Green Falcons ready to bear responsibility of a nation at Russia 2018

Saudi Arabia’s Osama Hawsawi duels for the ball with Germany’s Julian Draxler during the friendly between Germany and Saudi Arabia at the BayArena in Leverkusen. The eyes of the world will be on Juan Antonio Pizzi’s Saudi side when they play in the opening game of the 21st World Cup against Russia on Thursday. (AFP)
Updated 09 June 2018
0

Green Falcons ready to bear responsibility of a nation at Russia 2018

  • The Green Falcons finished their World Cup preparations, with a 2-1 reversal, against Germany on Friday night and now nerves will be starting to jangle ahead of the tournament curtain-raiser.
  • Saudi Arabia midfielder Hattan Bahebri: “First, our priority is not just to be part of the World Cup, but also to have good results and reach the round of 16 and more.”

LONDON: Saudi Arabia midfielder Hattan Bahebri said the enormity of being involved in the opening game of the World Cup is starting to sink in for the Green Falcons and revealed there is an inner belief in the squad to do more than just make up the numbers in Russia.
Juan Antonio Pizzi’s side launch the 21st World Cup against Russia on Thursday and, if the audience of 290 million for the opener in 2014 is anything to go by, they can expect the eyes of the world to be on them. The Green Falcons finished their World Cup preparations, with a 2-1 reversal, against Germany on Friday night and now nerves will be starting to jangle ahead of the tournament curtain-raiser.
“The closer we get to the first game, the bigger the responsibility,” Bahebri said in a video interview on the Saudi Football Federation’s Twitter account. “It is a huge event. It is the World Cup. It is a huge responsibility to me and my teammates. I hope we will fulfill the expectations of our fans.”
Saudi Arabia are the second lowest ranked side in the World Cup — Russia are the lowest at 70 — so expectations are low, but with Egypt not in great form and without Mohamed Salah for at least some of the group stage, there is a feeling the Green Falcons could seriously contend for the second spot in the group behind Uruguay.
“First, our priority is not just to be part of the World Cup, but also to have good results and reach the round of the 16 and more,” Bahebri said. “We are now focusing on our game with Russia, and we will work on winning it.”
The squad is heading to Russia without Nawaf Al-Abed, the Al-Hilal playmaker who scored five goals in qualifying, but who only managed to play 22 minutes under Pizzi because of injury. The Argentinian felt he could not take a chance on a player who has not started a game since Jan. 8 because of a groin injury.
“The coach takes the decisions and I guess Nawaf is injured and hopefully he will get better,” midfielder Hussain Al-Mogahwi said. “He sat with the coach and talked to him about everything. Nawaf is a hero, and the four others who were left out with him are also champions.”
Saudi Arabia will be nothing if not fully prepared for what Group A has to throw at them. They have played Italy, Peru and Germany — sides all ranked in the top 20 — in their last three friendlies and the nine matches they have played this year is more than any other side at the World Cup.
“The two friendly games with Peru and Italy will get us ready,” said Al-Mogahwi. “During the game with Italy, we weren’t focused and afraid, but all the players played well and we had a good game. We had many opportunities ... We could have tied the game if we had scored. During the game with Peru, the coach changed the squad and honestly, we were good, but luck was not on our side. We got a good experience from the friendly games. The games in the World Cup will have the same level.”


Tokyo Olympic tickets: Be prepared to be disappointed

Updated 20 June 2019
0

Tokyo Olympic tickets: Be prepared to be disappointed

  • “This is probably going to be the most popular Olympics, and possibly one of the most popular events of all time,” said Ken Hanscom, the chief operating officer of TicketManager
  • Tokyo organizers say that 7.5 million residents of Japan registered to apply for tickets through the lottery system

