The first medal club

While the United States and China anxiously watch the medal count to see who will end the Olympics with more hardware, for some countries, just a single medal is cause for celebration.

Tajikistan's 19-year-old female boxer, Mavzuna Chorieva, won her country's third-ever* (and first at the 2012 Games) Olympic medal on Aug. 8 after taking the bronze in women's lightweight boxing at the 2012 London Olympics.

Because it's difficult for Tajik women to participate in combat sports, Chorievna spent years disguising herself as a boy in order to compete in boxing matches, and even when she was allowed to participate as a girl, she boxed against men since there were no other women to fight.

Her victory for Tajikistan saw the whole gamut of responses on social media, ranging from accolades for making a significant stride for Tajik women to indignation from others who believe women in Tajikistan should not participate in combat sports.

Tajikistan was not the only country to bring home its first* 2012 Olympic medal this week, and definitely not the most excited. Other countries brought home their first-ever Olympic medals:

After Grenada's Kirani James (pictured above) won the men's 400-meter final on Aug. 6, the Grenadian Prime Minister declared the following day a national half-holiday. The city of Gouyave put on huge carnivals to celebrate James's performance. His victory also made Grenada the smallest country to win an Olympic gold.

Trinidad and Tobago took home its first Olympic medal on Aug. 7 after Lalonde Gordon took the bronze in the same event, the men's 400 meter. Although cheers broke out on Port of Spain's Independence Square as spectators watched on a huge screen, the country's celebration was slightly more muted than in its Caribbean neighbor.

Guatemala's first medal-winning athlete Erick Barrondo was anointed a Knight of the Order of the Sovereign Congress after bagging the silver medal during the men's 20K race walking competition.

Cyprus's first-ever medal winner Pavlos Kontides schemed up his own hero's welcome after winning the silver medal in the men's Laser class sailing event, telling the press, "I suspect my name will be written in golden letters in Cyprus," and, "When I get back home there will be huge celebrations because this is a huge achievement for my country, the first-ever Olympic medal."

He was right; crowds swarmed the airport waving banners that read "Immortal" and "You've Made Us All Proud," and hoses mounted on fire trucks sprayed arcs of water for Kontides's plane to pass under while it taxied to the gate.

*Correction, Aug. 13, 2012: The original post incorrectly stated that Tajikistan won its first medal at this year's Olympics. It actually won two at the 2008 Olympics. The post has been accordingly revised.

Michael Regan/Getty Images


Lebanon’s former information minister arrested for bomb plot

Lebanese security forces arrested the former information minister of Lebanon and close ally of Syrian president Bashar al-Assad on Thursday. Michel Samaha, who served as minister of information under the late Prime Minister Rafiq Hariri, was detained on what appears to be suspicion of being involved in a plot to detonate a number of explosives near the Lebanese-Syrian border.

Lebanon's Daily Star reported that Samaha was awakened in the middle of the night by police from the Internal Security Forces branch of information, who proceeded to raid his house and remove several items, including his wife's car. This prompted a flurry of speculation by local media outlets that he had been involved in an assassination plot against a member of parliament, while other news organizations claimed that Samaha had been arrested for collaborating with Israel. However, Lebanese Prime Minister Najib Mikati, who is a member of the Hezbollah-backed March 8 alliance, made a statement denying that Samaha's arrest was linked to espionage.

According to the Daily Star, 20 "highly effective" remote bombs were found in several areas of Northern Lebanon. They were diffused and brought to Beirut by explosive experts.

The Guardian reported that in 2007, Samaha was put on a White House list of Lebanese and Syrian figures working to undermine the pro-Western March 14-dominated government that was ruling at the time.

The war in Syria has been bleeding into northern Lebanon in recent months, with a number of skirmishes taking place between Syrian and Lebanese security forces as well as cross-border shelling. The Syrian government has accused towns in the north of Lebanon of harboring rebels..

However, the March 8 coalition of the Lebanese government has remained a staunch supporter of Assad's embattled regime. In contrast, the March 14 party has been extremely vocal in its espousal of the Syrian opposition's cause.

Samaha's arrest highlights the deep division that permeates the Lebanese government, especially where Syria is concerned.