Singing national anthem will not stop a Russian return to competition: IOC

The Russian men’s team defied IOC rules by belting out the anthem at their medal ceremony following Sunday’s 4-3 overtime win against Germany in the gold-medal game. (AP)
Updated 26 February 2018
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Singing national anthem will not stop a Russian return to competition: IOC

LONDON: Russia’s imminent return from a doping suspension will not be derailed because its hockey players sang their national anthem, the International Olympic Committee (IOC) has said.
The Russian men’s team defied IOC rules by belting out the anthem at their medal ceremony following Sunday’s 4-3 overtime win against Germany in the gold-medal game. Russian fans at the match also sang along.
“We understand that this was over excitement by the athletes who had just won a gold medal in extraordinary circumstances,” the IOC said.
Players on the Russian team said they agreed before the game that they would sing the anthem.
The IOC suspended Russia’s membership in December over a doping scheme at the 2014 Olympics, but allowed 168 Russians to enter the Pyeongchang Olympics as “Olympic Athletes from Russia” in neutral uniforms.
They had to sign a document agreeing not to display any national symbols or protest the restrictions. The Olympic anthem played when Russians won gold.
The IOC voted against reinstating Russia in time for the closing ceremony Sunday, which would have allowed Russian athletes to march under their national flag.
However, the IOC decided that Russia will be reinstated if no more of its athletes fail drug tests from the Pyeongchang Games. Russia produced two of the four doping cases announced so far.
Testing of samples taken from Russians in Pyeongchang is nearing its end, and Russian IOC member Shamil Tarpishchev told the state news agency RIA Novosti on Monday that reinstatement could come as soon as Tuesday.

WADA CRITICIZE DECISION
The World Anti-Doping Agency stopped short of endorsing the IOC’s decision to lift Russia’s suspension if no new positive drug tests come to light from the Pyeonchang Winter Olympics.
In a statement WADA said it acknowledged the IOC’s latest move but pointed out that Russia is still not adhering to the World Anti-Doping Code.
“It should be clarified that the Russian Anti-Doping Agency (RUSADA) remains non-compliant with the World Anti-Doping Code as it has not yet met the necessary criteria of RUSADA’s Roadmap to Compliance, following Russia’s proven systemic manipulation of the doping control process,” WADA said.
Meanwhile, the IOC decision was slammed by the lawyer for Russian whistleblower and former Moscow drug lab director Grigory Rodchenkov (left).
“Thomas Bach was a drowning man,” lawyer Jim Walden said. “But finally cooler heads within the IOC threw him a life preserver. Yet in the decision, the IOC had the gall to claim Russia ‘respected’ its decision in December to institute the suspension.


Tazkarti ticketing platform draws criticism in Egypt ahead of Africa Cup of Nations

Updated 18 June 2019
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Tazkarti ticketing platform draws criticism in Egypt ahead of Africa Cup of Nations

  • Tazkarti will be the sole source of tickets for the tournament

CAIRO: Africa Cup of Nations (AFCON) host country Egypt has launched an online ticketing platform called Tazkarti, which will be the sole source of tickets for the tournament, which begins June 22.

Its aim is to combat ticket touts and black market sales for the continent’s biggest football tournament, and to ensure that ticket prices remain fixed at the price decided by the AFCON organizing committee. It is also a measure of the steps Egypt is taking to ensure that the tournament passes peacefully. 

Football stadiums have been almost entirely empty since 2011 because of security issues after long-time President Hosni Mubarak stepped down following national protests in which football fans played a major role, resulting in violent, often lethal, clashes with police and between rival fans.

In 2012, Port Said stadium witnessed a riot that left 72 Al-Ahly supporters dead after a pitch invasion by Masri supporters at the end of a Premier League game. In 2015, 19 Zamalek fans were killed and 20 injured when police attempted to disperse large crowds making their way into a Cairo stadium to attend a Premier League game. 

Those were just two of several incidents that meant authorities imposed a ban on people attending football matches or severely restricted the number of people that could do so.

Every AFCON ticket purchased via Tazkarti will be scanned at the stadium to ensure it matches the holder’s “Fan ID.” If it does not, the holder will not be allowed into the ground.

Tickets for matches featuring the Egyptian national team range from 200 to 2,500 Egyptian pounds ($12-$150), while other matches range from 100 to 500 Egyptian pounds ($6 to $30).

While those prices might sound affordable to outsiders, in a country where a doctor earns around $90 to $179 per month, many have found themselves priced out of the tournament already.

“I am a married dentist with three kids. If I want to attend a match with my family, I would have to pay 1,000 pounds ($60), (not including) transportation and snacks,” Dr. M. Sheta, who lives in Damietta, told Arab News.

“To book a cinema ticket nowadays ranges between 70 and 100 pounds and a good meal costs 100 pounds minimum. If I can afford that, then I can afford AFCON tickets,” said a housewife in Mansoura, who asked to remain anonymous.

Plenty of young Egyptians took to social media to express their displeasure with the ticket prices.

“This is a clear message that middle-class Egyptians are not welcome,” said Ahmed Zahran.

“I would rather pay a total of 10 pounds at any coffee shop and watch the matches there,” said Ahmed El-Tlabanty.

Some fans believe that the prices have been set high to discourage Ultras (the most passionate football fans) from attending.

An administrator of the “Ultras Ahlawy” Facebook group, while stressing that he hoped supporters “have fun watching AFCON,” asked Arab News: “Why would I pay 200 pounds to watch a match? I do not (make hundreds of pounds).”

Aside from issues with the high prices, people have also been widely critical of the technical performance of the new ticketing platform, which has been under pressure from high demand for Fan IDs.

“You guys are so disrespectful and unprofessional. I’ve been trying to reach out for more than two weeks and no one is answering — not on messenger nor the hotline. You made the whole championship experience the worst,” wrote Fatma El-Dardiry. “I called your customer service at least five times, placed three complaints and texted you on Facebook more than once. Now, the tickets of cat 1 and 2 for the opening match have already sold out.”