FIA praise for Middle East’s ‘long-term dedication’ to Formula One ahead of Abu Dhabi Grand Prix

Special FIA praise for Middle East’s ‘long-term dedication’ to Formula One ahead of Abu Dhabi Grand Prix
Red Bull’s Max Verstappen during qualifying for the Abu Dhabi Formula One Grand Prix, Yas Marina Circuit, Dec. 11, 2021. (AFP)
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Updated 11 December 2021

FIA praise for Middle East’s ‘long-term dedication’ to Formula One ahead of Abu Dhabi Grand Prix

FIA praise for Middle East’s ‘long-term dedication’ to Formula One ahead of Abu Dhabi Grand Prix
  • FIA secretary general Peter Bayer impressed by organization and state of the art facilities at circuits in Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, Qatar and the UAE
  • Bernie Ecclestone: ‘We don’t want a Formula One world championship without Abu Dhabi in the last race – they’ve always been the last race and it should stay that way’

As the Formula One season draws to a close on Sunday at Abu Dhabi’s Yas Marina Circuit, so too does the Gulf region’s thrilling triple-header that saw Qatar and Saudi Arabia host Grand Prix for the first time, ahead of the season finale in the UAE — all within a four-week period.

The 2021 F1 campaign included four stops in the GCC, starting in Bahrain last March and wrapping up in the UAE capital this weekend; a clear indication of the growing importance of the region in the global motorsport calendar.

“I can certainly tell you from the teams’ perspective, they’ve been very happy to come here, simply because things have been organized at a very high level, since many years,” FIA Secretary General Peter Bayer told Arab News on Friday.

“Qatar was obviously new on the calendar, we were trying to help them as much as we could, but it was a great race.

“We then went to Saudi, which was a big success, I think given the short time you had available, it was outstanding, honestly, the achievements.”

The F1 traveling circus will return to the GCC in less than four months as the 2022 season starts with a double-header in Bahrain and Jeddah end of March, and will once again have its typical curtain-closer in Abu Dhabi. Qatar will skip next year’s term as it prepares to host the FIFA World Cup but starts a 10-year deal with F1 from 2023 onwards.

Bayer was particularly impressed by how the inaugural Saudi Grand Prix turned out and how it set up the world championship for a gripping title decider at Yas Marina Circuit.

“I was in Jeddah in January with president (Jean) Todt, because we went to see the Dakar Rally with Prince Khalid bin Sultan Al-Faisal (president, Saudi Arabian Motor Federation), who took us to Jeddah to have a look at the track. And at the Corniche, he said, ‘Here will be the Formula One race’,” Bayer recalls.

“And we literally said, ‘We don’t believe you’, and he said, ‘You will see, we can do it’. And they delivered. Honestly, it was an outstanding event. Obviously the spectacle was clearly . . . given the media record figures, also because of the world championship fight is so close; so we’re very happy to come back to our traditional season finale in Abu Dhabi now, knowing it’s an experienced crew, outstanding event, so we’re looking forward to I think the most exciting final since 1974.”

Abu Dhabi made its F1 debut in 2009 and on Thursday it was announced the emirate has extended its contract for another 10 years. Former F1 supremo Bernie Ecclestone wishes it were a 50-year extension, not just 10.

“It’s obviously what they deserve; they do a first-class job, a lot of promoters have tried to follow them. Certainly when they came into Formula One, they started to raise the bar a bit, so it’s been good for Formula One,” Ecclestone said in a video message released by Yas Marina Circuit.

“But I’m a bit disappointed that the contract is only for 10 years because Formula One is for sure going to last another 50 years and the contract therefore should be extended for 50 years, because we don’t want a Formula One world championship without Abu Dhabi in the last race. They’ve always been the last race and it should stay that way.”

Bayer believes Abu Dhabi, and the region as a whole, has shown huge development in the sport and insists that the F1 calendar remains balanced, even with four stops in the Gulf scheduled for 2023.

“For us there are many reasons why we like to come here. If you look at next year’s global calendar, 23 events, we have 12 events in Europe, three in the Middle East, three in Asia-Pacific region and five in the Americas,” he explained.

“We will obviously increase by one in 2023 with Qatar coming back in the region with four, but at the same time Asia-Pacific will go one up with China coming back on the calendar; we cannot race there next year due to COVID-19.

