Simone Biles and LeBron James are among athletes expected to bid ‘adieu’ to the Olympics in Paris

Having returned from a two-year break last summer, Biles can add to her career haul of seven Olympic medals. (AP)
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Updated 10 July 2024
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Simone Biles and LeBron James are among athletes expected to bid ‘adieu’ to the Olympics in Paris

  • Add in that Andy Murray will be retiring after the Paris Games and that Rafael Nadal may bid goodbye to tennis too

PARIS: Icons of their sports. Voices for equality and social justice. Elite performers.
Simone Biles and LeBron James lead the list of athletes likely competing at their final Olympics.
Add in that Andy Murray will be retiring after the Paris Games and that Rafael Nadal may bid goodbye to tennis, too, and the stage is set for some emotional, high-profile goodbyes.
Here’s a look at some of the top competitors expected to say “adieu” to the Olympics — or their sport in general — in the French capital:
Simone Biles
At 27, Biles is the oldest American woman to make an Olympic gymnastics team since the 1950s. Having returned from a two-year break last summer, Biles can add to her career haul of seven Olympic medals — four of them gold — when she competes at the Bercy Arena.
LeBron James
At 39, James is about to become the first US men’s basketball player to compete at the Olympics in three different decades. To get an idea of what stage he’s at in his career, consider this: When James and the US team opened their Olympic training camp in Las Vegas, his son, Bronny, was making his pro debut for the Los Angeles Lakers in the California Classic summer league.
Andy Murray and Rafael Nadal
Murray’s goodbye to Wimbledon didn’t go the way he had hoped. The British player is hoping for a better result in the Olympic tennis competition on the red clay of Roland Garros, home of the French Open. Paris will mark Murray’s fifth Olympics, having won back-to-back singles golds in 2012 and 2016. While Murray has indicated that he plans to end his career after the Olympics, Nadal’s status is less clear. But playing the Olympics at the site where he won 14 French Opens — and where there’s a statue of him outside Court Philippe Chatrier — will be special no matter what Nadal does next. Nadal has won Olympic gold in both singles (in 2008) and doubles (in 2016) and will team up with Carlos Alcaraz for doubles in Paris.
Shelly-Anne Fraser Pryce
Jamaican sprinter Fraser-Pryce has announced that the Paris Games will be her fifth and final Olympics. The 37-year-old Fraser-Pryce, who has won eight Olympic medals, wants to spend more time with her husband and 6-year-old son, Zyon. Fraser-Pryce will run against Sha’Carri Richardson in the 100 meters.
Gianmarco Tamberi
One of the biggest showmen in track and field, the Italian high jumper Tamberi wants to go out on top by defending the gold medal that he shared with his good friend Mutaz Barshim in Tokyo. Both Tamberi and Barshim have indicated this will be their final Olympics.
Sarah Sjöström
At age 30, Swedish swimming standout Sjöström will be competing in her fifth Olympics. A winner of four medals at the Olympics, Sjöström is focusing on one individual event for Paris. She’ll race the 50-meter freestyle — an event she holds the world record in — plus three relays. Sjöström made her Olympic debut in Beijing in 2008 at the age of 14.
Tom Daley
Daley was Britain’s youngest athlete in 2008 at 14. Three years ago in Tokyo he won his first Olympic gold with partner Matty Lee in 10-meter synchronized and now he’s back for a fifth Olympics. Daley drew attention for knitting between dives in Tokyo as a way of relaxing.
Mikkel Hansen
With his shoulder-length hair and headband, the powerful left back Hansen is one of the most familiar faces in Danish sports. A three-time men’s world player of the year, a record he shares with longtime rival Nikola Karabatić, Hansen is considered one of the best handball players ever. He led Denmark to gold in Rio and then silver in Tokyo.
Teddy Riner
The French heavyweight judoka Riner is one of host France’s top medal hopes. He’s looking to add to his haul of five Olympic medals, including three gold. He’s also won a record 11 golds at worlds.


PIF’s New Murabba Development Co. unveils design of new multi-use stadium

Updated 16 July 2024
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PIF’s New Murabba Development Co. unveils design of new multi-use stadium

RIYADH: A new 45,000-capacity stadium is set to enhance Saudi Arabia’s sports and entertainment landscape as New Murabba Development Co. unveiled its design as part of its mixed-use project.  
In a post on X, formerly known as Twitter, the Riyadh-based company owned by the Kingdom’s Public Investment Fund announced that the facility in its upcoming real estate development in the capital’s northwest would feature flexible and multi-use spaces, allowing it to host a variety of sporting events and entertainment activities. 

