Ukraine pushes to exclude Russia from 2024 Paris Olympics

In this file photo taken on September 13, 2017 An inflatable ‘2024’ logo is seen in the old harbor area of Marseille, during celebrations after the IOC official announcement that Paris won the 2024 Olympic bid. (AFP)
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Updated 03 February 2023

Ukraine pushes to exclude Russia from 2024 Paris Olympics

  • No nation has declared it will boycott the 2024 Summer Games
  • “We cannot compromise on the admission of Russian and Belarusian athletes,” said Ukrainian Sports Minister Vadym Huttsait

KYIV: With next year’s Paris Olympics on the horizon and Russia’s invasion looking more like a prolonged conflict, Ukraine’s sports minister on Friday renewed a threat to boycott the games if Russia and Belarus are allowed to compete and said Kyiv would lobby other nations to join.
Such a move could lead to the biggest rift in the Olympic movement since the Cold War era.
No nation has declared it will boycott the 2024 Summer Games. But Ukraine won support from Poland, the Baltic nations and Denmark, who pushed back against an International Olympic Committee plan to allow delegations from Russia and ally Belarus to compete in Paris as “neutral athletes,” without flags or anthems.
“We cannot compromise on the admission of Russian and Belarusian athletes,” said Ukrainian Sports Minister Vadym Huttsait, who also heads its national Olympic committee, citing attacks on his country, the deaths of its athletes and the destruction of its sports facilities.
A meeting of his committee did not commit to a boycott but approved plans to try to persuade global sports officials in the next two months — including discussion of a possible boycott.
Huttsait added: “As a last option, but I note that this is my personal opinion, if we do not succeed, then we will have to boycott the Olympic Games.”
Paris will be the final Olympics under outgoing IOC head Thomas Bach, who is looking to his legacy after a tenure marked by disputes over Russia’s status — first over widespread doping scandals and now over the war in Ukraine.
Bach’s views were shaped when he was an Olympic gold medalist in fencing and his country, West Germany, took part in the US-led boycott of the 1980 Olympics in Moscow over the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan. He has condemned that decision ever since.
Russia has cautiously welcomed the IOC’s decision to give it a path to the Olympics but demands it drop a condition that would leave out those athletes deemed to be “actively supporting the war in Ukraine.”
Russian Olympic Committee head Stanislav Pozdnyakov, who was a teammate of Ukraine’s Huttsait at the 1992 Olympics, called that aspect discriminatory. The IOC, which previously recommended excluding Russia and Belarus from world sports on safety grounds, now argues it cannot discriminate against them purely based on citizenship.
The leaders of Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania urged the IOC to ban Russia and said a boycott was a possibility.
“I think that our efforts should be on convincing our other friends and allies that the participation of Russian and Belarusian athletes is just wrong,” Estonian Prime Minister Kaja Kallas said. “So boycotting is the next step. I think people will understand why this is necessary.”
The IOC said in a statement that “this threat of a boycott only leads to further escalation of the situation, not only in sport, but also in the wider context. It is regretful that politicians are misusing athletes and sport as tools to achieve their political objectives.”
It added bluntly: “Why punish athletes from your country for the Russian government starting the war?”
Poland’s sports minister Kamil Bortniczuk said as many as 40 countries could jointly condemn Russian and Belarusian participation at Paris in a statement next week but that it could stop short of a boycott threat. He told state news agency PAP that the IOC was being “naive” and should reflect on its position.
