Tickets for Abu Dhabi Grand Prix go on sale as Yas Marina Circuit welcomes Formula One fans back

Tickets for Abu Dhabi Grand Prix go on sale as Yas Marina Circuit welcomes Formula One fans back
The Formula 1 Etihad Airways Abu Dhabi Grand Prix 2021 will welcome fans back to Yas Marina Circuit. (Yas Marina Circuit)
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Updated 21 June 2021

Tickets for Abu Dhabi Grand Prix go on sale as Yas Marina Circuit welcomes Formula One fans back

Tickets for Abu Dhabi Grand Prix go on sale as Yas Marina Circuit welcomes Formula One fans back
  • About 16,000 seats will be available for race weekend, which will take place from December 9-12 and see the return of the Yasalam after-race concerts

Tickets for the Formula One Etihad Airways Abu Dhabi Grand Prix have gone on sale to the public as Yas Marina Circuit looks set to welcome motorsports fans back for the first time since the outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic.

At the 2020 Abu Dhabi Grand Prix, the only fans in attendance were 600 Frontline Heroes who were invited to enjoy the complete Yas Island experience in recognition of their efforts during the pandemic.

After hosting several international sporting events with live audiences this year, the UAE capital is offering a limited number of tickets for race weekend on Dec. 9-12.

“We are absolutely thrilled to announce tickets are now on sale for the Formula One Etihad Airways Abu Dhabi Grand Prix 2021 as we look to welcome fans back to Yas Marina Circuit for a fantastic weekend of sport and entertainment,” said Saif Al-Noaimi, the acting CEO of Abu Dhabi Motorsports Management.

“Obviously there are capacity limits due to the current guidelines that have been published in Abu Dhabi,” he said. “We are operating at a capacity of 30 percent, so tickets are going to be limited. We urge people to go and purchase tickets as soon as possible to avoid disappointment.”

This means that more than 16,000 seats will available at Yas Marina Circuit.

“Naturally, spectators play a huge role in creating the special atmosphere we have come to associate with the event, and we are delighted they will be in attendance once again, giving them an opportunity to watch some of Formula One’s biggest stars go head-to-head out on the track,” Al-Noaimi added.

Fans attending this year’s event can look forward to the return of the traditional Yasalam after-race concerts, produced by Flash Entertainment, with four AAA artists, who will be announced in due course, performing each night over the course of race weekend.

The on-track action will be enhanced by changes to the track, with the aim of increasing competition at the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix and all other motorsport events at the venue. The changes will be implemented over the summer to increase the potential for overtaking and improve the overall visual spectacle.

“Over the coming months we will continue to work alongside Formula One and all key stakeholders to ensure the relevant safety procedures are implemented to guarantee the safety of everybody present, as we have done for all events hosted at Yas Marina Circuit since the outbreak of COVID-19,” said Al-Noaimi.

In compliance with government directives, new measures are in place for this year’s event, including designated Oasis areas, an enhanced food and beverage service where orders can be delivered directly to tables and a Track Walk, which will replace Thursday’s Pit Lane Walk.

Regular seats are available on Abu Dhabi Hill and in the main grandstand, and tickets will provide access to food and beverage outlets, live DJ sets and the Yasalam after-race concerts at Etihad Park. Due to safety considerations this year, all ticket holders will be able to attend only one of the concerts over the weekend.

“What is extra special is that artists are so enthused about performing as part of Yasalam. They have seen Abu Dhabi’s coordinated response to COVID-19 and see race weekend as a great way to re-engage with their followers, live, in person, in a safe environment,” said John Lickrish, CEO of Flash Entertainment.

“There is huge appetite from fans of live events to feel that thrill again. Nothing comes close. Watch this space for some exciting announcements in the coming months as we continue working with Abu Dhabi Motorsport Management, Formula One, and all stakeholders to deliver another truly memorable, safe, sports and entertainment experience.”

Hospitality package options include Yas Suites, Marina Views Suite, Champions Club, Shams Suite and the Paddock Club. Tickets will be issued closer to the event.

The Abu Dhabi Grand Prix will also celebrate the UAE’s 50th anniversary through a series of events in the various entertainment zones and the Heritage Village.

Strict precautionary measures will be in operation at Yas Marina Circuit for this year’s event.

