Saudi Arabia submits bid to host Asian Games in 2030

The stands are seen empty after the decision of the Saudi Ministry of Sports, following an outbreak of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19), at King Saud University Stadium, in Riyadh (photo credit: Reuters)
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Updated 24 April 2020

Saudi Arabia submits bid to host Asian Games in 2030

  • The SAOC submitted a letter of intent to the Olympic Council of Asia to host the games
  • It said the Saudi capital is ready to a “unique, cultural and technological experience”

JEDDAH: Saudi Arabia has submitted an official bid to host the 21st Asian Games in 2030 in Riyadh.

The Saudi Arabian Olympic Committee (SAOC) said on Thursday it had submitted a letter of intent to the Olympic Council of Asia to host the games.  

In the letter, the SAOC illustrated the Kingdom’s ambitious vision to organize an "unprecedented version" of the sporting event.  

It said the Saudi capital is ready to a “unique, cultural and technological experience.”

Prince Abdulaziz bin Turki Al-Faisal, president of the SAOC, said: “Bidding for the Asian Games in 2030 is part of our new SAOC strategy and is fully aligned with the Kingdom's Vision 2030.

“I have the full trust that the Riyadh 2030 bid will be a very powerful demonstration of our vision that aims to bring Asia together to deliver the best Asian Games ever.” 

More than 10,000 athletes from 45 countries participate at the the event to compete in 40 games.

UEFA to investigate Barcelona for its referee payments

Updated 6 sec ago

UEFA to investigate Barcelona for its referee payments

GENEVA: Barcelona are facing a new legal threat from UEFA, including a possible Champions League ban, because of their payments of millions of dollars to a company linked to a Spanish refereeing official.
The European soccer body asked Thursday for an investigation into the matter, which is already being pursued by prosecutors in Spain.
Champions League regulations in effect since April 2007 allow for clubs to be removed from European competitions if they were involved in fixing matches. Further disciplinary sanctions can follow.
UEFA said Thursday it asked disciplinary inspectors to “conduct an investigation regarding a potential violation of UEFA’s legal framework by FC Barcelona in connection with the so-called ‘Caso Negreira.’”
Court documents show Barcelona paid 7.3 million euros ($7.7 million) from 2001-18 to the company of José María Enríquez Negreira, the former vice president of Spanish soccer’s refereeing committee.
Prosecutors in Spain have formally accused Barcelona of corruption in sports, fraudulent management and falsification of business documents. An investigating judge will decide if this will lead to charges.
No evidence has yet been published that referees or individual games were actually influenced.
Barcelona have consistently denied any wrongdoing or conflict of interest, saying they paid for technical reports on referees but never tried to influence their decisions in games.
Any proof of manipulated games in the past 16 years could see UEFA exclude Barcelona from its competitions for one year and prosecute a disciplinary case.
Barcelona have a 12-point lead in the Spanish league and are almost certain to qualify for next season’s Champions League — an entry that would pay tens of millions of dollars to a club that posted record losses last year.
The burden of proof for UEFA is stated in regulations for the Champions League and other club competitions.
“If, on the basis of all the factual circumstances and information available to UEFA, UEFA concludes to its comfortable satisfaction that a club have been directly and/or indirectly involved, (since April 27, 2007), in any activity aimed at arranging or influencing the outcome of a match at national or international level, UEFA will declare such club ineligible to participate in the competition,” the rules state.
In previous cases of suspected match-fixing, clubs including Fenerbahce, Metalist Kharkiv and Skenderbeu were banned from UEFA competitions in decisions that were upheld by the Court of Arbitration for Sport.
Fenerbahce were withdrawn from the 2011-12 Champions League by the Turkish soccer federation, seeming to be under pressure from UEFA, after being implicated in manipulating games to help secure the previous season’s league domestic title. The club were later banned for two more seasons.
Former Albanian champion Skenderbeu are serving a 10-year ban after a UEFA investigation into match-fixing for betting scams, including Champions League qualifying games and Europa League group games in 2015.

Pakistan cricket team arrives in UAE for Afghanistan T20 series 

Updated 23 March 2023

Pakistan cricket team arrives in UAE for Afghanistan T20 series 

  • Pakistan play Afghanistan on Friday at Sharjah in first of three T20 matches 
  • Skipper Shadab Khan will lead a young Pakistan side in Babar Azam’s absence

ISLAMABAD: The Pakistan cricket team arrived in the United Arab Emirates (UAE) on Wednesday evening for a three-match T20 series against Afghanistan scheduled to kick off later this week, the Pakistan Cricket Board (PCB) confirmed. 

PCB chief Najam Sethi announced last month that Pakistan would play the series to “compensate” Afghanistan after Australia called off its tour in Afghanistan. 

Australia were scheduled to play a one-day international series in the UAE against Afghanistan in March. However, the Aussies pulled out in protest over the Taliban government’s strict laws barring Afghan women from education and work in the country. 

