IOC warns Afghanistan about Paris Olympics status over denying sports to women and girls

An Afghan women's soccer team poses for a photo in Kabul, Afghanistan, Thursday, Sept. 22, 2022. (File/AP)
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Updated 21 June 2023
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IOC warns Afghanistan about Paris Olympics status over denying sports to women and girls

  • International Olympic Committee says it “continues to be extremely concerned” about the sports situation in Afghanistan
  • IOC says it has the right to take further measures

GENEVA: The Afghanistan team’s status for the 2024 Paris Olympics was put in question Wednesday by the IOC over growing frustration with the Taliban blocking access to sport for women and girls.
The International Olympic Committee said it “continues to be extremely concerned” about the sports situation in Afghanistan despite its repeated calls for action.
Noting its “right to take any further measures,” the IOC cautioned that “specific details for the participation of the Afghan (national Olympic committee) delegation and team” for the Paris Games have not yet been decided.
The IOC could suspend Afghanistan’s Olympic body for government interference in the independent management of sport, while supporting the country’s athletes to compete in Paris as an independent team under the Olympic flag and anthem. That was how Kuwaitis competed at the 2016 Olympics in Rio de Janeiro.
The issue was discussed Wednesday at an IOC executive board meeting which also took updates on problems with Olympic officials in India, Indonesia, Iran and Guatemala.
A call between Olympic officials and Afghanistan’s recently appointed director of physical education and sports had led to some written guarantees, IOC director for NOC relations James McLeod said in an online briefing.
Still, the IOC said allowing some access to sports for girls at primary schools was “a first step but reiterated that this remains insufficient.”
The Afghanistan issue is next scheduled to be discussed in October at an IOC board meeting held in Mumbai, India, soon after the Asian Games.
Afghanistan sent five athletes, including one woman, to the Tokyo Olympics, which ended in August 2021 one week before the Taliban retook control of the country.
INDONESIA
The IOC has cautioned Olympic sports bodies about letting Indonesia host their events, McLeod confirmed.
Indonesia was stripped by FIFA in March of hosting the men’s soccer Under-20 World Cup just seven weeks before it started because the country did not want Israel to play.
Israel had qualified for the tournament nine months earlier but does not have formal diplomatic relations with Indonesia, which is the world’s most populous Muslim-majority nation.
McLeod said the IOC advised sports bodies “to be very careful in their allocation of events” to nations which restricted access to athletes.
Indonesia is due to host the World Beach Games in Bali in August for the global umbrella group of national Olympic bodies, known as ANOC. McLeod said the IOC told ANOC to “look at this situation very closely.”
ISINBAYEVA
Since Russia’s invasion of Ukraine started 16 months ago, the IOC has faced questions about letting Russian members take part in Olympic business.
Yelena Isinbayeva, the two-time Olympic pole vault champion and long-time Russian army officer, has now been cleared by the IOC ethics commission to continue using the IOC membership she has had since 2016.
The IOC had said in March her membership status was to be evaluated after Olympic sports bodies were advised that athletes who supported the war in Ukraine or were contracted to the military should not get neutral status to compete internationally.
Without saying Isinbayeva’s name on Wednesday, IOC spokesman Mark Adams said the “past contractual situation” of Russians prior to the war starting on Feb. 24 last year should not be taken into consideration.
“All the necessary work has been carried out to the satisfaction of the ethics commission,” Adams said, without clarifying if Isinbayeva has renounced her army rank.
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AP Olympics: https://apnews.com/hub/2024-paris-olympic-games and https://twitter.com/AP_Sports


Saudi Esports museum opens at Boulevard Riyadh City

Updated 18 sec ago
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Saudi Esports museum opens at Boulevard Riyadh City

  • Museum documents the federation’s work since its inception and celebrates Saudi Arabia’s impact on the global gaming and esports industry

RIYADH: The Saudi Esports Federation Legacy Museum has opened at the SEF Arena at Boulevard Riyadh City.

The new museum documents the SEF’s history since it was formed in 2017 and celebrates the Kingdom’s impact on the global gaming and esports industry.

It features sections such as “Moments in Saudi Arabian Esports,”, with Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman pictured announcing the Esports World Cup at the New Global Sport Conference last October. He is also shown emphasizing the significance of the gaming and esports industry and Saudi Arabia’s prominent role within it.

A “Kingdom Champions” area is dedicated to elite stars who have made global headlines through their esports exploits. Mosaad Al-Dossary is shown lifting the FIFAe World Cup 2018 trophy, while the Saudi national team is depicted celebrating their Overwatch World Cup crown in 2023. The women’s team is cheering Valorant glory in the Afro-Arab Esports League last year.