This initiative aligns with the Kingdom’s ambitions to establish itself as the premier cultural, tourist, entertainment, and sports destination in the Middle East and North Africa region. 
“The New Murabba Stadium contributes to demonstrating the extent of the efforts being made to make the Kingdom a leading global center by providing the best sports and entertainment experiences,” the company said in its X post. 
“The stadium is distinguished by its design that combines the local character inspired by the acacia tree, one of the main natural landmarks in Wadi Hanifah,” the post added. 

In addition to the stadium, the project will feature a museum, a technology and design university, an immersive theater, and over 80 entertainment and cultural venues upon completion, anticipated by the end of 2032.

“The New Murabba Stadium embodies our commitment to transforming Riyadh into a global destination for sports and entertainment,” said Michael Dyke, the CEO of the company. 

“The stadium will not only be a world-class venue for sporting events but also a vibrant community hub that enhances the quality of life for residents and visitors alike,” he added.

The New Murabba project, spanning 19 sq. km., will offer over 25 million sq. m. of floor area, 104,000 residential units, 9,000 hotel rooms, 980,000 sq. m. of retail space, and 1.4 million sq. m. of office space. 

In February 2023, Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman announced the launch of New Murabba Development Co., aimed at transforming downtown Riyadh with a unique mix of residential, commercial, and entertainment offerings. 
In May, the Public Investment Fund-owned firm also hosted the New Murabba Partnership Forum at the InterContinental Riyadh. 
The event brought together a diverse group of vendors and partners to explore the extensive opportunities within this groundbreaking destination, poised to become the most transformative downtown area in Riyadh, according to a previous press statement. 


Amnesty International slams French hijab sports ban ahead of Olympics

Updated 16 July 2024
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Amnesty International slams French hijab sports ban ahead of Olympics

  • Human rights group accuses host country of breaching international law
  • Amnesty criticizes International Olympic Committee for failing to challenge ban

LONDON: Amnesty International has accused France of breaking international human rights law by enforcing a ban on women competing at this summer’s Olympic Games in Paris wearing headscarves.

In a report on the ban published on Tuesday, Amnesty also accused the International Olympic Committee of weakness by not challenging France’s “discriminatory” law.

Anna Blus, Amnesty’s women’s rights researcher in Europe, said: “Banning French athletes from competing with sports hijabs at the Olympic and Paralympic Games makes a mockery of claims that Paris 2024 is the first ‘Gender Equal Olympics’ and lays bare the racist gender discrimination that underpins access to sport in France.”

She added: “Discriminatory rules policing what women wear are a violation of Muslim women’s and girls’ human rights and have a devastating impact on their participation in sport, blocking efforts to make sports more inclusive and more accessible.”

The report details how bans on wearing headscarves in multiple sports in France, justified domestically on grounds of secularism but which is not accepted in international law, have created a situation where the Olympic host is in breach of the IOC’s own human rights rules as well as numerous human rights obligations and treaties to which France is a party.

The IOC has failed to call on France to overturn bans on headscarves at the Olympics and in other sports, claiming in a letter earlier this year that French law was outside the committee’s remit, and that “freedom of religion is interpreted in many different ways by different states.”

France is the only European country to enforce a ban on headscarves in sport, which also contradicts the rules of international sports bodies such as FIFA, the International Basketball Federation and the International Volleyball Federation.

Basketball player Helene Ba told Amnesty that the French ban “is a clear violation of the Olympic charter, values and provisions, and an infringement on our fundamental rights and freedoms … I think it’s going to be a shameful moment for France.”

She added: “Mentally it is also hard because you really feel excluded … especially if you go to the bench and the referee tells you to go to the ladders (stands). Everyone sees you … It’s a walk of shame.”

Another female athlete told Amnesty anonymously: “It is sad. It’s even shameful to be at this point in 2024, to block dreams just because of a piece of fabric.”

In a press release, Amnesty said: “For several years, French authorities have been weaponizing these concepts (of secularism) to justify the enactment of laws and policies that disproportionately impact Muslim women and girls.

