French security authorities foil a plan to attack football events during the Paris Olympics

The French Interior Minister said Friday that security authorities have foiled a plan to attack soccer events during the Paris Olympics. (AP/File)
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Updated 02 June 2024

French security authorities foil a plan to attack football events during the Paris Olympics

  • A Chechnyan man was arrested on May 22 on suspicion of being behind a plan to attack football events that will be held in Saint-Etienne
  • The planned attack was to target spectators and police forces

PARIS: France’s security authorities have foiled a plan to attack football events during the upcoming Paris Olympics, the country’s interior minister said Friday.

It was the first such thwarted plot targeting the Games, which start in eight weeks as France is on its highest threat alert level.

Gerald Darmanin said in a statement that members of the General Directorate of Internal Security arrested an 18-year-old man from Chechnya on May 22 on suspicion of being behind a plan to attack football events that will be held in the southern city of Saint-Etienne.

According to the initial investigation, the man was preparing an attack targeting the Geoffroy-Guichard stadium in Saint-Etienne that will host several football matches during the Summer Games. The planned attack was to target spectators and police forces, the statement said. The suspect wanted to attack the Olympic events “to die and become a martyr,” the statement also said.

The Paris Olympics will run from July 26-Aug. 11. Football matches will take place in cities across France before the final in Paris’ Stade de France.

France is on in its highest security alert ahead of the Paris Olympics and Paralympics, which are expected to draw millions of visitors.

Darmanin, the interior minister, did not cite a specific security threat against the football event, but has said there are multiple potential threats, including those from Islamic extremist groups, violent environmental activists, far-right groups and cyberattacks from Russia or other adversaries.

The Paris Olympics organizing committee said it was made aware of the arrest and praised intelligence and security services. ‘’Security is the highest priority of Paris 2024. We are working daily in close coordination with the Interior Ministry and all stakeholders — and will continue to be fully mobilized,” it said in a statement.

Security concerns are notably high for the exceptional opening ceremony, which brings more than 100 world leaders to the French capital. It involves boats carrying athletes along the Seine River on a 6-kilometer (3.7-mile) open-air parade and huge crowds watching from the embankments.

In April, French President Emmanuel Macron said the July 26 opening ceremony could be moved instead to the country’s national stadium if the security threat is deemed too high.

Organizers had originally planned to host as many as 600,000 people, most watching free of charge from riverbanks. But security and logistical concerns have led the government to progressively scale back its ambitions. Earlier this year, the overall number of spectators was reduced to around 300,000.

The French government also decided that tourists won’t be given free access to watch the opening ceremony because of security concerns. Free access will be invitation-only instead.

Extra security is also on hand for the Olympic torch relay, which passed on Friday through the monastery outcropping of Mont-Saint-Michel, which sees thousands of tourists daily.

Miami’s Messi, Suarez out for MLS All-Star Game

Updated 8 sec ago

Miami’s Messi, Suarez out for MLS All-Star Game

MIAMI: Argentina star Lionel Messi and Inter Miami teammate Luis Suarez will miss Wednesday’s Major League Soccer All-Star Game with injuries, the league and team announced Monday.

An updated MLS roster for the match-up against Mexico’s Liga MX All-Stars at Columbus, Ohio, listed Messi and Uruguayan striker Suarez among those who would not play.

Inter Miami detailed the injuries, with Messi still sidelined after missing two MLS matches last week with a right ankle injury suffered in Argentina’s Copa America final triumph over Colombia.

“Messi will miss the All-Star Game due to an ankle injury while Luis Suarez, who recently returned from international duty after over 40 days away from the club, will miss the All-Star Game due to knee discomfort,” Inter Miami said.

It would have been the first MLS All-Star appearance for 37-year-old Messi, who joined Inter Miami last July.

Eight-time Ballon d’Or winner Messi, who helped spark Argentina to the 2022 World Cup title, led Miami to last year’s inaugural Leagues Cup crown in a tournament of MLS and Mexican league squads.

But Miami said Messi’s status and that of Suarez remain in doubt for Saturday’s home match against Mexico’s Puebla, Inter’s first step in defending the Leagues Cup title.

The availability of Messi and Suarez will be determined by their “daily recovery process” according to the team statement.