Other sections include a “Heroes” zone, a “Center of the Game” video display, and an interactive area called “Experience the Moment”.

Prince Faisal bin Bandar bin Sultan, chairman of the Saudi Esports Federation, said: “The unveiling of the Saudi Esports Federation Legacy Museum is a milestone moment in the history of our federation and Saudi Arabia’s gaming and esports journey. It celebrates and showcases the passion for gaming in our country and the phenomenal impact and success that Saudi Arabia has had on the global stage in a relatively short space of time.

“In a country that deeply cherishes history and tradition, it is an honor for us to lay a permanent marker on Kingdom soil epitomizing the modern Saudi Arabia.”

The museum is open seven days a week from 6pm until Boulevard Riyadh City closes each night. Admission is free of charge.

Turki Al-Fawzan, CEO of the Saudi Esports Federation, said: “Recognizing the achievements of the past is a vital part of ensuring progression in the future. The Saudi Esports Federation Legacy Museum provides inspiration for all who visit, especially those who play a role — or want to play a role — in capturing the full potential of gaming and esports in Saudi Arabia. Looking around the museum and seeing special moments dedicated to world-class, game-changing tournaments such as Gamers Without Borders, Gamers8 and the Esports World Cup is a thoroughly enjoyable and moving experience. We encourage all members of the public to visit the museum and relish the documentation of modern Saudi Arabian success.”

The museum has opened while Riyadh hosts the inaugural Esports World Cup, the largest gaming festival in the world which features a record-breaking prize pool of $60 million.

The eight-week long event, which runs until Aug. 25 at Boulevard Riyadh City, pits the world’s top clubs and players against each other across 22 global competitions in 21 leading games.

More than 1,500 players representing over 60 nationalities are battling out, with week three seeing competitions in the Dota2 Riyadh Masters, Counter Strike 2, and PUBG Mobile.


Brazil’s FURIA storm into Counter-Strike 2 quarterfinals at Esports World Cup

Updated 3 min 5 sec ago
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Brazil’s FURIA storm into Counter-Strike 2 quarterfinals at Esports World Cup

  • The team entered the resurrection stage knowing that nothing short of a hat-trick of wins would see them progress

RIYADH: FURIA Esports has secured its place in the Counter-Strike 2 quarterfinals at the Esports World Cup, storming into the competition’s last eight with a series of stunning victories on Thursday.

Following defeat in the qualifying round, FURIA — one of Brazil’s most popular esports clubs with an internationally renowned fanbase — faced the resurrection stage knowing that nothing short of a hat-trick of wins would see them progress.

Crucially, they accomplished this feat, defeating American outfit Flyquest (13-5) and Sashi Esport of Demark (19-15) to set up a shootout with The MongolZ of Mongolia. With the quarterfinals awaiting one and elimination the other, FURIA proved too strong, sealing a 13-9 win to progress. The Brazilian team goes head-to-head with Germany’s MOUZ on Friday with the semifinals awaiting the victor.

Elsewhere on Thursday, Gaimin Gladiators and Team Liquid prevailed in their Dota2 Riyadh Masters upper bracket semifinals and the two now meet for a place in Sunday’s Grand Final over the weekend. On the other side of the draw, four clubs are contending for the other Grand Final place, including Team Falcons of Saudi Arabia.

Counter-Strike 2 and the Dota2 Riyadh Masters are running throughout Week 3 at the Esports World Cup, concluding on Sunday, July 21.


Campenaerts wins a 3-man sprint to take Tour de France stage as Pogacar keeps yellow jersey

Updated 19 July 2024
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Campenaerts wins a 3-man sprint to take Tour de France stage as Pogacar keeps yellow jersey

  • The Lotto Dstny rider celebrated his win with his partner and baby on a video call straight after the finish
  • The main contenders for the overall win, including Pogacar and his rivals Jonas Vingegeaard and Remco Evenepoel, finished 13 minutes and 40 seconds behind Campenaerts
  • With only three stages left, Pogacar has a comfortable lead of 3:11 over two-time defending champion Vingegaard

BARCELONETTE, France: Belgian rider Victor Campenaerts posted the biggest win of his career Thursday as he claimed the tough and hilly 18th stage of the Tour de France after a three-man sprint.

Two-time Tour champion Tadej Pogacar kept the race leader’s yellow jersey as the top of the overall standings remained unchanged with just three days of racing left.

