It involves serving colonels, whose job it was to keep officials and institutions safe, allegedly hired as moles.

Other targets included military intelligence head Kyrylo Budanov and SBU chief Vasyl Malyuk, the agency added.

The group had reportedly planned to kill Mr Budanov before Orthodox Easter, which this year fell on 5 May.

According to the SBU, the plotters had aimed to use a mole to get information about his location, which they would then have attacked with rockets, drones and anti-tank grenades.

One of the officers who was later arrested had already bought drones and anti-personnel mines, the SBU said.

Telegram/SBU An anti-tank grenade
The SBU said it found various ordnance, including an anti-tank grenade, on the plotters

SBU head Vasyl Malyuk said the attack was supposed to be “a gift to Putin before the inauguration” – referring to Russia’s Vladimir Putin who was sworn in for a fifth term as president at the Kremlin on Tuesday.

The operation turned into a failure of the Russian special services, Mr Malyuk said.

“But we must not forget – the enemy is strong and experienced, he cannot be underestimated,” he added.

The two Ukrainian officials are being held on suspicion of treason and of preparing a terrorist act.

The SBU said three FSB employees oversaw the organisation and the attack.

One of them, named as Dmytro Perlin, had been recruiting “moles” since before Russia’s full-scale invasion of Ukraine in February 2022.

Another FSB employee, Oleksiy Kornev, reportedly held “conspiratorial” meetings “in neighbouring European states” before the invasion with one of the Ukrainian colonels arrested.

In a released interrogation with one of the suspects, they can be heard describing how they were paid thousands of dollars directly by parcels or indirectly through their relatives. It is not clear whether he was speaking under duress or not.

Investigators insist they monitored the men throughout. We are unlikely to know how close they came to carrying out their alleged plan.

The plot may read like a thriller but it is also a reminder of the risks Ukraine’s wartime leader faces.

Last month, a Polish man was arrested and charged with planning to co-operate with Russian intelligence services to aid a possible assassination of Mr Zelensky.

At the weekend Ukraine’s president appeared on the Russian interior ministry’s wanted list on unspecified charges.

The foreign ministry in Kyiv condemned the move as showing “the desperation of the Russian state machine and propaganda”, and pointed out that the International Criminal Court had issued a warrant for Vladimir Putin’s arrest.

China bubble tea chain plunges in Hong Kong debut

Getty Images Woman drinking bubble tea.Getty ImagesChabaidao means 100 varieties of tea

Shares in Chinese bubble tea chain Sichuan Baicha Baidao, which is also known as Chabaidao, have fallen by more than 26% in their first day of trading on the Hong Kong Stock Exchange.

Chabaidao’s market debut was the Asian financial hub’s largest initial public offering (IPO) so far this year.

The poor performance underscores the difficulties the city is facing in attracting investment.

Chabaidao, which means 100 varieties of tea, is China’s third-biggest fresh tea drinks chain by retail sales.

The Chengdu-based company raised about $330m (£267m) in the IPO even as the offering was met with tepid interest from investors.

The firm said it plans to use about half the money to upgrade its operations and strengthen its supply chain.

Rival bubble tea firms Mixue, Guming and Auntea Jenny have also said they are planning to sell shares in Hong Kong.

However, Chabaidao’s weak debut highlights the challenges faced by authorities as they attempt to revive confidence in the city’s stock market.

Investors are concerned about Hong Kong’s recovery from the pandemic and its national security legislation as well as slowing economic growth in China.

Last year, the amount of money raised by IPOs in Hong Kong slumped to the lowest level in two decades.

The city’s benchmark Hang Seng share index has lost over 16% of its value in the last year.

Last week, China’s securities regulator said it will support share offerings in Hong Kong.

The watchdog also plans to relax regulations rules on stock trading links between the city and the mainland as it tries to boost Hong Kong’s position as an international financial hub.

Millions have played Wordle, but there’s more to the game than you’d expect

A woman plays Wordle on her phone in 2022.

A woman plays Wordle on her phone in 2022. Mike Kemp/In Pictures/Getty ImagesCNN — 

One word. Five letters. Six tries. Countless moments of triumph and dismay.

Wordle — the daily word game that became a cultural phenomenon during the pandemic — will release its 1000th puzzle on Friday, March 15. 

For some, Wordle is a fun way to pass the time. For others, it requires rigorous thought and strategy. The premise is simple (guess the word) and yet can be highly competitive. How many tries did it take you? Have you optimized your starting word for maximum impact? Do you play in Hard Mode, where you need to use the letters you’ve already found in each subsequent guess?

Wordle’s balance of simple, fun competition quickly resonated with players. Within two months of its public release in October 2021, the number of daily users shot from 90 to around 300,000. After the New York Times acquired Wordle from its creator, software engineer Josh Wardle, in January 2022, its player base grew to tens of millions.

There’s a lot of strategy behind the puzzle, as well. From the words the Times picks to Wordle’s place in the publication’s business model, everything has its purpose.

What happens behind the scenes on the Wordle team

For players, the Wordle experience is fairly simple. You navigate to the web page or open the NYT Games app, and plug in your starter word. On the back end, it’s far more complicated.

Initially, the game’s creator Josh Wardle curated a list of words that would run in order. While the Times still uses that list for the most part, it has since been adjusted to ensure each word meets the Times’ standards and is in North American spelling — something that won’t be changing anytime soon, according to Everdeen Mason, the editorial director for NYT Games.