“And all of this is occurring against a backdrop relentless, twenty-year campaign of harmful lawmaking and regulation of Muslim women’s and girls’ clothing in France, fueled by prejudice, racism and gendered Islamophobia.”

Foune Diawara, co-president of the football collective Hijabeuses, told Amnesty: “Our fight is not political or religious but centered on our human right to participate in sports.”

Blus said: “No policymaker should dictate what a woman can or cannot wear and no woman should be forced to choose between the sport she loves and her faith, cultural identity, or beliefs.

“It is not too late for the French authorities, sports federations and the IOC to do the right thing and to overturn all bans on athletes wearing the hijab in French sport, both at the summer Olympics and in all sport, at all levels.”


‘I’m doing this for all of Palestine’ says Waseem Abu Sal on making boxing history

Updated 16 July 2024
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‘I’m doing this for all of Palestine’ says Waseem Abu Sal on making boxing history

  • The 20-year-old fighter from Ramallah, who received a wildcard spot to Paris 2024, is the first-ever Palestinian boxer to take part in the Olympics

DUBAI: Despite the challenges of checkpoints, roadblocks and casualty updates from Gaza, Waseem Abu Sal has surpassed all previous achievements by a Palestinian boxer with his wildcard spot at the 2024 Olympics in Paris.

Not surprisingly, this milestone has not come without tremendous sacrifice, with the everyday struggles of living in the occupied West Bank presenting a far more formidable battle than the endless rounds he faces in the ring.

Over the last 12 months, Abu Sal has spent every waking moment preparing for the Olympics. He underwent training camps in Morocco and Jordan in 2023, competed in tournaments in Algeria and Russia, and wrapped up his preparations in China for the 2023 Asian Games in Hangzhou last September. Although he did not secure an Olympic spot in the qualifying events, earning a wildcard spot has reignited his hopes for success on the grand stage.

“I’m going to the Olympics not just for myself, but for all of Palestine,” said the 20-year-old, who will be fighting in th 57 kg category in Paris. “I’m fighting to show the world our dignity and to preserve our identity. It’s important to me and to the Palestinian Olympic Committee. My message is one of peace, but also to show the world that we are strong and resilient.”

Abu Sal is poised to enter the ring for his debut Olympic bout on July 28 at the Roland Garros Stadium in the French capital, where he will be among 248 boxers from 70 countries vying for gold.

His journey to such exalted company began at age 10 when his father took him to Elbarrio Gym in Ramallah, with a vision far beyond giving his son a mere hobby or self-defense skills.

Even at such an early stage, he aspired for his Waseem to become an Olympian, and barely 10 years on from that day, the dream of an Olympic ticket has became a reality.

Nader Jayousi, head of the Palestinian Olympic Committee and owner of Elbarrio Gym, has been instrumental in guiding and coaching Abu Sal. His Gazan coach, Ahmed Harara, restricted by occupation barriers between the West Bank and Gaza, supports him remotely by sending daily training schedules.

With Harara only being able to meet Abu Sal during international competitions, the boxer trains each morning and then again in the evening under the guidance of Jayousi.

After the Asian Games last October, the onset of the war in Gaza significantly intensified the challenges Abu Sal faced. Initially, Israel imposed a mandatory halt on all sports activities. As the conflict escalated during the final qualifying rounds, Abu Sal’s training opportunities were severely limited.

Training in Palestine has become increasingly perilous due to a rise in checkpoints, military presence and settler violence, complicating travel even between West Bank cities and thus restricting his access to sparring partners. For international travel, Abu Sal must undertake a journey by road from Ramallah to Amman, Jordan, to catch a flight — if he is fortunate enough not to be denied an entry visa.

Despite the hardships — witnessing his friends trapped in Jordan, unable to return to Gaza, and suffering the loss of family members and injuries due to the conflict — Abu Sal channeled the pain into his training. The devastating impact of the conflict has taken a toll on Abu Sal and his teammates, yet it has also fueled his determination to continue working toward his Olympic goals.

As part of the Olympic preparation program, the Olympic Committee provides support through supplements, training and international travel, significantly boosting performance.

“This support has led to a historic achievement, with seven athletes traveling to the Olympics this year,” said Jayousi. “When applying for wildcard entries, we chose to focus on the best-performing athletes. We aimed to highlight the high level of talent emerging from Palestine, showcasing our potential on the global stage.”