UAE residents attending must have received two doses of a UAE-approved COVID-19 vaccine, as well as providing a negative PCR test result. Non-UAE residents will also need to provide authorised documentation and evidence of vaccination, along with a negative PCR test result.

Other precautionary measures include temperature checking, venue sanitization and social distancing, and there will be a first aid and COVID-19 testing point on site, which will include a dedicated quarantine room for suspected cases. Children under the age of 12 will not be permitted to attend the event.

Tickets can be purchased via www.yasmarinacircuit.com


‘Pride and glory’ as Filipina brings home country’s first Olympic gold

Hidilyn Diaz was hailed as a “national treasure” in the Philippines after snatching the country’s elusive first Olympic gold in the women’s 55kg weightlifting category. (Supplied)
Hidilyn Diaz was hailed as a “national treasure” in the Philippines after snatching the country’s elusive first Olympic gold in the women’s 55kg weightlifting category. (Supplied)
Updated 27 July 2021

‘Pride and glory’ as Filipina brings home country’s first Olympic gold

Hidilyn Diaz was hailed as a “national treasure” in the Philippines after snatching the country’s elusive first Olympic gold in the women’s 55kg weightlifting category. (Supplied)
  • Hidilyn Diaz won in the women’s 55kg weightlifting category, ending the Philippines’ 97-year drought since entering the Olympics in 1924

MANILA: Airwoman Sgt. Hidilyn Diaz was hailed as a “national treasure” on Tuesday, a day after securing a gold medal at the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games, a first for the Philippines after nearly a century of waiting.

On Monday night, Filipinos took to social media to celebrate their “pride and glory” after Diaz snatched the elusive Olympic gold in the women’s 55kg weightlifting category, ending the Philippines’ 97-year drought in the arena since entering the Olympics in 1924.

Malacañang Palace, government, defense and military officials, lawmakers, and fellow athletes also sent congratulatory messages to Diaz, who is set to receive a “hero’s welcome” after coronavirus disease (COVID-19) checks from the Philippine Sports Commission.

“The Palace congratulates Hidilyn Diaz for bringing pride and glory to the Philippines for winning the country’s first-ever Olympic gold medal,” Duterte’s spokesperson Harry Roque said in a Twitter post.

“Congratulations, Hidilyn. The entire Filipino nation is proud of you. Laban, Pilipinas (Fight, Philippines)!” he added.

Another Malacañang official, Secretary Martin Andanar of the Presidential Communication Communications Office, said that Diaz’s win “showcased Filipinos’ talent as world-class athletes.”  

Diaz will return to the Philippines on Wednesday, following which she, along with her team, will be hotel quarantined for seven days. All athletes, coaches, and officials are required to leave Japan within 48 hours of completing their set events or tasks.

“Hidilyn wants to be with her family, who she hasn’t seen for more than one and a half years now,” Philippine Olympic Committee President Rep. Abraham Tolentino said.

Diaz is set to receive a cash windfall of over 35 million pesos, a house and many other rewards from the government, private sector and well-wishers for her “epic Olympic performance.”

It is a sentiment echoed by the Department of National Defense and ranking military officials who lauded Diaz for bringing “glory” and “pride” to the country, while Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana said that Diaz’s success was a “testament to the unwavering spirit of the Filipino to rise above all odds.

“Your One Defense Team is proud of you, Sergeant Diaz!” Lorenzana said in a message to reporters.

Diaz, who hails from Zamboanga, joined the Philippines Air Force (PAF) in 2013 and is currently working with the Civil-Military Operations Group.

“The men and women of the PAF join the country in celebrating this historic event ... Congratulations and Mabuhay, Sgt Diaz!” said the PAF’s commander, Lt. Gen. Allen Paredes, while Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) Chief of Staff Gen. Cirilito Sobejana added that the military is “now more than ever inspired by her exceptional hard work, perseverance, and dedication.”

On Tuesday, Senator Pia Cayetano, sponsoring Senate resolution no. 805 commending Diaz, said that “a ticket to the Olympics is very rare, but the Olympic gold is reserved only for the best.