“I know some of our international audience hates that,” she admitted to CNN.

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Jonathan Knight, now the business head of games for the New York Times, discusses Wordle after the acquisition

03:45 – Source: CNN

Even having a set list of words isn’t enough. The New York Times assigned a dedicated editor for Wordle, Tracy Bennett, in November 2022.

“Wardle’s original word list forms the bulk of the database of words we’re accessing, though we’re not running them in the order he had originally arranged them,” Bennett told CNN. “I’ve removed a handful of words that felt too obscure or vulgar, or that had derogatory secondary meanings, but those have been few and far between.”

Then, the strategy comes in.

Bennett works in week-long batches, about a month in advance. She spends around two hours a week setting up the seven words that will run.


Hoquiam – 968
Willowbrook – 968
Seattle – 967
Oak Brook – 957
Aberdeen – 947
Hinsdale – 943
St Louis – 923
Los Angeles – 816
Lansing – 816
Country Club Hills – 816
Flossmoor – 816
Florissant – 816

To start, Bennett randomly selects words from the database using “a variety of methods.” She then researches each word for its current and historical meanings before mentally running through each word’s letter combinations “to identify any that are ‘lucky guess’ words that defy strategy.”

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These lucky guess words include things like _OUND, where there are more than six letters that could occupy the first slot, Bennett said.

Once she has the words for that week, Bennett checks them again to make sure that the order of the puzzles makes sense. This includes ensuring that there aren’t too many hard words or similar words in a row.

“That’s how we think about it,” said Mason. “As a solver playing every single day for a week period, how does that feel? Is it fun? Is it challenging enough?”

Yes, player feedback makes a difference

Friday, March 15, 2024, marks Wordle's 1000th puzzle.

Friday, March 15, 2024, marks Wordle’s 1000th puzzle. Illustration by CNN

Wordle’s 1000th puzzle was one of the words switched out from Wardle’s original lineup, but more because the original was “a little boring,” Mason said.

The Times didn’t theme the new word either, after Bennett experimented with a themed Wordle related to Thanksgiving — FEAST — in her first month on the job.

“We got a resounding response from the audience that they did not like that at all,” said Mason. “I think it just made it too easy.”

Bennett said that some solvers enjoyed the thematic nod, but others felt it broke the rules of Wordle because it added an element of guessing what the editor might pick.

While the Times sometimes has a nod to current events in its other games, such as the crossword, there’s more context overall. “With Wordle, it’s just one word,” Mason said. “We were actually surprised that people were so mad about it.”


Melbourne – 961
London – 930
Coventry – 923
Auckland – 794
Wandsworth – 794
Fulham – 790
Bournemouth – 789
Bradford – 784
Wantage – 783
Vancouver – 783

Player feedback is an integral part of the Times’ process for Wordle. The team collects this information from its community forums, social media, and direct emails. They go through this feedback roughly every week to see if things are being mentioned repeatedly — Bennett said she got a lot of comments about the words GUANO and SNAFU, for example.

Last Spring, the Times also implemented an external testing process for Wordle so the team can get feedback from a small group of people before the puzzles go public — there are around 35 testers for all NYT Games. The testers get the puzzles about three to four weeks in advance. This helps with the calibration process, making sure there aren’t too many hard words in a row.

“Data is very important in what we do,” said Mason, explaining that they look at solve rates and other analytics alongside the feedback. “But I really want them [the editors] to have a lot of creative freedom and passion, because I think it does make the puzzles better.”

For her part, Bennett aims to “provide variety in solving difficulty, parts of speech and letter combinations while keeping things mostly random.”

The game’s core experience — six tries to guess a five letter word — is something that users don’t want the Times to mess with, Jonathan Knight, the business head for NYT Games, told CNN.

“The most requested feature for Wordle is don’t do anything,” he said.

The second most requested feature is an archive, so players can go back and try puzzles that they missed or didn’t solve the first time around. This is in the works, Knight said. While the Times doesn’t have a date for the rollout, it plans to release the Wordle archive this year.

“You’re even going to be able to play Wordles that predate the New York Times acquisition, which is really fun,” Knight told CNN.

What Wordle has done for the New York Times

Aside from the editorial strategy, Wordle fits perfectly into the Times’ business plans. “Our lifestyle products are really a key part of that strategy,” said Knight.

For online games like Wordle, which is available for free — on purpose — it’s an opportunity to funnel players to a paid subscription, either to access more of the Times’ games or convert them to news readers.


New York

“Subscribers who engage with both news and games together on any given week have the strongest long-term subscriber retention profile of any at the Times,” Knight told CNN. “We’re really excited about that combination of games and news, and I think that’s pretty unique to what we’re doing.”

Every game in the Times’ portfolio has its role to play. Wordle was a massive accelerator and turning point for the strategy overall, said Knight. Last week, in a continued effort to “protect our rights around Wordle,” the Times issued DMCA notices to many of the variants that have popped up over the years.

“We always knew we wanted to be the premier subscription destination for digital puzzles,” Knight told CNN. “We wanted a collection of human-made puzzles that were for everyone — Wordle was sort of the perfect game.”

How a simple word puzzle has fostered connections — and competition

Sometimes, a word is more than just a word. It can evoke connection, vulnerability or challenge.

People connect over Wordle, from commiserating over how hard the day’s word was to sharing how many tries it took to solve it.