Abu Sal has been winning medals internationally since 2018. He has come a long way since, and compared to the challenges of his daily life, no goal is too big for the fighter from Ramallah.

With the Paris Olympics only 10 days away, Abu Sal is now undergoing a specific training period. Having traveled to France for a two-week international training camp on July 4, he will reunite with his squad at the Olympic village starting from July 20.


New UAE body to introduce winter sports, esports and strongman contests

Updated 16 July 2024
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New UAE body to introduce winter sports, esports and strongman contests

  • Ice hockey, figure skating, short-track speed skating and curling on the list of sports for UAE

DUBAI: A new body has been launched in the UAE to introduce winter sports, esports, strongman and other physical activities in the country.

The announcement of the new organization, the Association for the Development of Corporate Sports, was made on July 10 in Dubai by Emirates Sports Group.

The plan is to introduce several winter sports including ice hockey, figure skating, short-track speed skating, curling, and drone events.

Vladimir Burdun, co-founder of the ADSC and CEO of Emirates Sports Group, said: “The biggest part of our association is education. So, we educate people how to do things properly.

“We help them set things up. How to deal with the big corporate clients. How to involve them with this kind of sport.”

He said the aim is to have 1,000 companies join the association in the UAE, especially in Dubai, as well as 50 to 60 countries.

Mohammad Abbas Ahmad Ali Alblooshi, general-secretary of the ADCS, said: “Thanks to my brother Vladimir, who has been with me for a long time.

“Thank you again to the UAE government for the biggest support which we always receive in everything we do. And, of course, many thanks to the Community Development Authority.”

Ilya Galaev, co-founder of the ADCS, added: “Here are so many new initiatives which corporate sports are bringing to the table. The large ice hockey arena that is being built here will also be very interesting.”

He said the organization would also look at developing other sports including bowling and darts.

Burdun added: “We have already attracted interest from several countries and plans to host major events in Dubai, as this is the best place for ambitious sports development goals.

“We have already had a small congress where about 21 countries participated.”


Team Falcons top Esports World Cup Club Championship standings after two weeks of action

Updated 16 July 2024
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Team Falcons top Esports World Cup Club Championship standings after two weeks of action

  • Saudi team won the Free Fire event at world’s biggest gaming festival, which runs until Aug. 25 at Boulevard Riyadh City

RIYADH: Saudi Arabian side Team Falcons have toped the Esports World Cup Club Championship standings after the conclusion of the second week of competition.

Team Falcons claimed Free Fire gold and 1,000 points on Sunday night to add to the 600 points picked up in Mobile Legends: Bang Bang, which also ended on Sunday. Team Falcons, who top the table with 2,600 points, won Call of Duty: Warzone, the opening tournament of the Esports World Cup, in week one.

Selangor Red Giants, who defeated Team Falcons 4-3 in an epic best-of-seven Mobile Legends: Bang Bang final, sit in second place in the Club Championship standings with 1,000 points.

T1, the South Korean powerhouses who stormed to League of Legends glory thanks to the exploits of gaming superstar Faker, are third with 1,000 points. With 350 points acquired in Warzone, Saudi side, Twisted Minds, are joint eighth.

Faisal bin Homran, chief product officer at the Esports World Cup, said: “The first two weeks of the Esports World Cup produced tournaments and matches that have captured the imagination of gaming fans across the globe. The standard of play has been at the highest level with moments of magic to last long in the memory.

“A special mention must go to the clubs and players who have put on such enthralling performances for the multitude of fans watching in person at the SEF Arena at Boulevard Riyadh City and online from every part of the world. We hope their achievements provide inspiration to the next generation of gamers in Saudi Arabia and far beyond.”

The eight-week Esports World Cup, which features a cross-game structure pitting the world’s top clubs and players against one another across 22 global competitions in 21 leading games, runs until Aug. 25 at Boulevard Riyadh City. The tournament has a prize pool of $60 million, the largest in the history of esports.

More than 1,500 players, representing more than 60 nationalities, are battling it out at the Esports World Cup. Week three begins on Wednesday with competitions taking place in the Dota2 Riyadh Masters, Counter-Strike 2, and PUBG Mobile.