Campenaerts spent most of the day at the front and jumped away from a breakaway group some 35 kilometers (22 miles) from the finish together with Frenchman Matteo Vercher and former world champion Michal Kwiatkowski of Poland.

Campenaerts, who won a Giro stage in 2021, patiently waited behind his rivals in the last kilometer and did not panic when Vercher attacked. He stayed in the wheel of Kwiatkowski, then launched his sprint from behind.

The Lotto Dstny rider celebrated his win with his partner and baby on a video call straight after the finish.

“After the (spring) classics, I had a very difficult time,” Campenaerts said, holding back tears. “I had a verbal agreement with the team about extending the contract and I got ignored for a long time and it was really difficult. I was on a long altitude camp but my girlfriend was there and she supported me every day, highly pregnant, and I was struggling to finish my training schedules. But I changed my mind, I have a bright future now still in cycling, I became a father and it was like blue skies, only blue sky.”

There was a flurry of attacks at the start of the rollercoaster 180-kilometer stage featuring five climbs as riders tried to break away before the first ascent, the Col du Festre. But the peloton rode at a high speed, thwarting all those early efforts.

About 20 riders finally managed to open a gap during that climb and were joined by Wednesday’s stage winner Richard Carapaz and other talented contenders for the stage win, including Ben Healy and Geraint Thomas.

With the best-placed rider in that large group already lagging nearly 34 minutes behind Pogacar overall, the pack let the break get away. The main contenders for the overall win, including Pogacar and his rivals Jonas Vingegeaard and Remco Evenepoel, finished 13 minutes and 40 seconds behind Campenaerts.

Earlier, Healy attacked twice from the leading group in the Cote de Saint-Apollinaire but his move eventually backfired as the Irishman got dropped when others upped the pace. A pivotal moment came in the Cote des Demoiselles when Kwiatkowski accelerated to move away and was later joined by Campenaerts and Vercher. The trio collaborated well as counter-attackers looked hesitant and reacted too late to catch them.

With only three stages left, Pogacar has a comfortable lead of 3:11 over two-time defending champion Vingegaard. Tour debutant Evenepoel is lagging 5:09 off the pace.

The battle between Pogacar, Vingegaard and Evenepoel is expected to resume on Friday. At less than 150 kilometers, the 19th stage to the ski resort of Isola 2000 is short, but tough. Riders will climb above 2,000 meters three times, including the climb to the summit of La Bonette, the highest road in France at an altitude of 2,802 meters.
 


Israel clear to play in Olympic soccer tournament after FIFA postpones decision on possible ban

Updated 19 July 2024
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Israel clear to play in Olympic soccer tournament after FIFA postpones decision on possible ban

ZURICH: FIFA has postponed a decision on a Palestinian proposal to suspend Israel from international soccer because of the conflict with Hamas, clearing the way for the Israeli men’s national team to play at the Paris Olympics.
Soccer’s world governing body had been set to make a decision Saturday at an extraordinary council meeting after asking for an independent legal assessment of the Palestinian proposal two months ago. That decision would have come just four days before the start of the Olympic soccer tournament, where Israel has been drawn into a group with Japan, Mali and Paraguay.
However, FIFA said Thursday that it had pushed back the timeline because “more time is needed to conclude this process with due care and completeness” — meaning a decision is now set to come after the Olympics have finished.
FIFA said both parties had made requests for extensions “to submit their respective positions” and that the independent assessment will now be shared with FIFA by Aug. 31 at the latest.
The men’s Olympic final is set to take place on Aug. 9.


Beleaguered Olympic boxing has a new look in Paris: Gender parity, but the smallest field in decades

Updated 19 July 2024
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Beleaguered Olympic boxing has a new look in Paris: Gender parity, but the smallest field in decades

  • 12 years after women’s boxing made its Olympic debut with just 36 fighters in three weight classes in London, the sport likely has achieved gender parity, reaching the overall Olympic movement’s goal
  • The 248 fighters in Paris are a shadow of the Olympic-record 432 who participated in Seoul in 1988, and it’s even down sharply from the 289 boxers who participated in Tokyo

PARIS: Boxing is already on the Olympic ropes after an epic fight between its banished governing body and the IOC. Although the sport has been a staple of Olympic programs for over a century, it could be dropped before the Los Angeles Games if big changes in governance don’t happen in the next year.

The fights are still on in Paris this month, but this Olympic tournament will look like nothing fans have seen in decades — for better in some ways, and probably for worse in others.