“I’d like to believe that when she took her first step and was on the Olympic stage in 2008, at the tender age of 17, that gold was already hung around her neck. Because we do not see all the preparation, the discipline, the perseverance, the daily struggles that go on every day, and that went on in the first few years leading to her first Olympics,” Cayetano said.

“She persevered … And (as) we all know, (with) very limited support. To believe in herself, and for the few people who believed in her, we need to honor them as well because she could not have done this alone.”

The lawmaker said Diaz’s win was commendable amid the pandemic and considering “her main competitor, whom she beat, is from China.

“Unlike in the Philippines, China’s been pretty much back to normal with its residents living a fairly normal life, being able to go out and move around. And this is what this woman has been able to achieve in the year 2021, in the time of COVID-19 … It takes a lot to do that,” Cayetano said, adding Diaz had also broken the glass ceiling for other female athletes.

“She never made excuses for her sex, despite being in a sport that is dominated by men. I can just imagine the kind of discriminatory remarks that she has had to endure as a female athlete … Hidilyn, you break the glass for all the young girls that follow.”

Sen. Panfilo Lacson said Diaz deserved to be commissioned as an officer of the AFP.

“As chairman of the Senate Committee on National Defense and Security, I would strongly recommend to the AFP leadership that she be given a rank as a commissioned officer of the PAF. It’s the least the service can give her,” Lacson said during a TV interview.

“Such a commission — either as a reserve or regular officer — is not just in recognition of her extraordinary feat, but also in recognition of her great potential to provide a good example to her fellow soldiers both as an athlete and as a leader,” he added.

Lacson said Diaz’s win gave 110 million Filipinos a significant reason to celebrate amid the “problems they now face” due to the pandemic.

“She makes us Filipinos very, very proud,” he said, saying Diaz’s saluting the Philippine flag and singing the national anthem at the Olympics “was the most touching moment that will be relived in our memories for a long, long time.”


Man Utd agree deal to sign Real Madrid’s Varane

Man Utd agree deal to sign Real Madrid’s Varane
Updated 27 July 2021

Man Utd agree deal to sign Real Madrid’s Varane

Man Utd agree deal to sign Real Madrid’s Varane
  • Varane will undergo a medical until next week because of current UK coronavirus restrictions
  • British media reported value the deal at £34 million ($47 million) rising to £48 million with add-ons

LONDON: Manchester United have agreed a deal with Real Madrid to sign France center-back Raphael Varane, the Premier League giants announced Tuesday.
“Manchester United is delighted to announce the club has reached agreement with Real Madrid for the transfer of French international defender and World Cup winner, Raphael Varane, subject to a medical and to player terms being finalized,” said a club statement.
It is not expected, however, that Varane will be able to undergo a medical until next week because of current UK coronavirus restrictions.
No fee has been disclosed but British media reported value the deal at £34 million ($47 million) rising to £48 million with add-ons.
The 28-year-old Varane, a 2018 World Cup winner, has one season left on his contact at the Santiago Bernabeu.
He moved from French club Lens to Madrid in 2011 and has since made 360 appearances across all competitions for Madrid, winning 18 major honors — including four Champions League titles.
In a statement, Real — confirming they had agreed a fee with United — acknowledged Varane’s time in the Spanish capital by saying: “Our club thanks the player for his professionalism and exemplary conduct throughout his ten seasons representing our colors, during which time he has won 18 titles: 4 Champions Leagues, 4 Club World Cups, 3 European Super Cups, 3 LaLiga titles, 1 Copa del Rey and 3 Spanish Super Cups.
“Real Madrid would like to express their gratitude to Raphaël Varane and his family and wish him the best of luck in this new stage of his career.”
Should his move to Old Trafford be completed, Varane would find himself vying for a place in the center of United’s defense with club captain Harry Maguire, Eric Bailly and Victor Lindelof.
United finished second in last season’s Premier League but were a huge 12 points adrift of title-winners and local rivals Manchester City in the race to be crowned champions of England.
The Red Devils have not won a major trophy since the 2017 Europa League, with United’s last Premier League title success coming in celebrated manager Alex Ferguson’s final season before retirement eight years ago.