“I have learned that, for a lot of people, it’s given them something to do with their families every day,” Mason said. “I find it really heartwarming that people are able to use this as a kickstarter for their relationships and their day. There’s a comfort to being like ‘we did this together.’”

The most common time to play Wordle in the US is 9am, according to the Times.

For Donna Cona, who has played it since before the Times acquisition, Wordle has become her go-to thing each morning. Although she admits that it “drives me crazy when I’m stumped … and it’s usually because I’m always suspect of using the same letter twice in a word.”


Parer (2022-09-16)
Atone (2022-06-14)
Coyly (2022-08-02)
Joker (2023-04-25)
Jazzy (2023-06-01)
Catch (2022-10-15)
Kazoo (2023-06-19)
Nanny (2023-06-03)
Mummy (2022-10-23)
Judge (2022-12-26)

“I’ve rarely missed a day,” said Cona, who still looks forward to her “every morning Wordle ritual,” and whose friends and family share photos of their completed Wordles as a way to stay connected.

For some families, Wordle is a blend of connection and competition.

In Malia Griggs’ case, it’s a way to stay in touch with her father, even though they’re physically apart — she lives in New York City, he in Columbia, South Carolina. [Editor’s Note: Malia is a friend of this story’s author.]

Her father, Jerrold Griggs — who has a PhD in applied mathematics — takes Wordle seriously. He created a spreadsheet in January 2023 to track each of their stats.

“He tracks both of our scores (so, the amount of tries it took for each of us to solve the Wordle),” Malia told CNN via email. The sheet also includes data like how many vowels their guesses had. “And he keeps notes, such as when our streaks end, when we solve in two guesses, or when we have a streak of solving in three tries or less.”

The Griggs’ started playing Wordle together around December 2022, and for Malia it’s been a nice way to share interest. “We don’t talk every day, but playing the game together is how we show that we’re thinking of each other.”

“I like how this very simple game has become this mental exercise for people to not just guess the word of the day but put a lot of meaning into it,” said Mason.

This shows the imagination, creativity and collaboration of the NYT Games audience, Mason said.

“There’s lots of people like me who sort of change their starting word all the time based on how they’re feeling,” Mason said. “It just feels more fun that way.”

Others have superstitions or statistics-based approaches that they abide by, such as using the word ADIEU as their starter because it includes the majority of the vowels — although the Times said in December that ADIEU is the least efficient of the top 30 starting words. SLATE, CRANE and TRACE are the best, according to WordleBot, the Times’ tool that analyzes players’ completed Wordles.


Washington, DC
(*based on their guesses)

While breaking a long streak can be disheartening and frustrating — the current longest streak is 968 days, held by multiple people in Hoquiam, Washington and Willowbrook, Illinois — it’s an inevitability.

This is part of the game, too, said Mason. “It wakes you up.”

Recently, Malia Griggs broke her 283-day streak because her first guesses didn’t reveal any letters, and the remaining ones had multiple options. Although, she said she played “before I was fully awake,” which she noted was a rookie mistake.

“I’m still bitter about losing,” Malia said. “It’s more disappointing than I’d like to admit.”

Breaking a streak hasn’t really impacted people’s desire to continue playing Wordle, according to Mason. Instead, it spurs them on further.

Wordle “has to be a little spicy,” Mason told CNN. “It has to be a little bit challenging — because if it wasn’t, it would be less satisfying to win.”

[EDITOR’S NOTE: All Wordle player data was provided exclusively to CNN by the New York Times and is accurate as of March 11, 2024.]

Lionel Messi’s last-gasp goal earns Inter Miami a draw against LA Galaxy in front of star-studded crowd

Lionel Messi #10 of Inter Miami looks on during the second half of a game against LA Galaxy at Dignity Health Sports Park on February 25, 2024 in Carson, California.

Lionel Messi #10 of Inter Miami looks on during the second half of a game against LA Galaxy at Dignity Health Sports Park on February 25, 2024 in Carson, California. Sean M. Haffey/Getty ImagesCNN — 

The stars were out in force to watch Lionel Messi’s Inter Miami against LA Galaxy in Sunday’s 1-1 draw – and the Argentine, unsurprisingly, didn’t disappoint.

Tennis world No. 1 Novak Djokovic, actors Halle Berry, Edward Norton and Liv Tyler, musician Anderson Paak, footballers Tobin Heath and Christen Press and WNBA legend Diana Taurasi were all in attendance to sample Messimania for themselves.

LA Galaxy, once a home for some of Major League Soccer’s superstar signings following David Beckham’s arrival in 2007, took the lead in the 75th minute through Serbian striker Dejan Joveljić.

Despite its new star-studded lineup, which now also features Luis Saurez, Jordi Alba and Sergio Busquets, Inter Miami was thoroughly outplayed for much of the match and looked to be heading for defeat until Messi’s intervention in the 92nd minute.

Novak Djokovic was in attendance to experience Messimania.

Novak Djokovic was in attendance to experience Messimania. Kevork Djansezian/Getty Images

Fans will likely have experienced déjà vu for the equalizer as former Barcelona teammates Messi and Alba turned back the clock, passing the ball between themselves four times before the Argentine finished the move by sliding in and steering the ball past Galaxy goalkeeper John McCarthy.

Miami was aided by a red card shown to Galaxy midfielder Marco Delgado in the 88th minute after Busquets appeared to dive, with the referee showing the American a second yellow.

Despite this being a home game for the Galaxy, a significant roar went up in the stadium as the goal went in, before pockets of Argentina and Miami fans started bowing to Messi from the stands.