Denmark wants a ban on Russian athletes “from all international sports as long as their attacks on Ukraine continue,” said Danish Culture Minister Jakob Engel-Schmidt.
“We must not waver in relation to Russia. The government’s line is clear. Russia must be banned,” he said. “This also applies to Russian athletes who participate under a neutral flag. It is completely incomprehensible that there are apparently doubts about the line in the IOC.”
Asked by The Associated Press about the boycott threats and the IOC plan, Paris 2024 organizing committee head Tony Estanguet would not comment “about political decisions.”
“My job is to make sure that all athletes who want to participate will be offered the best conditions in terms of security, to offer them the chance to live their dream,” he said in Marseille.
Ukraine boycotted some sporting events last year rather than compete against Russians.
Huttsait said a boycott would be very tough, saying it was “very important for us that our flag is at the Olympic Games; it is very important for us that our athletes are on the podium. So that we show that our Ukraine was, is, and will be.”
Marta Fedina, 21, an Olympic bronze medalist in artistic swimming, said in Kyiv she was “ready for a boycott.”
“How will I explain to our defenders if I am even present on the same sports ground with these people,” she said, referring to Russian athletes. She noted her swimming pool in Kharkiv, where she was living when Moscow invaded, was ruined by the war.
Speakers at the Ukrainian Olympic Committee’s assembly meeting raised concerns about Moscow using Paris for propaganda and noted the close ties between some athletes and the Russian military.
White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre said Thursday if athletes from the two countries compete, “it should be absolutely clear that they are not representing the Russian or Belarusian states.” Los Angeles will host the 2028 Olympics.
If the IOC’s proposal takes effect, Paris would be the fourth straight Olympics where Russian athletes have competed without the national flag or anthem. The Russian teams at the Winter Olympics in 2018 and 2022 and the Summer Olympics in 2021 were all caught up in the fallout from a series of doping cases.
The last time multiple countries boycotted an Olympics was in 1988, when North Korea and others refused to attend the Summer Games in South Korea. The North Korean team was a no-show at the Tokyo Games in 2021, citing concerns about the coronavirus pandemic. The IOC barred it from the following Winter Games in Beijing as a result, saying teams had a duty to attend every Olympics.
Although the IOC set the tone of the debate by publishing advice on finding a way to help Russia and Belarus compete, decisions must be made for the governing bodies of individual sports that organize events on the 32-sport Paris program.
Those organizations, many based in the IOC’s home of Lausanne, Switzerland, run their own qualifying and Olympic competitions and decide on eligibility criteria for athletes and teams.
The International Cycling Union signed on to the IOC’s plan ahead of its Olympic qualifying events to allow Russian and Belarusian athletes to compete as “neutrals.”
Track and field’s World Athletics and soccer’s FIFA were among most sports that excluded Russian athletes and teams within days of the start of the war. Tennis and cycling let many Russians and Belarusians continue competing as neutrals. Other governing bodies are more closely aligned with the IOC or traditionally have strong commercial and political ties to Russia.
One key meeting could be March 3 in Lausanne of the umbrella group of Summer Games sports, known as ASOIF. It is chaired by Francesco Ricci Bitti, a former IOC member when he led the International Tennis Federation, and includes World Athletics president Sebastian Coe.
ASOIF declined comment Friday, though noted this week “the importance of respecting the specificity of each federation and their particular qualification process” for Paris.