Sudanese judoka sent home from Olympics for not facing Israeli athlete

Israel’s Tohar Butbul in the Tokyo 2020 Olympics 73-kilogram division. (Reuters)
Israel’s Tohar Butbul in the Tokyo 2020 Olympics 73-kilogram division. (Reuters)
Updated 27 July 2021

Sudanese judoka sent home from Olympics for not facing Israeli athlete

Israel’s Tohar Butbul in the Tokyo 2020 Olympics 73-kilogram division. (Reuters)
  • The International Judo Foundation didn’t immediately announce a reason why Abdalrasool didn’t compete

TOKYO: A second judo athlete has dropped out of the Olympics before facing Israel’s Tohar Butbul in the 73-kilogram division.

Olympic officials say Sudan’s Mohamed Abdalrasool didn’t show up to face Butbul in their round of 32 bout Monday despite weighing in for the bout earlier.

The International Judo Foundation didn’t immediately announce a reason why Abdalrasool didn’t compete, and the governing body didn’t respond to requests for comment.

Sudanese Olympic officials also didn’t immediately comment.

Algeria’s Fethi Nourine was sent home from the Tokyo Games and suspended by the IJF on Saturday after he withdrew to avoid a potential round of 32 matchup with Butbul. Nourine was supposed to face Abdalrasool for the right to meet Butbul.

Nourine later said his actions were a protest against Israel's treatment of Palestinians.

Abdalrasool is the world’s 469th-ranked judoka in his weight class, while the accomplished Butbul is seventh.

Nourine also quit the World Judo Championships in 2019 right before he was scheduled to face Butbul.


Tennis star Naomi Osaka crashes out of Tokyo Olympics

Tennis star Naomi Osaka crashes out of Tokyo Olympics
Updated 27 July 2021

Tennis star Naomi Osaka crashes out of Tokyo Olympics

Tennis star Naomi Osaka crashes out of Tokyo Olympics
  • The 23-year-old had not played since May, when she walked out of the French Open saying media commitments were harming her mental health

TOKYO: Japanese star Naomi Osaka crashed out of the Tokyo Olympics tennis competition on Tuesday as Brazil’s Italo Ferreira and America’s Carissa Moore claimed the first-ever gold medals in surfing.
Osaka, who lit the Olympic cauldron in the opening ceremony, lost 6-1, 6-4 to Marketa Vondrousova after an error-strewn performance, ending her cherished dream of winning on home soil.
The 23-year-old — one of the faces of the Tokyo Games — had not played since May, when she walked out of the French Open saying media commitments were harming her mental health.
The second seed will be bitterly disappointed at missing out on a chance of Olympic gold, especially after the early exits of world number one Ashleigh Barty and third seed Aryna Sabalenka.
“How disappointed am I? I mean, I’m disappointed in every loss, but I feel like this one sucks more than the others,” said the four-time Grand Slam-winner.
Asked what went wrong, she replied: “Everything — if you watch the match then you would probably see. I feel like there’s a lot of things that I counted on that I couldn’t rely on today.”


How boxing clever during COVID-19 lockdown helped Dubai gym emerge fighting fit

How boxing clever during COVID-19 lockdown helped Dubai gym emerge fighting fit
Updated 27 July 2021

How boxing clever during COVID-19 lockdown helped Dubai gym emerge fighting fit

How boxing clever during COVID-19 lockdown helped Dubai gym emerge fighting fit
  • Founder of dedicated Real Boxing Only turns to franchising as city residents fuel expansion plans

RIYADH: One year ago, the idea would have been unthinkable: Michelle Kuehn, founder of Dubai’s Real Boxing Only (RBO), in her Al-Quoz office fielding questions about franchising the gym dedicated solely to the noble art.

That she can even talk about it after the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) pandemic nearly devastated the business she started in 2018 is a testament to the resilience of her and her staff. And, above all, people’s desire to re-embrace exercise, and embrace boxing, during a year like no other.

For Kuehn, the response after the lockdown was lifted and many restrictions eased would eventually exceed all expectations, but for business owners such as her, it was a situation they had never experienced before.

She said: “I wouldn’t say it was back to normal at all, especially in June 2020. Although we were allowed 50 percent capacity, we were probably only running at 30 percent. We found that a lot of people, although keen to go out, were afraid to go to the gym, being around others was definitely at the back of their minds.”