Former Galaxy star Beckham, who has a statue outside of the the club’s stadium and is now a part-owner of Inter Miami, didn’t celebrate the equalizing goal against his former team.

“It’s true that they dominated the first half, especially with the period in which Riqui Puig had the most amount of time with the ball and made the team play very well,” Miami coach Gerardo Martino said after the match, per MLS.

“They recently got their last two DPs [Designated Players] and because of that, the team looks completely different,” Martino added, referring to Galaxy stars Riqui Puig and Joseph Paintsil. “Because they have a great No. 9 and also two dangerous wingers, and also they’re very solid defensively.

Actors Edward Norton and Liv Tyler watched alongside David Beckham and son Brooklyn Beckham.

Actors Edward Norton and Liv Tyler watched alongside David Beckham and son Brooklyn Beckham. Kevork Djansezian/Getty Images North America/Getty Images

“But then we had the personality to continue searching, and we reached the tie, well, you could say with the genius of Leo.”

Additonally, Sunday’s performance came hours before Messi reach 500 million Instagram followers, the second most on the app behind only long-time rival Cristiano Ronaldo.

Japan and the UK are in recessions. Is the US next?

Consumer spending is one of the main drivers of economic growth in the US.

Consumer spending is one of the main drivers of economic growth in the US. Ash Ponders/Bloomberg/Getty ImagesNew YorkCNN — 

And just like that, two of the world’s largest economies are in technical recessions.

On Thursday, Japan and the UK both reported their second consecutive negative quarters of gross domestic product, fitting the widely agreed-upon definition of a recession.

Could the US, the world’s largest economy, be next? Far from it.

Japan’s economic contraction is connected to its shrinking population, wrote Paul Donovan, chief economist at UBS Global Wealth Management, in a note Thursday. In 2022, the nation’s population declined by 800,000, marking the 14th consecutive year of contraction. That limits the country’s ability to grow because it means “fewer people make and consume fewer things,” Donovan said.

In the UK, however, population and wage growth weren’t sufficient to stave off a drop in consumer spending, one of the main drivers of that economy.

Japan's economy contracted at an annualized pace of 0.4% in the last three months of 2023, causing it to lose its position as the world’s third-largest economy to Germany.

Japan’s economy contracted at an annualized pace of 0.4% in the last three months of 2023, causing it to lose its position as the world’s third-largest economy to Germany. Kazuhiro Nogi/AFP/Getty Images

The state of the US economy

The polar opposite occurred in the US. In the past two quarters, the nation’s economy experienced much higher than expected GDP growth, due in large part to robust consumer spending.

The US economy has an edge over most advanced economies thanks to $5 trillion in pandemic stimulus money, which continues to help bolster household finances. Another advantage is being less dependent on Russian energy, making it less vulnerable than many other countries to the surge in natural gas prices that followed the full-scale invasion of Ukraine in February 2022.

But Thursday’s US retail sales data for the month of January came in much lower than expected, suggesting Americans could be fastening their belts a little more tightly after a record holiday season.

Still, the labor market remains remarkably strong, as evidenced by the nation’s unemployment rate, which has stayed below 4% for 24 straight months.

Will there be a US recession in 2024?

The US economy could be in a recession right now without Americans knowing it.

That’s because the economy isn’t broadly and officially considered to be in a recession until a relatively unknown group of eight economists says so.

That group, known as the Business Cycle Dating Committee at the National Bureau of Economic Research, judges the onset of a recession retroactively based upon “a significant decline in economic activity that is spread across the economy and lasts more than a few months.”

There’s no fixed rule about what that involves, but it could include factors like a spike in the unemployment rate, falling income, a major drop in spending or a negative economic growth rate.

But, importantly, two consecutive negative quarters of GDP don’t always qualify as a recession. The US experienced that in 2022, and the NBER committee didn’t announce a recession.

Traders work on the floor of the New York Stock Exchange in New York, the United States, on Jan. 31, 2024.

RELATED ARTICLEWhy some investors don’t mind waiting longer for rate cuts

That said, the risk of a recession has been elevated since the US Federal Reserve began its tightening cycle in March 2022, Fed Chair Jerome Powell told reporters in December. However, he said, “there’s little basis for thinking that the economy is in a recession now.”

But even when the economy seems as though it’s never been better, there’s always the possibility of a recession in the next year, Powell added.

That’s because unforeseen economic shocks — like, say, a global pandemic — can arise at any point.

Putting that aside, Philipp Carlsson-Szlezak, Boston Consulting Group’s global chief economist, doesn’t think the US will enter a recession this year. Rather, “it’s going to be a slow-growth year,” he said.

“The resilience of the US economy is rooted in fundamental strengths,” chief among them the labor market and Americans’ personal finances, he added.

While he doesn’t think it’s likely, one potential path to a recession in the US could be if the Fed doesn’t cut interest rates at all this year.

Since investors are widely pricing in the possibility of multiple rate cuts in 2024, if they don’t pan out it could damage financial markets badly enough to ignite a recession, said Carlsson-Szlezak.

‘Erasing a part of history’ – What a double mosque demolition tells us about India ahead of crucial election

A 600-year-old mosque was destroyed by government authorities for alleged "illegal encroachment" in Delhi.

A 600-year-old mosque was destroyed by government authorities for alleged “illegal encroachment” in Delhi. Aishwarya Iyer/CNNNew DelhiCNN — 

The demolition of two mosques in India within days of each other has highlighted the deep religious divide in the country, months before voters head to the polls for a nationwide election that is expected to hand Prime Minister Narendra Modi a rare third term in power.