“So we believe, as we are a global federation, that globally the balance of the events here is absolutely justifiable and perfect. At the same time it’s a region which is growing, which is diversifying a lot, which is something that’s extremely important for us.”

For the drivers, Abu Dhabi has grown to become a comfortable and popular place to finish the season each year. After a long and gruelling nine months of racing, returning to a destination renowned for its supreme hospitality has its perks.

“We’ve had Abu Dhabi as the last race for many years now. It’s quite a nice, it looks still impeccable, it’s a bit like Disneyland in many ways,” said four-time world champion Sebastian Vettel on Thursday.

“The track’s great, they’re trying to make it even nicer this year, looking forward to that. It’s obviously getting quite cold at home so it’s nice to have a couple of extra days in the warmth and to see new places as well. We had the Grand Prix in Saudi, the people there were quite enthusiastic, it was a very exciting track.

“It’s always nice to go to new places, meet different people and see different cultures.”

Bayer is pleased to see the “long-term dedication” of this region to the sport, and hailed Bahrain for stepping up when the pandemic hit and offering to host two races to make up for other canceled events.

“There is flexibility, there are perfect facilities, they’re state-of-the-art, there is no doubt in any of the countries what we’ve seen in the Middle East. For us it’s certainly one of the pillars F1 is building as a global sports and entertainment property,” Bayer said.

“I think it’s helping us also in the transition of our mindset, because we see here many countries which are oil or gas-driven originally, which are now transforming themselves into, be it tourism destinations, be it sustainable resource destinations, so there’s a lot of that happening, which is kind of the same transition Formula One is going through.

“From being a pure motorsport spectacle, developing into something which is a lot more; maybe you’ve seen our purpose-driven campaign, it’s very important for us to be at the forefront of sustainability and diversity matters.

“So we’re happy to benefit from the transition here, but at the same time also help to foster the steps that need to be made here.

“We’re perfectly happy to come back and obviously to have these long-term agreements being signed, which is extremely important for the sustainability of the sport. We have recently heard about Qatar, which is another 10-year agreement and we know about Saudi and Bahrain and their long-term dedication.”

With UAE’s Mohammed Bin Sulayem running for FIA presidency this month as Jean Todt ends his highly-successful 12-year tenure, Bayer sees that as yet another clear sign of how much the region is developing in the sport.

He believes the next step should be further efforts put into grassroots initiatives to foster local interest and talent.

“We need to see young people being drawn into the sport, we need to see karting facilities, karting championships; we need to see drivers’ development programs,” Bayer said.

“I think we need to make sure that between the local ASN, the governing body, and the organizers needs to be close collaboration with schools.

“One of the areas we are very keen on developing is STEM — science, technology, engineering and mathematics — because not everybody can be a driver, but there are plenty of other opportunities in this world and we hope that together with the schools and our ASNs and the organizers, we can develop that path. That’s what we need to focus on for the future.”

WarGames matches to headline Survivor Series for first time in WWE history

WarGames matches to headline Survivor Series for first time in WWE history
Updated 16 sec ago

WarGames matches to headline Survivor Series for first time in WWE history

WarGames matches to headline Survivor Series for first time in WWE history
  • Rebranded ‘WWE Survivor Series WarGames’ set for Nov. 26 at TD Garden in Boston

STAMFORD: WWE has announced that this year’s Survivor Series will feature both men’s and women’s WarGames matches for the first time ever.

The Premium Live Event — branded WWE Survivor Series WarGames — is taking place on Nov. 26 at TD Garden in Boston, US.

It will mark the first time in history that WarGames matches take place in a WWE-branded event.

The men’s and women’s Survivor Series WarGames matches will feature teams of WWE Superstars stepping inside a massive steel cage surrounding two rings. The match begins with one member from each team facing off, before additional competitors are added every few minutes thereafter. Once all Superstars have entered WarGames, victory can be attained via pinfall or submission.

WarGames is a staple match with long-rooted history in the world of sports and entertainment. The concept was created by Dusty Rhodes in 1987, with the match originally part of National Wrestling Alliance events, and later, held annually by World Championship Wrestling at the Great American Bash, Wrestle War and Fall Brawl events, respectively.

Since 2017, WWE has held the annual matches at WarGames-branded events as part of their NXT brand. WWE also held the first-ever women’s version of the match in 2019.

Since its inception there have been 39 WarGames matches but none held under the WWE’s marquee November event.