At first, the customers came back slowly, dipping their toes into uncharted waters, but their welcome return would not be, on its own, enough to ameliorate the financial hit that RBO had taken.

“The good news is we have a lot of loyal customers, so they were here first day, ready with their masks on. We had a lot of restrictions, so we had to redo the entire gym to make everything two meters apart which meant taking out boxing bags, moving treadmills. Class capacity was so small. By the end of June, I almost considered closing because we weren’t going to make it if we continued like that,” Kuehn added.

Real Boxing Only has seen an increase in new memberships in 2021. (RBO)

“Then I decided that was just not going to happen. So, we worked really hard from July to September, and in October I had a consultant come in and talk about the best ways to approach growth at a time that you can’t really grow because you can’t have that many people in your gym.

“So, I doubled down on classes. Instead of having one at 6.30, one at 7.30, I’d run three at 6.30. They were spaced out, smaller classes but at least I was running the same amount of people in the gym as I would have in one class normally before.”

With many customers losing their jobs or put on unpaid leave, and others facing uncertain futures, RBO had frozen memberships during lockdown and into July 2020. To attract new members, Kuehn’s team went on what she called a “discount spree.”

She said: “The only thing I could do was focus on new business, so I did a sales and marketing drive with my team, and we focused on just getting new business in. Luckily by September you could see people were happy to be out again, and they were feeling more confident because by October, November we broke records. That continued all the way into the new year, that’s when I decided to look at an extension.”

Kuehn noted that people had flocked back to the gym for health reasons.

“I definitely think health was on top of their minds and doing something fun. Having been stuck in the house for five months, no one wanted to feel overweight and just start jogging again. Boxing’s fun, everything about training here is fun. But it’s high fitness, these people were sweating off weight and they were feeling fitter than they ever felt. And that in itself is addictive, they were telling their friends and I had so many referrals coming in.”

Getting people to pay, or commit to long-term memberships, remained a challenge.

The new extension at Real Boxing Only gym. (RBO)

“We had to be serious and hit numbers. I also trained the other side of the team, the ones that interact with clients. I wrote all the class programs, I worked with coaches to make sure that there was some consistency, uniformity and when people came, they were spoken to well, they were treated well, there was no judgement. The coaches were encouraging and some of the best coaches in the city work here, they’re boxers that we brought from around the world,” she added.

Redeveloping the business in the circumstances reignited Kuehn’s interest in growing RBO, though eventually not in the way she had initially intended.

“Expanding was something I was looking at in 2019, toward the end of the year, I was starting to consider options for expanding. We get a lot of questions from Abu Dhabi, from Deira, asking if we have branches, all over the Emirates really. But I wasn’t convinced on whether to expand or franchise.

“I was leaning toward expanding but then when we were shut down during COVID, I realized the risk I was at. If I had five gyms like this, I would have closed probably four because the overheads would have been too much for one company to support. So, that kind of answered my question.”

Having decided that franchising was lower risk than expanding, Kuehn and her team had to make sure that the business could be duplicated, with new staff trained to ensure the same quality of service would be on offer.

It was, ironically, the original RBO’s expansion into an abandoned warehouse next door that helped solidify the franchise model.

“We set a target for March 1, for how many members I needed to have to be able to afford the new extension, and we hit that by January,” she said.

“I had to rush into the new extension which is 4,000 square feet. We went from 6,000 to 10,000. In the last 12 months we’ve grown 206 percent. With growth come larger challenges; now I have a much bigger team, a lot more clients, a lot more expectations to uphold, which has helped me write my franchise model.

“Every mistake we make, I change it, and I write that into the franchise model. For the last 12 months I’ve been creating the operating manual for my franchise, everything is systemized.”

With extra space, the number of classes doubled to 360 a month; higher staff salaries had to be met while ensuring RBO still had some of the most competitive rates in the city.

With business considerably more secure than a year ago, Kuehn is now in a position to negotiate her first franchise of RBO.

“Abu Dhabi will have one, but not until next year, and then I would consider a second, smaller franchise in the UAE, maybe in Dubai as well,” she added.

“And the UK next year is my target. Should the UAE and the UK go well, you want the franchise to sell itself. You don’t need me and my numbers, they can go and speak to any franchisee. As long as that goes well, Saudi and Oman I’ve considered as targets as well.”