The twin demolitions in Uttarakhand state and Delhi came just weeks after Modi inaugurated the controversial Ram Mandir, a temple built on the foundations of a centuries-old mosque that was torn down by hardline Hindu crowds in the early 1990s.

That ceremony marked a seismic shift away from modern India’s secular founding principles and was hailed by Hindu nationalists as a crowning moment in their decades-long campaign to reshape the nation.

Deadly violence erupted in Uttarakhand’s Haldwani city last week, after government officials, accompanied by police, razed a mosque and madrassa (an Islamic school), citing “illegal encroachment.”

But advocates working on behalf of the Muslim community point to court documents, seen by CNN, that show no such order had been given.

The demolitions drew incensed residents onto the streets and at least six people have been killed in clashes with police. Authorities have imposed curfews, but scared Muslim families told CNN they just want to leave. About a third of Haldwani’s 220,000 people are Muslim, according to the most recent census from 2011.

Security walk past bricks and stones scattered on a road after day an Islamic school in Haldwani was destroyed in Uttarakhand on February 9, 2024.

Security walk past bricks and stones scattered on a road after day an Islamic school in Haldwani was destroyed in Uttarakhand on February 9, 2024. AFP/Getty Images

Pushkar Dhami, Chief Minister of Uttarakhand, said his government will take strict action against “rioters and miscreants.”

“Every rioter who indulged in arson and stone pelting is being identified, no miscreant who disturbs harmony and peace will be spared,” he wrote on X, formerly Twitter.

The clashes come one week after another madrassa, a centuries-old mosque, a Sufi shrine and dozens of Muslim graves were demolished by government authorities in Delhi, also for alleged “illegal encroachment,” prompting anger and outrage in the Indian capital.

exp India prime minister inauguration ram temple vedika sud live _00001409.png

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Analysts say these incidents underscore an uncomfortable reality in the world’s largest democracy and fear that inter-religious tensions will increase as Modi and his Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) continue to push their populist, yet divisive, policies in the lead up to a nationwide election in just a few months’ time.

The image of India that Modi wants to project is one of a confident, vibrant, and modern superpower. But many of the country’s 230 million Muslims say they are being sidelined and marginalized in the world’s largest democracy.

“This is the worst possible time to be a Muslim in India,” said author Nilanjan Mukhopadhyay, adding that it has “become normal to demolish mosques in India.”

“The stigmatization of Muslims is an old story, seen as the new normal. No longer does it shock people.”

CNN has reached out to the BJP but is yet to receive a response.

A sectarian shift

The mosque demolitions come against a backdrop of increased religious polarization and accusations that the BJP is building a Hindu-first state in what is constitutionally meant to be a secular country.

They follow the opening of the Ram Janmabhoomi Mandir in Ayodhya, a controversial Hindu temple built on the ruins of a 16th century mosque that was destroyed by hardline Hindus some 30 years ago, setting off a wave of deadly sectarian violence not seen in India since its bloody 1947 partition.

Modi presided over a lavish consecration ceremony, where he played the role of a priest and hailed the beginning of a “new divine India.” But his vision is a far cry from the ideas of the modern country’s founding fathers, analysts say.

Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi attends the inauguration of the Ram Janmaboomi Temple in Uttar Pradesh, India on January 22, 2024.

Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi attends the inauguration of the Ram Janmaboomi Temple in Uttar Pradesh, India on January 22, 2024. Imtiyaz Khan/Anadolu/Getty Images/File

And during his decade in power, Modi’s BJP has isolated millions among India’s sizable minorities, analysts say.

Modi rose to power in 2014 with a pledge to reform India’s economy and usher in a new era of development – but he and his party also heavily pushed a Hindutva agenda, an ideology that believes India is inherently a land meant for Hindus.

About 80% of India’s 1.4 billion people are Hindu, but the country is home to a diverse group of religions and faiths, including Sikhs, Buddhists and one of the world’s largest Muslim populations of some 230 million.

When he stood for reelection in 2019, Modi’s Hindutva policies became more brazen, according to analysts.

A few months after winning, he announced he was stripping the statehood of India’s only Muslim-majority territory, Jammu and Kashmir, and turning it into two union territories while bringing it under federal control.

Modi laid the temple's foundation stone during a 2018 visit to the UAE, years before the temple opened on February 14, 2024.

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And earlier this month, the BJP-ruled state of Uttarakhand became the first in independent India to pass the Uniform Civil Code (UCC), a set of contentious common laws that have been criticized by some minority groups for trying to replace their personal religious laws.

In India, a country of diverse faiths, religious groups follow their own laws for matters such as marriage, divorce and inheritance. But these have long been considered by some to be regressive, including by many more secular figures.

The BJP’s attempt to reform these religious laws is seen by some as a welcome move, but critics fear the government’s Hindu nationalist policies could unduly influence the legislation.

Asaduddin Owaisi, a Muslim opposition lawmaker, criticized the law, saying it forces Muslims to follow a different religion.

“I have a right to practice my religion and culture, this Bill forces me to follow a different religion and culture,” he wrote on X. “In our religion, inheritance and marriage are part of religious practice.”

Earlier this month, a report from Amnesty International said between April and June 2022, a total of 128 properties largely belonging to Muslims across five states were bulldozed by government authorities.