“Pakistan men’s team arrived in the United Arab Emirates today to play Afghanistan in three T20 Internationals at Sharjah Cricket Stadium on 24, 26 and 27 March,” the PCB said in a statement. 

The cricket board said skipper Shadab Khan would address a press conference on Thursday before the Pakistan team trains ahead of its first clash against Afghanistan, scheduled to take place on Friday. 

Pakistan announced earlier this month they were resting all-format captain Babar Azam among several other senior players for the tour. Sethi said the board wanted to give a chance to Pakistan’s younger cricketers to “groom” them for the future by performing against Afghanistan. 

In Azam’s place, Sethi appointed Khan as skipper for the T20 series. The leg-spinner will lead a team of young players that will not include the likes of Pakistan’s regular playing XI squad such as Shaheen Shah Afridi, Muhammad Rizwan, Haris Rauf, and Fakhar Zaman.

Pakistan squad for Afghanistan series:

Shadab Khan (captain), Imad Wasim, Mohammad Wasim Jr.., Tayyab Tahir, Ihsanullah, Azam Khan, Shan Masood, Naseem Shah, Mohammad Nawaz, Mohammad Haris, Saim Ayub, Zaman Khan, Abdullah Shafique, Faheem Ashraf, Iftikhar Ahmed


Haseebullah Khan, Usama Mir, Abrar Ahmed

Raducanu, Stephens, Murray bomb out  at Miami Open tennis tournament

Updated 23 March 2023

Raducanu, Stephens, Murray bomb out  at Miami Open tennis tournament

  • Bianca Andreescu — the 2019 US Open champ — defeated Raducanu 6-3, 3-6, 6-2
  • On the men’s side, Dusan Lajovic beat three-time Grand Slam champion Andy Murray 6-4, 7-5

MIAMI GARDENS, Florida: Former US Open champions Emma Raducanu and Sloane Stephens were knocked out of the Miami Open on Wednesday, hours after No. 1-ranked and defending champion Iga Swiatek pulled out of the tournament because of a rib injury.

Bianca Andreescu — the 2019 US Open champ — defeated Raducanu 6-3, 3-6, 6-2. Andreescu improved to 2-0 lifetime against Raducanu, the 2021 winner at Flushing Meadows.

“Miami has a special place in my heart,” Andreescu said. “I’ve been coming here since I was I think 12 years old, whether it’s for vacation or training or, yeah, Orange Bowl. I love that tournament very much. Yeah, coming back here, I think it’s just good vibes overall.”

Andreescu moves on to face 10th-ranked Maria Sakkari, who had a first-round bye.

Shelby Rogers beat Stephens 6-4, 3-6, 6-2. Stephens has six hard-court titles, including the US Open in 2017 and Miami in 2018.

Rogers will face Australian Open champion and world No. 2 Aryna Sabalenka, who beat Rogers in the second round at Melbourne Park. Sabalenka is coming off a loss in the final at Indian Wells, California, last week.

On the men’s side, Dusan Lajovic beat three-time Grand Slam champion Andy Murray 6-4, 7-5.

“I served pretty well, but the rest of the game was a bit of a problem today,” the 35-year-old Murray said. “Made a number of errors that obviously I wouldn’t expect to be making. I didn’t really feel like I moved particularly well, which is really important for me.”

Lajovic, a 32-year-old Serbian, will face Maxime Cressy, who had a first-round bye.

Swiatek withdrew because of a rib injury that she is hoping will heal during a break from competition. The 21-year-old from Poland also will sit out her country’s Billie Jean King Cup qualifier matches against Kazakhstan on April 13-14.

“I wanted to wait ‘til the last minute” to decide whether to play in Miami, Swiatek said at a news conference at the site of the hard-court tournament that began Tuesday. “We were kind of checking if this is the kind of injury you can still play with or this is kind when you can get things worse. So I think the smart move for me is to pull out of this tournament because I want to rest and take care of it properly.”

In other action, 24-year-old American J.J. Wolf defeated Alexander Bublik 7-5, 6-3. He’ll face No. 7-ranked Andrey Rublev, who had a first-round bye.

Gael Monfils retired from his match against Ugo Humbert due to a persistent wrist injury.

Battle to buy Man United heats up as Qatar banker, British billionaire prepare fresh bids

Updated 23 March 2023

Battle to buy Man United heats up as Qatar banker, British billionaire prepare fresh bids