Israel heads to Olympics as Palestinian delegation calls for exclusion

Updated 22 July 2024

Israel heads to Olympics as Palestinian delegation calls for exclusion

  • Summer Games in French capital open Friday against backdrop of heightened security concerns
  • Palestine Olympic Committee sent letter to IOC chief Thomas Bach asking him to ban Israel

TEL AVIV: Israel’s Olympic delegation flew to Paris on Monday as the Palestinian contingent called for banning the Israeli athletes over the war in Gaza.
The Summer Games in the French capital open Friday against a backdrop of heightened security concerns and growing international outrage over the death toll and humanitarian crisis unfolding in Gaza.
The Palestine Olympic Committee said Monday it sent a letter to International Olympic Committee (IOC) chief Thomas Bach asking him to ban Israel, citing the bombings of the besieged strip as a breach of the Olympic truce.
The letter “emphasized that Palestinian athletes, particularly those in Gaza, are denied safe passage and have suffered significantly due to ongoing conflict.”
It said “approximately 400 Palestinian athletes have been killed, and the destruction of sports facilities exacerbates the plight of athletes who are already under severe restrictions.”
In its statement, the committee also referenced the recent opinion by the UN’s top court finding Israel’s occupation of Palestinian territories illegal.
Ahead of the flight to France, Israel Olympic Committee President Yael Arad called it a “victory” that the team’s 88 athletes were participating in the Games.
“Our first victory is that we are here and going, and that we didn’t give up and have been competing in hundreds of competitions since October 7,” Arad told journalists at Ben Gurion airport.
She was referring to the date of the unprecedented Hamas-led attacks on southern Israel that started the war, which has led to protests around the world.
French organizers have stepped up security in Paris where the Israeli delegation will be subject to strict security protocols.
“It’s no secret that these Olympic Games are a little more difficult for all of us. But we have full confidence in the organization of security,” Arad added.
Speaking at the same conference, judoka Inbar Lanir acknowledged that Israeli athletes have become mired in controversy over the war, but added they were “used to” it.
“My part is to connect everyone by sports. It’s above all politics and wars and hate. So, I’m feeling safe and I’m excited to represent my country.”
French lawmaker Thomas Portes sparked a political row over the weekend by saying Israeli athletes were “not welcome” and calling for “mobilization” around the Olympics, during a demonstration in support of Palestinians.
But French Foreign Minister Stephane Sejourne said on Monday Israeli athletes were “welcome in France.”
Some pro-Palestinian protesters and activists in France and the United States, as well as Palestinian sports clubs and the Washington-based Council on American-Islamic Relations, had joined a call for the IOC to limit Israel’s official participation in the 2024 Summer Games over the war in Gaza.
In March, the head of the IOC coordination committee for Paris 2024, Pierre-Olivier Beckers-Vieujant, said it was “out of the question to imagine” sanctions on Israel over its war in Gaza, as Russia and its Olympic Committee were over the invasion of Ukraine.
The Olympic Games in Paris will take place from July 26 to August 11.
Several Israeli competitors are in contention for medals, including taekwondo athlete Avishag Semberg, who was a bronze medallist at the 2020 Olympics, gymnast Artem Dolgopyat, who secured Israel its first gymnastics gold in 2020, and Lanir, a 2023 world champion in her category.
Eight Palestinian athletes are also taking part in the Paris Games.
The October 7 Hamas-led attacks on Israel resulted in the deaths of 1,197 people, mostly civilians, according to an AFP tally based on Israeli figures.
Out of 251 people taken hostage that day, 116 are still being held inside the Gaza Strip, including 44 who the military says are dead.
Israel’s military offensive has killed at least 39,006 people in Gaza, also mostly civilians, according to the health ministry in the Hamas-run territory.
According to the Israeli military, 327 soldiers have been killed in the Gaza military campaign since the start of the ground offensive on October 27.