How Ronaldo’s arrival turned Riyadh into top footballers’ favored destination

Updated 22 September 2023

How Ronaldo’s arrival turned Riyadh into top footballers’ favored destination

  • Al-Hilal, Al-Nassr and Al-Shabab among Saudi clubs reshaping global football landscape
  • The announcement that top clubs would be privatized ushered in a new, golden era

RIYADH: Cristiano Ronaldo opened the door and the rest followed.

What was a one-man mission to put the Saudi Pro League on the world map just a few months ago, has become a full-blown revolution.

So much so that when Brazilian superstar Neymar joined Al-Hilal from Paris Saint-Germain in August, it felt more like the apogee of a project rather than the scarcely believable.

Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman’s announcement that Saudi Arabia’s top clubs would be privatized has ushered in a new, golden era for football in the Kingdom, with Riyadh’s clubs leading the way.

When Ronaldo was first linked with a move to Al-Nassr, the reports were dismissed as fanciful across the world. On Dec. 31, 2022, the perception of Saudi football changed overnight.

Suddenly, a move to the SPL was not just attractive, but almost irresistible for some of the world’s top players.

Al-Hilal were not going to take lightly losing their Saudi Pro League and AFC Champions League titles last season. A major rebuilding operation has seen Portugal’s Reuben Neves join from Wolves and Serbia’s Sergej Milinkovic-Savic arrive from Lazio; two players at the peak of their careers. This put to rest the argument that leagues in the Middle East and GCC were retirement homes for players nearing the end of their careers.

Senegal’s Kalidou Koulibaly from Chelsea, and Brazil’s Malcom from Zenit Saint Petersburg, had already joined the Blues, before Neymar’s landmark announcement was followed by the arrival of Moroccan goalkeeper Yasine Bounou (Sevilla) and Serbian forward Alexander Mitrovic (Fulham).

At Al-Nassr, the club that started the deluge of foreign imports, Sadio Mane (Senegal) from Bayern Munich, Marcelo Brozovic (Croatia) from Inter Milan, Seko Fofana (Ivory Coast) from RC Lens, and Alex Telles (Brazil) from Manchester United, have made the move to Riyadh as bona fide stars and not just Ronaldo’s supporting cast.

The late summer transfer window additions of Spanish international defender Aymeric Laporte from Manchester City, and Portuguese midfielder Otavio from Porto, will only bolster the Yellows’ bid to become champions this season.

Rounding up Riyadh’s trio of iconic clubs are Al-Shabab which in 2022-2023 finished fourth in the SPL and for long periods of the season were seen as genuine title contenders.

Belgium’s Yannick Carrasco joined from Atletico Madrid and will forge a midfield partnership with Ever Banega, the Argentinian who has already enjoyed a fine career with Shabab since 2020.

Meanwhile Colombian midfielder Gustavo Cuellar has made the move across to Riyadh after spending four trophy-laden years at rivals Al-Hilal.

Keeping goal behind this international trio is Kim Seung-gyu of South Korea, who joined Al-Shabab last year.

Last season, when Ronaldo said that within a few years the Saudi Pro League would be ranked in the world’s top five competitions, cynics scoffed at the pronouncement.

It seems his words could become true even quicker than he might have anticipated because global broadcasters are now screening live matches from the SPL on a weekly basis, and international players are increasingly looking to make Riyadh their new home.

Sheffield Utd boss says football is ‘worst sport’ for racism

Updated 4 sec ago

Sheffield Utd boss says football is ‘worst sport’ for racism

LONDON: Sheffield United manager Paul Heckingbottom says football is the “worst sport” for racism, calling for tougher punishments to stamp out abuse.
United goalkeeper Wes Foderingham took to Instagram to reveal he had suffered from “racism and family threats” after last week’s 2-1 defeat at Tottenham.
Heckingbottom revealed police have spoken to the former Rangers keeper about the incident, which he said reflected a larger problem in society.
“You can say it’s all social media and people are tough on there and they can say what they want,” he said on Friday. “You can take it away, but it is deeper than that because it’s inside people.”
He added: “It’s sad — I think we are the worst sport for it. I don’t know if it’s the profile but we are the ones who get the most.
“There have been big improvements, in society and our game, so we have to just continue being harder and stronger and every time we get a prosecution let’s make those punishments harder.”
The Blades take on Newcastle on Sunday aiming for their first victory of the season.
They were minutes away from winning at Tottenham last week before conceding two goals deep into stoppage time.

Saudi Olympic Committee president arrives in Hangzhou for Asian Games

Updated 17 min 55 sec ago

Saudi Olympic Committee president arrives in Hangzhou for Asian Games

  • Saudi delegation comprises 193 athletes competing in 19 sports
  • Kingdom’s table tennis team lose 3-0 to world champions China