MANCHESTER, Britain: The battle to buy Manchester United heated up on Wednesday as Qatari banker Sheikh Jassim Bin Hamad Al Thani and British billionaire Jim Ratcliffe prepared to raise their bids for the 20-time English champions.
Both parties were expected to increase their initial offers after the submission deadline of 2100 GMT was extended by merchant bank Raine, which is assisting with the sale of the club, following confusion over the timing, the BBC reported.
Sky Sports also reported that Sheikh Jassim and Ratcliffe had been granted extensions to submit fresh bids.
The new deadline for offers has not been made clear, according to the BBC.
United’s owners, the Glazer family, have reportedly set a world record £6 billion ($7.3 billion) valuation for a sports club.
Sheikh Jassim’s bid for 100 percent control of the club promises to wipe United’s $620 million debt and invest in a new stadium and training ground, in addition to backing for the men’s and women’s teams.
A source close to Sheikh Jassim’s bid told AFP he remains confident his bid is “the best for the club, fans and local community.”
INEOS chemical company founder Ratcliffe, a boyhood United fan, has been more circumspect in his assessment, insisting he will not pay a “stupid” price in a bidding war for one of football’s most iconic clubs.
“How do you decide the price of a painting? How do you decide the price of a house? It’s not related to how much it cost to build or how much it cost to paint,” Ratcliffe told the Wall Street Journal this week.
“What you don’t want to do is pay stupid prices for things because then you regret it subsequently.”
Ratcliffe, who wants the 69 percent stake owned by the Glazer family, said his interest in United would be “purely in winning things,” calling the club a “community asset.”
Deeply unpopular with supporters since they saddled the club with debt in a £790 million leveraged takeover in 2005, the Glazers appeared ready to cash out at an enormous profit when they invited external investment in November.
However, they could yet shun the option of selling a controlling stake in the club, with other parties interested in a minority shareholding.
The initial offers from the first round of bidding last month were believed to have been worth around £4.5 billion.
That would surpass the Premier League record of £2.5 billion paid for Chelsea last year by a consortium led by LA Dodgers co-owner Todd Boehly and private equity firm Clearlake Capital, with a further £1.75 billion promised in investment in infrastructure and players.
Bidders are expected to hear from United next week, with another round of bidding still in play.
If one bid is vastly ahead of the others, it could be chosen to enter into a period of exclusivity, which would allow further negotiation ahead of a final sale.

Ratcliffe visited Old Trafford last Friday along with INEOS representatives, a day after a delegation from Sheikh Jassim’s group toured the club’s stadium and training ground to hold more talks as part of their due diligence.
Just months after hosting the 2022 World Cup, a successful Qatari bid would give the Gulf state pride of place in the Premier League — the world’s most-watched domestic competition.
But it would also be controversial.
Sheikh Jassim is the son of former Qatari prime minister Sheikh Hamad bin Jassim bin Jaber Al Thani, and his close links to the gulf state’s ruling elite would raise questions over another Premier League club becoming a state-backed project.
Premier League champions Manchester City’s fortunes have been transformed since a takeover from Sheikh Mansour, a member of Abu Dhabi’s ruling family in 2008.
In 2021, the Saudi sovereign wealth fund bought a controlling stake in Newcastle.
Amnesty International has called on the Premier League to tighten ownership rules to ensure they are “not an opportunity for more sportswashing.”
United, three-time European champions, haven’t won the Premier League since legendary boss Alex Ferguson led them to a 20th English title in his final season before retiring in 2013.
But they are enjoying a renaissance under Erik ten Hag’s management this season and ended a six-year trophy drought by lifting the League Cup last month.

IOC’s Bach defends Russia stance amid pro-Ukraine protest

Updated 23 March 2023

IOC’s Bach defends Russia stance amid pro-Ukraine protest

  • Bach said he opposed political influence on sports and any suggestion that Russians should be treated as if they have “collective guilt”

ESSEN, Germany: International Olympic Committee president Thomas Bach defended his organization’s efforts to create a pathway for Russian and Belarusian athletes to return to competition in a speech in his home country of Germany which took place amid a pro-Ukraine protest Wednesday.

Bach reiterated the IOC’s position that it would be discriminatory to exclude Russians and Belarusians based on citizenship alone and argued the Olympics can help promote dialogue at a tense time. Public broadcaster WDR reported nearly 200 pro-Ukraine protesters gathered outside the venue calling for Russia to be excluded entirely from the Olympics.

The IOC recommended excluding Russia and Belarus on safety grounds soon after the invasion last year but now argues for letting the two countries’ athletes compete as neutrals without national symbols ahead of a packed calendar of qualification events for the 2024 Paris Olympics.

Bach said he opposed political influence on sports and any suggestion that Russians should be treated as if they have “collective guilt.” The Olympics, he added, need to remain neutral to be a unifying force.

The IOC previously said it wants to keep out athletes deemed to be “actively supporting the war,” with a final decision lying with the international federations running individual sports, but it has given few details of how that would work.

Bach refined that approach Wednesday, indicating the IOC could recommend barring athletes who pose with a “Z” symbol, a marking used on Russian military vehicles which has become a symbol of support for the war.

“Our principles say clearly and distinctly that any active support for the war, and that includes wearing this ‘Z’, that includes posts and much else besides (is prohibited). Anyone who supports the war in this way cannot, or in relation to the international federations, since we are issuing this only as a recommendation, should not take part in these competitions,” Bach said.

Asked about what to do with the many Russian athletes who are part of the military or have ties to military organizations, Bach indicated the IOC could decide on its approach at a board meeting next week.

“Wait until the middle of next week. I am confident that we will come up with appropriate guidelines then,” he said.