The first ever WarGames match took place at The Omni in Atlanta during the 1987 Great American Bash tour, where it was known as “War Games: The Match Beyond.”

In 1998, WCW added a different twist and converted WarGames into a three-team, nine-man competition — with the same cage and entry format — with pinfalls allowed for the No. 1 Contendership to the WCW World Heavyweight Title.

WarGames proved the ideal platform to settle famous WWE feuds.

It was originally used as a specialty match for the Four Horsemen faction under the leadership of “Nature Boy” Ric Flair, and over the years has seen legendary Superstars such as Dusty Rhodes, Ric Flair, Sting, Hulk Hogan, the Road Warriors, Lex Luger, Randy Savage, Bret Hart and Roddy Piper, to name a few.

One of the most memorable WarGames matches was the first, when the Road Warriors — Nikita Koloff, Dusty Rhodes, and Paul Ellering — took on the Four Horsemen — Ric Flair, Arn Anderson, Lex Luger and Tully Blanchard — at the NWA Great American Bash in July 1987.

The match came at time when the Four Horsemen were running rampant in the NWA, culminating in an attack on their opponents in the previous match that resulted in Rhodes suffering a broken leg and Koloff an injured neck.

The match set the tone for future WarGames, which are not only about getting revenge and settling scores, but also about proving supremacy.

Salem Al-Dawsari undergoes successful surgery as Saudi squad prepare for US friendly

Salem Al-Dawsari undergoes successful surgery as Saudi squad prepare for US friendly
Updated 27 September 2022

Salem Al-Dawsari undergoes successful surgery as Saudi squad prepare for US friendly

Salem Al-Dawsari undergoes successful surgery as Saudi squad prepare for US friendly
  • Salman Al-Faraj, Yasser Al-Shahrani, Mohammed Al-Owais continue to recover from recent injuries

RIYADH: Al-Hilal star Salem Al-Dawsari on Monday successfully underwent stomach surgery in Alicante as Herve Renard’s Saudi Arabia squad continued their preparations for the 2022 World Cup at their Spanish training camp.

The player will now undergo a period of recovery supervised by the team’s medical staff.

Meanwhile, the rest of the squad took part in their final training session ahead of their second friendly match of the week, which will take place on Tuesday night against the US at the Nueva Condomina stadium in Murcia.

The evening training session took place at La Finca Resort under the supervision of Renard, with the trio of Salman Al-Faraj, Yasser Al-Shahrani, and Mohammed Al-Owais taking part in special exercises as they continue to recover from recent injuries.

Cameron Smith and Dustin Johnson lead 48-player field at LIV Golf’s Asia debut in Thailand

Cameron Smith and Dustin Johnson lead 48-player field at LIV Golf’s Asia debut in Thailand
Updated 49 min 57 sec ago

Cameron Smith and Dustin Johnson lead 48-player field at LIV Golf’s Asia debut in Thailand

Cameron Smith and Dustin Johnson lead 48-player field at LIV Golf’s Asia debut in Thailand
  • Golfers to vie for $25m at Stonehill course Oct. 7-9

BANGKOK: LIV Golf Invitational Chicago champion Cameron Smith and Invitational Boston winner Dustin Johnson will compete amongst an all-star 48-player field for the $25 million Bangkok title, the series’ Asian debut at Stonehill taking place from Oct. 7 to 9.

The strong lineup for the sixth event of this year’s LIV Golf Invitational Series includes four former world No. 1s and 12 major champions, including multiple major winners Phil Mickelson, Brooks Koepka, Johnson and Martin Kaymer, as well as 13 Olympians, and 20 players with 10 or more professional wins to their names.

“The LIV Golf Invitational Bangkok marks a significant step for LIV Golf in Asia, a massive market with incredible passion for the sport,” said Greg Norman, CEO and commissioner of LIV Golf.

“Our investment in the Asian Tour with The International Series has already begun to create new opportunities in golf. This tournament in Thailand is further proof of LIV Golf’s commitment to showcasing top competition amongst the best golfers on the planet while connecting with new audiences around the world. Excitement continues to build with each event, and we can’t wait to deliver a memorable tournament at Stonehill, a one-of-a-kind venue.”

In Bangkok, players will once again compete for a purse of $25 million and the chance to become LIV Golf’s sixth individual and team champions, earning points toward the season-long individual competition.