HANGZHOU: Prince Abdulaziz bin Turki Al-Faisal, president of the Saudi Arabian Olympic Committee, is leading the Kingdom’s delegation to the 19th Asian Games in Hangzhou, China.
According to a media statement on Friday, Al-Faisal arrived in the host city ahead of Saturday’s opening ceremony and was welcomed by Prince Abdullah bin Fahd, the delegation’s director, and Abdulrahman Al-Harbi, the Kingdom’s ambassador to China.
The Saudi delegation comprises 193 athletes, who will compete in 19 sports in the Games, which conclude Oct. 8.
Since the 1978 Asian Games in Bangkok, Saudi athletes have won 61 medals (25 gold, 13 silver, 23 bronze) in total.
Chinese President opens Asian Games
China’s President Xi Jinping will officially launch the Asian Games on Saturday in the presence of Asian presidents and representatives and the President of the International Olympic Committee, Thomas Bach, at the Big Lotus Stadium in Hangzhou.
The stadium, which accommodates over 80,000 spectators, will host both the opening and closing ceremonies.
Having been delayed for a year due to COVID-19, the 19th Asian Games will host 12,000 athletes representing 45 countries, making it one of the largest so far.
Saudi rower moves on to Group B competitions
Saudi rower Haya Al-Mami has advanced to the Group B competitions after she finished sixth in the semifinals of the women’s single sculls (W1x) on Friday.
The Group B competitions determine rowers’ ranking from 6-12 and will take place on Sept. 25.
Her fellow Saudi athlete Rakan Ali Riza came in third place in the Group C competitions of the men’s single sculls (M1x) category.
Saudi table tennis team lose to world champions
The Kingdom’s table tennis team played China, the world champions and gold medalists at the Tokyo 2020 Olympics and Jakarta 2018 Asian Games, on Friday. The Saudi team — Ali Al-Khadrawi, Turki Al-Muteiri, and Azam Alam — lost 3-0. Their next match in Group A is against Vietnam.
The Green Falcons prepare for Vietnam
The Saudi Arabian U-23 football team trained on Friday ahead of their final match in the group stage against Vietnam, which takes place on Sunday. The Green Falcons are currently second in Group B.
Basketball team concludes training camp
The Saudi basketball team concluded their six-day training camp in Hangzhou with two friendlies against local clubs, winning both games. The Saudi team are in Group A with Kazakhstan, Iran, and the UAE. Their opening match is against Kazakhstan on Tuesday.
Handball and archery
The Kingdom’s handball and archery teams arrived in Hangzhou on Friday. The handball team have been placed in Group D along with Iran, Mongolia, and Japan. The squad consists of 16 players, who will play their first match against Japan on Sunday.

’Eiffel Tower’ lights up quiet suburb in Chinese city of Asiad host Hangzhou

Updated 22 September 2023

’Eiffel Tower’ lights up quiet suburb in Chinese city of Asiad host Hangzhou

  • Tianducheng is a quirky relic of the country’s turn-of-the-century craze for everything foreign
  • The tower is one of many replicas of Western architecture that dot the country where developers once looked to Europe and North America for inspiration

HANGZHOU: As decorative fountains frame a view of the Eiffel Tower and a fashionable young woman walks a poodle nearby, you might mistake China’s Tianducheng neighborhood for Paris — if not for the concrete towers in the distance and Chinese signs on every shopfront.

Built in the 2000s, the residential area lies on the outskirts of Hangzhou, the city hosting around 12,000 athletes for the Asian Games that open on Saturday — a key stop for many of the world’s top athletes before the Paris 2024 Olympics.

Tianducheng is a quirky relic of the country’s turn-of-the-century craze for everything foreign.

Apartment blocks decorated with the City of Light’s iron balconies and mansard roofs flank a “boulevard” where motorized delivery tricycles zip past a braised duck-head stall.

Pensioners clutching plastic bags of groceries pause to take in the sights under a grey sky, while weathered horse statues rear up from a fountain that could have come out of the Jardin du Luxembourg.

Once advertised as a luxury community and a venue for French cultural festivals, Tianducheng languished for years with unfilled shop units and uninhabited apartments before Hangzhou’s booming tech industry brought eager buyers to its leafy avenues.

The tower is one of many replicas of Western architecture that dot the country where developers once looked to Europe and North America for inspiration, including a British-inspired Thames Town in Shanghai and a subtropical Interlaken in tech hub Shenzhen.