TOKYO: Want tickets for next year’s Tokyo Olympics? Prepare to be let down.
Millions were disappointed starting Thursday when applicants in a ticket lottery — for Japan residents, only — began learning if they landed tickets. The answer is going to be overwhelmingly — no. The same will be true for residents outside Japan who could experience a similar dejection: too much demand and too few tickets.
This was not the case at the last several games — the 2018 Winter Olympics in Pyeongchang and the 2016 Summer Olympics in Rio de Janeiro — when tickets were given away and volunteers were often summoned to fill empty seats for the television cameras. At times, there were too many empty seats to fill.
“This is probably going to be the most popular Olympics, and possibly one of the most popular events of all time,” Ken Hanscom, the chief operating officer of TicketManager, told The Associated Press in an interview.
His Los Angeles-based company does not buy or sell Olympic tickets, but manages tickets for corporate clients, several of which are major Olympic sponsors.
Hanscom said he follows ticketing patterns for every major event and estimates that 80-90% of Japan residents who applied for tickets could get nothing.
“I’m interested in seeing what the reaction is and how the organizing committee addresses this,” Hanscom said. “It’s good news for the demand, and bad news on the ticket side and the public.”
Tokyo’s organizing committee was unable Thursday to say how many Japan residents got tickets, and it’s unclear if — or when — it will disclose the overall numbers. Organizers will run a second ticketing phase where the odds will probably be even worse.
Japanese media immediately began reporting about disheartened fans. A completely unscientific AP survey of a few fans showed one ticket awarded in 15 application attempts. The millions who failed got this message in email from Tokyo organizers.
“Thank you for your interest in purchasing Tokyo 2020 tickets. The demand for tickets was incredibly high, and unfortunately, you were not awarded any of the tickets you requested in the lottery.”
Simple math explains the supply and demand crunch.
Tokyo organizers say that 7.5 million residents of Japan registered to apply for tickets through the lottery system. Extrapolating from the 2012 London Olympic lottery, Hanscom estimates that Tokyo organizers may have received 70-85 million individual ticket requests. This could be at least 10 times more than what’s available. Maybe more.
Organizers estimate there are 7.8 million tickets for all Olympic events, but 20-30% of those are for distribution outside Japan where buyers could face the same problems and end up paying more.
Buyers outside Japan must get tickets from Authorized Ticket Resellers, companies appointed by national Olympic committees. They were authorized to begin sales on Thursday.
The reseller for the United States is CoSport, which also handles sales in Australia, Jordan and several European countries. Cartan is the reseller for much of Latin America including Mexico.
Resellers are allowed to charge a 20% handling fee on every ticket. They can also use a generous currency exchange rate, and often package desirable tickets with top hotels that charge way over the usual going rate during the Olympics.
Ticket prices for buyers in Japan vary greatly and are listed in the competition section on the organizers’ website.
The opening ceremony on July 24 features the most expensive ticket — 300,000 yen ($2,700). The most expensive ticket for the closing ceremony is 220,000 yen ($2,000).
Even with the soaring demand, many venues could still wind up with hundreds of empty seats that are typically set aside for International Olympic Committee officials, corporate sponsors, and local dignitaries. Often they don’t show up while angry fans line up outside without tickets.
“I expect there will be a problem in Tokyo,” Hanscom said. “The industry figure is that 40% of tickets that sponsors buy go in the trash,” he said. He said the problem was acute for the Olympics and World Cup.
“Every Olympics you have a new group of people running ticketing,” he said. “And you have new technology. So you’re always scrambling to put the process together.”
Even athletes could have a tough time landing many tickets for family members and friends.
All athletes can get two tickets for each session in which they compete. These tickets are sold by the organizing committee to national Olympic committees for distribution. For swimming, it’s only one. In addition, some national Olympic committees pass on added tickets to athletes.
“The United States Olympic Committee has confirmed it will continue its program of supplying Team USA athletes with two complimentary tickets for each event they compete in,” the USOC told AP in a statement. The USOC said this was in addition to tickets coming from the organizing committee.
Hanscom pointed out that “many countries don’t make the same gesture, and many athletes who qualify late have added problems.”
Given the shortage, scalping is sure to be a big problem, as it is at every Olympics and soccer World Cup.
The ticketing system for the Olympics and soccer’s World Cup is murky, allowing for abuse, anger, and confusion with tickets often appearing in the hands of high-ranking officials.
Three years ago at the Rio de Janeiro Olympics, International Olympic Committee member Patrick Hickey of Ireland was arrested on suspicion of ticket scalping. He is suspended from the IOC, but remains a member and has denied any wrongdoing. This was not the first time that a high-ranking member of the IOC or FIFA — soccer’s governing body — was implicated in profiteering on the black market.
Hanscom predicted a “vibrant secondary market” will appear despite a law that went into force a few days ago in Japan that prohibits ticket scalping with the penalty of a 1 million yen ($9,100) fine and a one-year jail term — or both.
However, the law has a large loophole and does not apply to tickets distributed for free or given away as gifts, or tickets without a purchaser’s name. This could apply to many tickets coming from the IOC, the 200 national Olympic committees, or some major Olympic sponsors.
Local Japanese Olympic sponsors have paid over $3 billion in sponsorship fees, and also sure to get a slice of tickets before they hit the public market.
“What I always say is that tickets are temptation,” Hanscom said. “It’s going to be challenging to enforce sales that happen internationally. I would expect there to be a large market that’s outside the rules and regulations. These types of rules are not going to constrict the biggest brokers who have been doing this for 20 years.”