Twelve years after women’s boxing made its Olympic debut with just 36 fighters in three weight classes in London, the sport likely has achieved gender parity, reaching the overall Olympic movement’s goal. Give or take a few last-minute additions or dropouts, half of the 248 boxers in Paris will be women fighting in six weight classes.

But this milestone was reached by sharply cutting the number of male boxers in an overall field that will be the smallest for Olympic boxing since 1956. While there will be 23 more women fighting in Paris than in Tokyo three years ago, there will also be a whopping 63 fewer men, and they’re fighting in only seven weight classes — the fewest since 1908.

In fact, Paris will have dozens fewer boxers than in every other Games in the 21st century. The 248 fighters in Paris are a shadow of the Olympic-record 432 who participated in Seoul in 1988, and it’s even down sharply from the 289 boxers who participated in Tokyo.

USA Boxing head coach Billy Walsh has been an ardent proponent of the women’s sport ever since he coached Katie Taylor of his native Ireland to a gold medal in London, and he says the addition of three women’s weight classes in Paris is “fantastic.”

Walsh still recognizes the drawbacks to the sport’s growth when it comes up against the IOC’s typically firm cap on total Olympic participants. It’s rare to add more athletes to a traditional Olympic sport, particularly while the IOC is adding trendy new sports to each Games.

“It is sad in a sense for the men,” said Walsh, who competed for Ireland in the Seoul Olympics in 1988. “Because when I boxed, they had 12 (men’s) weight divisions. They went down to 10, and then down to eight, and now we’re down to seven.”

In Rio de Janeiro eight years ago, 250 men had the career-defining honor of being Olympic boxers. That number has been halved just eight years later, with 124 men competing at three fewer weights than in Rio.

Men’s boxing in Paris will have its fewest weight classes since 1908 in London, where the second boxing tournament in the modern Olympics was contested at just five weights. Three years earlier in Tokyo, men’s boxing already dropped to eight weight classes for the first time since 1948.

That means there is no longer an Olympic weight class between 71 kilograms (156 pounds) and 80 kilograms (176 pounds). Professional middleweights fight at 160 pounds, and super middleweights weigh in at 168 pounds, but any fighter who couldn’t go down or up to the Olympic limits was out of luck.

That’s a concern to Walsh and many others around the sport. The elimination of weight classes encourages fighters to stretch the limits of their bodies to see if they can fit into a less-than-ideal weight class for qualification — and that can lead to mismatches up and down the scales.

“When we’ve narrowed down the numbers, it’s also put a big gap in the weight divisions,” Walsh said. “There’s so much gap now. There’s a reason why there are (weight classes). It’s because of the power of the punch. These guys are hurting you. There’s damage you can do. If some guy is barely making the welterweight division, he’s got 10 kilos he has to put on, and the other guy is coming down from four or five kilos above that, it’s a lot of power in the punch. It’s a combat sport, and people do get hurt, do get injured. I worry about that.”

Fewer overall fighters means smaller teams for many nations — and fewer chances to win gold, even for the traditional powers of the sport.

The US, which has won the most total medals and gold medals in Olympic history, qualified eight fighters for Paris under a challenging new qualification system administered by the IOC task force overseeing the tournament. The American team will have fewer fighters than Australia — which had an extraordinarily easy path to Paris under the new system — Brazil, Ireland or modern amateur boxing powers Uzbekistan and Kazakhstan.

Cuba, which ranks right behind the US in Olympic achievements, improbably will have only five fighters in Paris after two men failed to clinch a spot during the final qualifying tournament. Cuba also has no women on its team for the fourth straight Olympics, even though the nation belatedly lifted its internal ban on the women’s sport in late 2022.

Yet the small Cuban delegation includes two-time gold medalists Arlen Lopez and Julio Cesar La Cruz. They’ll both try to join Hungary’s Laszlo Papp and fellow Cubans Teofilo Stevenson and Felix Savon as the only three-time Olympic boxing champions.

The smaller field will lead to a different kind of competition in Paris: Fewer bouts with higher stakes. That could be exciting, particularly when fresher fighters move into the medal rounds, which will be held at the famed Roland Garros tennis complex.

Many fighters only need to win two bouts to clinch an Olympic medal, including every man fighting at heavyweight and super heavyweight. Both of those divisions have only 16 competitors, and no weight class in Paris has more than 22 fighters.

The tournament won’t even run for the entire Olympiad: For the first time in decades, boxing competition will conclude one day before the closing ceremony.

“It’s going to be different, that’s for sure,” Walsh said. “But it will be exciting.”