In addition to watching a number of major champions, local fans will have another reason to cheer at the new Stonehill course, with Thai players Sadom Kaewkanjana and Phachara Khongwatmai once again competing in the high-profile field thanks to their standings in the Asian Tour and International Series Order of Merit.

The International Series is the Asian Tour’s new marquee events established through a 10-year, $300-million partnership with LIV Golf, with tournaments in Thailand, Singapore, South Korea, Egypt, Morocco, and England.

Atlanta Hawks and Milwaukee Bucks to host youth programs in Abu Dhabi

Atlanta Hawks and Milwaukee Bucks to host youth programs in Abu Dhabi
Updated 27 September 2022

Atlanta Hawks and Milwaukee Bucks to host youth programs in Abu Dhabi

Atlanta Hawks and Milwaukee Bucks to host youth programs in Abu Dhabi
  • League’s first ‘Jr. NBA Week’ in Mideast for 2,000 young basketball players and coaches through clinics and camps
  • The teams will play two preseason games on Oct. 6 and 8 at Etihad Arena on Yas Island

ABU DHABI: The National Basketball Association announced on Tuesday a series of youth engagement programs in collaboration with the Atlanta Hawks and the Milwaukee Bucks as part of The NBA Abu Dhabi Games 2022.

The activities, which will include the league’s first “Jr. NBA Week” in the Middle East, will run from Monday, Oct. 3 to Sunday, Oct. 9, with nearly 2,000 youth, coaches and basketball stakeholders from the UAE, the region and Europe.

The week will consist of clinics and camps focused on teaching the game, promoting health and wellness, and empowering the next generation of female players and coaches. The events will feature appearances by Hawks and Bucks players and coaches, NBA and WNBA legends, and US Basketball Head Coach/Coach Director, Youth & Sport Development Don Showalter.

The NBA Abu Dhabi Games 2022 will feature the Hawks and the 2021 NBA champions Bucks playing two preseason games at Etihad Arena on Yas Island on Thursday, Oct. 6 and Saturday, Oct. 8, marking the league’s first games in the UAE and the Arabian Gulf.

The games are part of a groundbreaking multiyear collaboration between the NBA and the Department of Culture and Tourism – Abu Dhabi that earlier this year saw the launch of the first Jr. NBA Abu Dhabi League, a youth basketball competition for 450 boys and girls aged 11 to 14 from schools across the city.

The collaboration also includes a variety of interactive fan events featuring appearances by current and former NBA players, a series of NBA FIT clinics promoting health and wellness, and an NBA 2K League exhibition event.

The week’s activities include, among others:

Atlanta Hawks Youth Program Oct. 3

Hawks players and coaches will lead three simultaneous youth development events at the NYU Abu Dhabi campus’ three-court facility, including clinics for boys and girls from the first Jr. NBA Abu Dhabi League and the Abu Dhabi Special Olympics program. There is also an NBA FIT clinic for local youth that will focus on the importance of living a healthy and active lifestyle. The participants will attend the game on Oct. 6.

NBA Coaching Clinics Oct. 3 to 4

The assistant coaches of the Hawks, Joe Prunty and Mike Longabardi, and those of the Bucks, Mike Dunlap and Vince Legarza, will host clinics for over 300 male and female basketball coaches from the UAE.

Milwaukee Bucks Youth Program Oct. 4

Bucks players and coaches will offer drills for members of the NBA Basketball School in Dubai and the Jr. NBA Elite Training Camp at the NYU Abu Dhabi campus.

Jr. NBA School Clinics Oct. 4 to 5

The NBA will conduct eight clinics for boys and girls at local schools across Abu Dhabi, two of which will be attended by NBA Legend Dominique Wilkins and WNBA Legend Ticha Penicheiro (Portugal). The clinics will focus on teamwork, skills and healthy habits.

NBA Hoops For Troops Meet & Greets

In collaboration with the United Service Organizations, the NBA will host members of the US military for meet and greets with NBA legends at both games.

Jr. NBA Elite Training Camp Oct. 4 to 9

The NBA will host 25 of the top boys and girls from Jr. NBA leagues across Europe and the Middle East, and the NBA Basketball School in Dubai, at an elite training camp in Abu Dhabi. The athletes, from 11 countries, were selected following a Jr. NBA Elite Camp in Rome in May. They will participate in training and competitions with the NBA Basketball School from Dubai and the UAE under-18 Men’s National Team.