India coach Gautam Gambhir backs Virat Kohli, Rohit Sharma to play at 2027 Cricket World Cup

Updated 22 July 2024

India coach Gautam Gambhir backs Virat Kohli, Rohit Sharma to play at 2027 Cricket World Cup

  • Gambhir begins his tenure this week with a tour of Sri Lanka that includes three T20s and three one-day internationals
  • Kohli and Sharma had announced their T20 retirements after India’s World Cup triumph in the West Indies on June 29

MUMBAI: New India coach Gautam Gambhir has backed star batters Virat Kohli and Rohit Sharma to continue playing in the long term, even possibly at the 2027 Cricket World Cup in South Africa.
Gambhir begins his tenure as Indian men’s team coach this week with a tour of Sri Lanka that includes three T20s and three one-day internationals.
Kohli and Sharma had announced their T20 retirements after India’s World Cup triumph in the West Indies on June 29. While Kohli is 35 years old and Sharma is 37, Gambhir backed both to continue playing for India in tests and ODIs.
“I think they have shown what they can deliver on the big stage, whether it’s the T20 or ODI World Cup. One thing I can be very clear of is that both have a lot of cricket left in them,” Gambhir said on Monday. “With the Champions Trophy and a big tour of Australia (coming up), they will be motivated enough. And then, hopefully, if they can keep their fitness, the 2027 World Cup as well.”
Both Kohli and Sharma have been included in India’s ODI squad for the Sri Lanka tour, with the latter back leading the side.
Gambhir and Kohli have had highly publicized spats in the past, especially in the Indian Premier League.
The first came in 2013 when Gambhir was captain of Kolkata Knight Riders with another in 2023 when he was leading Lucknow SuperGiants. Kohli was part of the Royal Challengers Bengaluru on both occasions.
“My relationship with Virat Kohli is not for the public. It may be good for TRP (during IPL), but it is between two mature individuals,” said Gambhir. “He is a thorough professional and a world class athlete, he is a world class player. I have always said that.
“On the field, everyone has the right to fight for their own team, but at the moment, we are representing India and I am sure we are going to be on the same page – to make India proud. I have huge respect for him as a player and it is going to continue. Hopefully, we can work together really well.”
Suryakumar Yadav has been named the new T20 captain, taking over from Sharma as India looks to build toward the 2026 World Cup, with young batting star Shubman Gill his vice-captain.
That shuts out Hardik Pandya, who was vice-captain at 2024 T20 World Cup. Pandya had also led India in T20s since 2022.
“Hardik is still a very important player for us. We want him to be fit and be the player he can be for India. Those all-round skills are very difficult to find and fitness obviously has been a challenge for him over the last few years, which makes things a little difficult for the coach or even the selectors,” said Ajit Agarkar, India’s chief selector.
“You obviously want a captain that is likely to play all the games. We (also) think Suryakumar Yadav is a deserving candidate and has the necessary qualities to succeed as captain. Over time we will see how he develops into this role as the next World Cup is only in 2026.”
Yadav, though, missed out on India’s ODI squad, with keeper-batter Rishabh Pant making a comeback to the format. Pant was involved in a car accident in December 2022 and missed 18 months before returning to India’s T20 side for the World Cup.
“We haven’t discussed Surya for ODIs at this point. Shreyas Iyer is back and Lokesh Rahul is back too (for ODIs),” Agarkar said. “They had a great World Cup (2023). Rishabh is back as well, so there is quality in the middle order.
“Regards to Rishabh again, before his unfortunate accident, he’s been a key player for us. Now that he’s back, you want to get him around the group again, playing again.”
Indian team officials are aiming to manage the workloads of different players through the upcoming season, with a tour of Australia beginning in November and the Champions Trophy early next year.
As such, star fast bowler Jasprit Bumrah has been completely rested for the Sri Lanka tour after his stellar performances in the T20 World Cup.
“Workload management for someone like Bumrah is very important. He is a rare bowler that anyone would want. You want him to play important games,” said Gambhir.

Ukraine’s Natus Vincere clinch Counter-Strike 2 championship at Esports World Cup

Updated 22 July 2024

Ukraine’s Natus Vincere clinch Counter-Strike 2 championship at Esports World Cup

  • Side defeated G2 in best of 3 showdown 2-1 to claim $400,000 prize

RIYADH: Natus Vincere of Ukraine etched their name in the esports history books on Sunday after overcoming G2 to win the Esports World Cup Counter-Strike 2 competition.

Global audiences and another capacity crowd at the SEF Arena in Boulevard Riyadh City enjoyed an exciting battle as the two teams faced off in an all-European showdown — the first in an Esports World Cup Grand Final.