“The demolitions adversely impacted at least 617 people, including men, women, and children, either rendering them homeless or deprived of their sole livelihood,” the report said.

Author Mukhopadhyay added: “It is a 360 degree Islamophobic campaign that is going on in every sphere of life.”

600-year-old mosque destroyed

A sense of despair among many Muslims lingers in Delhi’s Mehrauli district, where government authorities razed the 600-year-old Akhondji Mosque to the ground late last month.

Late last month, the Delhi Development Authority (DDA) – the governing body operating under India’s ruling BJP – bulldozed the structure, alleging “illegal encroachment.”

But Mohammed Zakir Hussain, the mosque’s 40-year-old cleric, says the building was under the control of the city’s Waqf Board, a statutory body established to protect Islamic affairs, and should never have been destroyed.

He felt “helpless” as he pleaded with authorities to stop tearing the building to the ground, he said.

Mohammad Zakir Hussain has said he barely slept since the demolition of his mosque, the madrasa, and his home in India’s capital Delhi.

Mohammad Zakir Hussain has said he barely slept since the demolition of his mosque, the madrasa, and his home in India’s capital Delhi. Aishwarya Iyer/CNN

The DDA’s lawyer Sanjay Katyal told the Delhi High Court that the body had bought the land for planned development.The case is expected to be heard again later this month.

Delhi, a metropolis of more than 20 million people, has seen rapid urbanization over the past few decades, with a vast, modern metro system, and a burgeoning middle class that has come to symbolize India’s economic growth.

But between its meandering roads stand centuries-old monuments and medieval ruins that put the Indian capital on a par with the world’s great ancient cities, historians say.

Historian Rana Safvi said the architecture of the Akhondji Mosque was typical of the Sultanate era, which flourished in India between 1192 and 1526. Its arched roof and pillars of grey stone had stood for some 600 years before it was torn to the ground.

“It is like erasing a part of Indian history,” Safvi said. “It is a loss of a mosque, a safe place for one to congregate to pray, especially at a time when namaz in the open or in public areas is frowned upon.”

Mohammad Aman, a 32-year-old Salon worker from Delhi, looks at photos of the mosque demolition on his phone.

Mohammad Aman, a 32-year-old Salon worker from Delhi, looks at photos of the mosque demolition on his phone. Aishwarya Iyer/CNN

And along with the mosque, authorities also broke down the Islamic school that housed dozens of children, including orphans, and destroyed an old graveyard that stood beside it.

Mohammad Arif, 22, whose father, grandmother and grandfather’s graves are among those ruined, said he arrives at the site every day to try and restore what’s left of it.

“I come here every day to ask (the guards) to let me go inside and put mud to restore their graves at least. They do not allow it,” he said.

Mohammad Aman, 32, mourned the deepening divide between Hindus and Muslims.

“(The government) rationalizes everything by blaming Mughal emperors,” he said, referring to India’s ancient Islamic rulers. “But you’re doing the same thing now. What is the difference between you and him then?”

A fierce storm uncovered a mysterious shipwreck. Now another could destroy it

An aerial view of the shipwreck on the shore of Cape Ray, Newfoundland and Labrador, Canada on January 30.

An aerial view of the shipwreck on the shore of Cape Ray, Newfoundland and Labrador, Canada on January 30. Corey Purchase/AFP/Getty ImagesCNN — 

A mysterious shipwreck suddenly appeared on the shores of a Newfoundland coastal community last month, believed to have been dislodged from the seabed by a fierce storm. Now, as a new storm barrels toward eastern Canada, the community is in a race against time to save it.

The wreck, lodged in shallow waters near the small town of Cape Ray, was discovered by a local resident on the morning of January 20.

As soon as Shawn Bath and Trevor Croft, both from the Clean Harbours Initiative, heard about it, they grabbed their dive gear and rushed down to the beach. Swimming around the vessel, they attempted to secure it by slinging ropes across its 100-foot-long frame.

“It’s a pretty magical experience when you’re the first two people to stand on that ship in probably 200 years,” Croft told CNN.

Both men have been working in the region for two years as part of a coastal clean-up operation in the wake of Hurricane Fiona, which slammed into Canada’s Atlantic Coast in 2022 as one of the most powerful storms in the country’s history.

Bath believes it was Hurricane Fiona that initially dislodged the shipwreck from its resting place, before it slowly drifted toward the southwestern coastline of Newfoundland island, pushed along by storms and sea swells.

Now, as a new storm approaches, the community is scrambling to stop the vessel being destroyed by the same elements that brought it to their shores.

The Cape Ray shipwreck is an example of a wider phenomenon, experts say, where climate change-fueled storms are uncovering the world’s underwater history — but also destroying it.

Shawn Bath, of the Clean Harbours Initiative, works to secure the shipwreck in Cape Ray, Newfoundland, Canada.

Shawn Bath, of the Clean Harbours Initiative, works to secure the shipwreck in Cape Ray, Newfoundland, Canada. Courtesy Shawn Trevor/Clean Harbours Initiative

A section of shipwreck that washed ashore is seen in Cape Ray, Canada.

A section of shipwreck that washed ashore is seen in Cape Ray, Canada. Shawn Trevor/Clean Harbours Initiative

The wreck’s origins and age remain unknown. Croft said it may be a French or British ship possibly around 200 years old, but until it comes out of the water, it’s all guesswork, he said.

Lisa Briggs, an underwater archaeologist and research fellow at Cranfield University in the UK, said the wreck is significant for the community because it could be a clue as to how people arrived on the island.