And in Jujun, a 2001 development in outer Beijing that literally translates to “Orange County,” McMansions complete with parched lawns bring a slice of Southern California to the Chinese capital.

They are relics of a bygone era, with China’s communist leaders clamping down on “bizarre,” foreign-inspired structures in recent years.

Nagelsmann named coach of Euro 2024 hosts Germany

Updated 22 September 2023

Nagelsmann named coach of Euro 2024 hosts Germany

  • Germany fired Flick with the national team struggling, the German football association (DFB) fearing another embarrassing performance in a major tournament
  • Former Bayern Munich boss Nagelsmann has signed a deal until the end of next July, allowing the 36-year-old to leave after Euro 2024

MUNICH, Germany: Julian Nagelsmann has been given nine months to revive flailing Germany ahead of hosting Euro 2024 after being named as the sacked Hansi Flick’s successor as national team coach on Friday.
Germany fired Flick with the national team struggling, the German football association (DFB) fearing another embarrassing performance in a major tournament, this time as hosts at next year’s European championships.
Former Bayern Munich boss Nagelsmann has signed a deal until the end of next July, allowing the 36-year-old to leave after Euro 2024.
“We have a European Championship in our own country — that’s something special,” Nagelsmann said in a statement.
“I have a great desire to take on this challenge.”
Nagelsmann said he signed the short-term deal “to keep the Euros in focus” but insisted he “would not rule out” an extension.
Flick, who became the first coach in Germany history to be sacked, had won just four of 17 matches leading up to his dismissal and took the team to a disappointing group-stage exit at the 2022 World Cup in Qatar.
The four-time world champions were also knocked out in the group stage at the 2018 World Cup in Russia under previous boss Joachim Loew.
DFB president Bernd Neuendorf called Nagelsmann “an outstanding coach” and said: “We are convinced (he) will ensure that the national team inspires its fans and that the Euros are also a sporting success.”
Flick was sacked after a humiliating 4-1 friendly loss to Japan in Wolfsburg in early September.
Nagelsmann, who also succeeded Flick as Bayern coach, has been jobless since he was sacked by the German champions in March.
DFB sporting director Rudi Voeller called Nagelsmann “an absolute football expert” and said he had “proven himself at a very young age for a head coach.”
Voeller took the reins on a “one-off” basis for Germany’s 2-1 win over France in Dortmund, but said his main task was to find a permanent successor.
Nagelsmann said the victory over France was “the beginning” of the team’s journey to Euro 2024.
Benjamin Glueck and Sandro Wagner have been appointed as Nagelsmann’s assistants.
Nagelsmann was seen as a rising star after impressive spells at Hoffenheim and RB Leipzig, before getting the top job at Bayern.
Nagelsmann was mentioned as a possible candidate for a number of top club vacancies over the summer, being linked with English sides Chelsea and Tottenham Hotspur, as well as Paris Saint-Germain.
Nagelsmann told a press conference he would focus on a playing style which was “easy to implement,” saying: “Especially in difficult moments, it’s important to give players something they can grasp.”
Nagelsmann spoke out for the first time about his “painful” Bayern exit.
“What hurts most in a separation like that is that it is painful to sit in front of the TV and watch your team in the Champions League, but know that you aren’t able to help them and work with them,” he said.
The Bavaria native, who became the youngest coach in Bundesliga history when he took over as head coach of Hoffenheim aged 28, added: “For me as a person, Julian Nagelsmann, I don’t define myself by the job.
“There can be phases where it doesn’t go perfectly. That’s part of the job. But I know when I lie down in bed in the evening, there’s other things that define me, not just the job as a football coach.”
Nagelsmann said he was “looking forward” to meeting his former Bayern players in the national team setup again.
“I really enjoyed working with those players.”
Nagelsmann also confirmed Barcelona midfielder Ilkay Gundogan, who Flick named as captain to replace the injured Manuel Neuer, would keep the top job.
“I’m extremely convinced of Ilkay as a person and as a player.”
Germany’s next assignment is a tour to the United States in October, playing friendlies against the USA and Mexico.