Her Time To Play Clinic Oct. 8

The NBA will host a “Her Time To Play” clinic at the NYU Abu Dhabi campus for 70 girls from the Jr. NBA Elite Training Camp and the NBA Basketball School in Dubai. Participants will engage in a clinic and conversations focused on female empowerment and opportunities in sports and leadership, highlighted by a talk with Penicheiro.

Italy advances in Nations League; England, Germany draw 3-3

Italy advances in Nations League; England, Germany draw 3-3
Updated 27 September 2022

Italy advances in Nations League; England, Germany draw 3-3

Italy advances in Nations League; England, Germany draw 3-3

Part one of the healing process is complete for Italy.
Looking to regain respect after failing to qualify for a second straight World Cup, the Azzurri advanced to next year’s finals tournament in the Nations League by winning at Hungary 2-0 thanks to goals by Giacomo Raspadori and Federico Dimarco on Monday.
By topping a group also containing England and Germany, the Italians joined the Netherlands and Croatia in qualifying for the final four, which will be hosted by the Dutch in June.
Portugal or Spain will complete the lineup when they face off on Tuesday.
Unlike Italy, England and Germany will be going to the World Cup in Qatar in less than two months and they’ll head to the Middle East on the back of a wild 3-3 draw at Wembley Stadium, where all the goals were scored in the second half.
Trailing 2-0, England scored three goals in a 12-minute span from the 71st — through Luke Shaw, Mason Mount and Harry Kane’s penalty — only for Kai Havertz to pounce on a fumble by England goalkeeper Nick Pope to equalize in the 87th.
England’s winless run stretched to six games, with Gareth Southgate’s team finishing its Nations League campaign without a victory and relegated.
Germany isn’t in much better shape ahead of the World Cup, with just one win in its last seven games.
Italy won Group A3 with 11 points, one more than Hungary, which went into the game in Budapest needing only a draw to reach the Nations League final four for the first time.

Italy's players celebrate after the UEFA Nations League Group 3 football match between Hungary and Italy in Budapest on September 26, 2022. (AFP)

The Italians are finding it easier to qualify for Nations League finals than World Cups.
They also got to the 2021 tournament, losing to Spain in the semifinals on home soil in their first few months as the reigning European champion.
Plenty has changed in the team since beating England in the European Championship final at Wembley last year, not least up front where Raspadori is making his mark.
Three days after scoring the winner against England in Milan, the Napoli striker put Italy ahead after Adam Nagy’s back-pass came up short.
Wilfried Gnonto challenged goalkeeper Peter Gulacsi for the ball, which bounced free and Raspadori was alert to round Gulacsi and convert his finish in the 27th.
Gianluigi Donnarumma produced a string of diving stops — including a triple save in a matter of seconds — before Nicolò Barella played a ball through at the other end to Bryan Cristante, who crossed for Dimarco to score from close range for his first goal for Italy.
Late pressure from Hungary failed to yield a goal.
“We were excellent for 70 minutes, the last 20 I didn’t like too much,” Italy coach Roberto Mancini said. “We’re happy — it’s important to have reached the Nations League final four for the second time.”
Under pressure for his starting place in England’s team, Harry Maguire didn’t help his cause against Germany.
The Manchester United center back was at fault for Germany’s 52nd-minute opener from the spot by Ilkay Gundogan — Maguire initially gave the ball away to Jamal Musiala, then clumsily fouled the teenager in the area moments later — and was then dispossessed in midfield to allow the Germans to break, culminating in a curling finish from the edge of the area by Havertz.
Maguire has lost his starting spot at United but Southgate has retained his faith in the defender, who typically plays better for his country than his club. It was a tough night all around for England’s center backs, with John Stones forced off with a suspected hamstring injury.
England did well to fight back, with Kane’s penalty taking him to 51 goals for England, two off Wayne Rooney’s national record, but yet another mistake proved costly.
Pope, filling in for the injured Jordan Pickford, spilled Serge Gnabry’s weak shot and Havertz was on hand to tap in from close range.
“A couple of errors have cost us the goals,” Southgate said, “but I’ll focus on the fact they played with tremendous spirit and showed a belief that we haven’t shown in the last few games.”
There was a well-observed period of silence before kickoff as a tribute to Queen Elizabeth II, who died this month. Players from both teams wore black armbands.