“The likelihood is that people who are descendants of those who came on this ship still live on the island today,” she told CNN.

Waves in the North Atlantic Ocean near Gatklettur, Iceland, March 2020.

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But this preserved slice of local history is at risk. The tides are already weakening the vessel. While the wood is in good shape, it is held together with copper and brass pins. “Every time the wave goes underneath that ship and raises it up a little bit, those beams get looser and looser,” Bath said.

The approaching storm, forecast to arrive Wednesday evening, has raised the stakes even further. Forecasts suggest wind gusts of 25 mph around Cape Ray with waves up to 20 feet.

“The wreck could just pretty much disintegrate,” Croft said.

Without government funds to extract and preserve the wreck, Bath and Croft are trying to raise funds through a GoFundMe campaign. Their aim is to pull the wreck from the water to preserve it and, ultimately, put it on display as a tourist attraction for this remote community.

“It’s a race against time,” Croft said.

Trevor Croft, also from the Clean Harbours Initiative, attempts to secure parts of the shipwreck to keep it from breaking up in the rough waters off the coast of Cape Ray, Newfoundland, Canada.

Trevor Croft, also from the Clean Harbours Initiative, attempts to secure parts of the shipwreck to keep it from breaking up in the rough waters off the coast of Cape Ray, Newfoundland, Canada. Courtesy Shawn Trevor/Clean Harbours Initiative

Part of a shipwreck is seen underwater after it washed ashore at Cape Ray, a small coastal community in Newfoundland, Canada, on January 20.

Part of a shipwreck is seen underwater after it washed ashore at Cape Ray, a small coastal community in Newfoundland, Canada, on January 20. Courtesy Shawn Trevor/Clean Harbours Initiative

The phenomenon of storms dislodging shipwrecks from seabeds — where they have sometimes rested for centuries — is not uncommon, Briggs said, especially as climate change fuels more powerful and more intense storms.

While that might sound like a good thing for underwater archaeologists, it often isn’t, she added. When storms rip the protective layers of sand off shipwrecks, they can cause irretrievable damage. “It’s much better if the archaeologists themselves are gently removing sand in a controlled way,” Briggs said.

Climate change presents other threats to shipwrecks, too, Briggs added.

Rising levels of carbon pollution in the atmosphere are changing the chemistry of seawater, making it more acidic. This can accelerate the disintegration of delicate, organic materials preserved on wrecks, such as ropes, sails and textiles.

Russell Glacier and proglacial area, near Kangerlussuaq, west Greenland, courtesy of Jonathan Carrivick

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Then there’s the underwater archeologist’s nightmare: shipworms. These worm-shaped mollusks have a voracious appetite for wood.

Shipworms have traditionally only been found in warmer waters, meaning wrecks in the colder waters were considered safe from their destruction. But as the oceans warm, the mollusks are migrating further north. In 2016, archaeologists hauled up a piece of wood from the Arctic seafloor teeming with slimy, white shipworms.

“The more we see climate change affecting our world today, the more damage we’re going to see to submerged cultural heritage,” Briggs said.

It matters, she said, because ships tell a unique story about our past. “You have this one moment in time, that’s been perfectly crystallized on the seafloor,” she said.

In Cape Ray, Croft and Bath are doing all they can to protect the mysterious wreck.

Bath can’t quite believe how much of a challenge it has been. “Something so beautiful drifts ashore in this little town,” he said, “and we’re struggling to get finances to haul it out of the water before the storms destroy it.”

RFK Jr. apologizes to cousins offended by Super Bowl ad’s reference to JFK

Robert F. Kennedy Jr. speaks during a campaign event "Declare Your Independence Celebration" at Adrienne Arsht Center for the Performing Arts of Miami-Dade County on October 12, 2023 in Miami, Florida.

Robert F. Kennedy Jr. speaks during a campaign event “Declare Your Independence Celebration” at Adrienne Arsht Center for the Performing Arts of Miami-Dade County on October 12, 2023 in Miami, Florida. Eva Marie Uzcategui/Getty ImagesCNN — 

Independent presidential candidate Robert F. Kennedy Jr. apologized to members of his family who objected to a new TV ad released Sunday during the Super Bowl that repurposed a spot from his uncle’s 1960 campaign.

The retro-themed ad from a PAC backing his candidacy mimics the soundtrack and theme of President John F. Kennedy’s 1960 campaign ad. The spot features a dramatic orchestra opening and a jingle repeating the word “Kennedy” over and over again.

The ad also feature the lyrics, “Do you want a man for president who sees it through and through? A man who’s old enough to know and young enough to do.” The words are a potential jab from the 70-year-old Kennedy toward his somewhat older competitors, 81-year-old President Joe Biden and 77-year-old former President Donald Trump, in a race defined by criticisms of age and mental cognition.

My cousin’s Super Bowl ad used our uncle’s faces- and my Mother’s. She would be appalled by his deadly health care views. Respect for science, vaccines, & health care equity were in her DNA,” Kennedy’s cousin Bobby Shriver said on X following the release of the ad.

Another of Kennedy’s cousins, Mark Shriver, replied to Bobby Shiver’s post by saying “I agree with my brother @bobbyshriver simple as that.”

Bobby and Mark Shriver are sons of Eunice Kennedy Shriver, sister of President Kennedy and the late Attorney General Robert F. Kennedy.