With both registering impressive performances and eliminating some CS2 heavyweights en route to the final, the match closed out week three of the Esports World Cup.

With a $400,000 prize and vital EWC Club Championship points at stake, NAVI came from behind to win the best of three grand final 2-1 and clinch the CS2 title.

Reflecting on the victory at the Esports World Cup, iM of NAVI said: “It feels amazing to win — we took this tournament seriously. We had high expectations from the start and we kept the same standards throughout. To win the tournament is a great feeling — for me individually and for us as a team — because it shows that the hard work we’ve been putting in is paying off.

“G2 played some very good CS2 tonight. They provided a type of test we’d not experienced this week until the grand final. But we came back and we’re delighted.”

For NAVI, winning CS2 capped off a memorable week in Riyadh. Since the 15-team $1 million tournament began on Wednesday, the Ukranian club beat FURIA 2-0 in the opening stage before overcoming FaZe Clan 2-0 and MOUZ 2-1 in the quarterfinals and semifinals, respectively.

The NAVI lineup consists of: b1t (Valerij Vakhovsjkyj, Ukraine); Aleksib (Aleksi Virolainen, Finland); jL (Justinas Lekavicius, Lithuania); iM (Mihai Ivan, Romania); and w0nderful (Ihor Zhandov, Ukraine).

When asked about the reasons behind their consistent form and brilliant performances, jL said: “We showed a mental edge over our opponents. We went behind in matches this week but showed resilience and came back every time. This is a credit to the psychology of this team.

“We’ve also been in great form over the last six months. Winning here this week shows that we’re doing things right — both between tournaments and when we’re out there competing.”

The Esports World Cup is running from July 3 to Aug. 25 with 22 tournaments across 21 titles throughout its eight-week duration. Week four begins on July 23 with three tournaments taking place daily until July 28.

Pandya fitness issues cost him India T20 captaincy—selector

Updated 22 July 2024

Pandya fitness issues cost him India T20 captaincy—selector

  • Explosive Indian batter Suryakumar Yadav was named skipper for India’s T20 format for Sri Lanka tour 
  • Pandya, who was vice-captain during last month’s T20 World Cup, has suffered from fitness problems 

Mumbai: Hardik Pandya lost out on India’s T20 captaincy to Suryakumar Yadav because of concerns over his availability after frequent injury absences, India’s chief selector Ajit Agarkar said Monday.
Explosive middle-order batsman Suryakumar, 33, was last week named Rohit Sharma’s successor in the T20 format for India’s white-ball tour of Sri Lanka, which begins Saturday.
All-rounder Pandya, 30, was Rohit’s deputy during India’s T20 World Cup triumph last month but he has suffered from fitness problems and missed the 50-over World Cup last year with an ankle injury.
“Fitness has been something that he’s struggled with,” Agarkar told reporters in Mumbai alongside new coach Gautam Gambhir.
“As selectors, it becomes difficult then. The thought behind it was that we want someone who is likely to be available more.”
India begin their Sri Lanka trip with the first of three Twenty20 internationals on Saturday and Pandya has reportedly opted out of the three subsequent one-day internationals.
He was “still a very important player,” Agarkar said. “And that’s what we want him to be, those skill sets are hard to find.”
Agarkar praised Suryakumar’s captaincy credentials.
“He is one of the best T20 batters in the world,” said Agarkar.
“We feel that Surya has all the necessary qualities to be a good captain.
“We wanted a captain, who is likely to play all the games.”
Suryakumar would remain solely a T20 player, said Agarkar. Rohit has retained the 50-over captaincy.
Gambhir explained his coaching philosophy, speaking to reporters for the first time since succeeding Rahul Dravid.
“I think it is important to give players the freedom, that’s what I believe in,” he said.
“The best relationship is built on trust. I can promise that the most important thing is that they will always have my back.”
Rohit, 37, and Virat Kohli, 35, both quit T20 internationals after the World Cup.
Gambhir, a former India teammate of both Kohli and Rohit, expects the veteran pair to remain key figures in the Test and 50-over teams.
“Both those guys have a lot of cricket left in them,” Gambhir said, adding he hoped they are motivated to feature in the 2024/25 tour to Australia and next year’s 50-over Champions Trophy.
Retirement is “a very personal decision” he added.