Kennedy responded to criticism from Bobby Shriver by apologizing.

“Bobby. I’m so sorry if that advertisement caused you pain. The ad was created and aired by the American Values Superpac without any involvement or approvals from my campaign. Federal rules prohibit Superpacs from consulting with me or my staff. I send you and your family my sincerest apologies. God bless you,” Kennedy posted on X.

American Values 2024, the group supporting Kennedy’s presidential bid, spent $7 million on the ad. More recently, the PAC faced allegations from the Democratic National Committee that it illegally contributed to Kennedy’s signature-gathering efforts.

Kennedy has faced dissent from members of his family throughout his presidential run. On the day of he announced his intention to run for president as an independent, a group of his siblings called his decision to run against Biden in a general election “dangerous to our country.”

Kennedy has been a leading proponent of vaccine misinformation through his Children’s Health Defense organization and has spent years wrongly suggesting that many vaccines are not safe. In a CNN interview in December, he walked back some of his comments and rejected the label that he’s “anti-vaccine” despite his history of spreading misinformation about the efficacy of vaccines.

He also made a series of comments in 2022 in which he compared the Covid-19 lockdowns to Nazi Germany, arguing that “even in Hitler’s Germany, you could cross the Alps into Switzerland.”

“Bobby might share the same name as our father, but he does not share the same values, vision or judgment,” Rory Kennedy, Kerry Kennedy, Joseph P Kennedy II and Kathleen Kennedy Townsend said in a statement in October.

Paris 2024 Olympic medals to feature iron from the Eiffel Tower

A gold medal featuring iron from the iconic Eiffel Tower, designed by jeweller Chaumet. The medals will be awarded at the upcoming Paris 2024 Olympic Games.

A gold medal featuring iron from the iconic Eiffel Tower, designed by jeweller Chaumet. The medals will be awarded at the upcoming Paris 2024 Olympic Games. Benoit Tessier/ReutersCNN — 

The medals at this year’s Olympics in Paris were not only inspired by the Eiffel Tower — they each contain an original piece of the 19th-century landmark.

Unveiling the designs Thursday, Games organizers said that ironwork removed from the structure during earlier renovations had been repurposed to create the medals’ hexagonal centerpiece. The move, they added, would give successful athletes “veritable pieces of the history of Paris” to take home with them.

The design was overseen by French jeweler Chaumet, whose parent company LVMH signed a major sponsorship deal with Paris 2024 last summer. Like all designs since the 2004 Games in Athens, the reverse of the Olympics medal features an image of the Greek goddess of victory, Nike. The Paralympics medal, meanwhile, is decorated with a graphical representation of the Eiffel Tower, as if viewed from below.

PA Paris 2024 Olympic Games gold medal is seen on display with Paralympic Games gold and silver medals at Chaumet jewellery REUTERS/Benoit Tessier

PA Paris 2024 Olympic Games gold medal is seen on display with Paralympic Games gold and silver medals at Chaumet jewellery REUTERS/Benoit Tessier Benoit Tessier/Reuters

According to a press release, “certain metallic elements” were removed from the landmark during renovation work in the 20th century and “have been carefully preserved ever since.” The Eiffel Tower’s distinctive dark brown paint was cleaned off, and the pieces cut into hexagons before being embossed with the Paris 2024 logo.

The iron pieces are held in position with a “claw” setting, a technique typically usually to secure gems to items of jewelry. Speaking to CNN at Chaumet’s Paris atelier ahead of the reveal, the luxury house’s creative director Clémentine Massonnat-Schaller said the design aimed to “bring out” the hexagonal centerpiece “like a precious stone.” But while the Eiffel Tower served as “the main inspiration,” Massonnat-Schaller added, Chaumet also looked to its own archives — including its history of making jewel-encrusted tiaras. The jeweler said this was most apparent in the lines resembling rays of sunlight that project out from the medals’ center.

From right: Tony Estanguet, president of the Paris 2024 Olympics organising committee on the Eiffel Tower with French cyclist Marie Patouillet, fencer Sara Balzer and athlete Arnaud Assoumani holding Olympic and Paralympic Games medals.

From right: Tony Estanguet, president of the Paris 2024 Olympics organising committee on the Eiffel Tower with French cyclist Marie Patouillet, fencer Sara Balzer and athlete Arnaud Assoumani holding Olympic and Paralympic Games medals. Benoit Tessier/Reuters

“A tiara is a piece that makes the wearer radiate,” said Massonnat-Schaller, adding that the sunray motif was intended to “make the athletes shine even brighter.”

CEO of LVMH Holding Company, Antoine Arnault attends a meeting after LVMH was named as final premium sponsor of 2024 Paris Olympics, in Paris on July 24, 2023.

LVMH strikes Paris Olympic Games sponsorship deal

Unlike in previous years both the Olympic and Paralympic medals share one face. In a statement announcing the designs, Paris 2024 President Tony Estanguet said the decision represented a “coming together” of the two events.

Last July, Olympics organizers announced that the Olympic torch will be the first in Games history to be used for both the Olympics and Paralympics. With a ripple effect designed to evoke moving water, French designer Mathieu Lehanneur’s 3.3-pound torch will be produced entirely from recycled steel. The torch was unveiled just weeks after LVMH announced a deal to become the Games’ “Premium Partner.” The conglomerate’s other brands, including Louis Vuitton and Dior, are expected to enjoy a visible presence at the Games, as will the LVMH-owned Champagne producer Moët Hennessy.