Ukraine on mission to ban Russia from Olympics, IOC says sanctions stand

Ukraine on mission to ban Russia from Olympics, IOC says sanctions stand
The International Olympic Committee said it was standing by sanctions imposed against the countries over Russia’s invasion, despite allowing Russian and Belarusian athletes to compete as neutrals at the Paris Olympic Games. (Reuters)
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Updated 01 February 2023

Ukraine on mission to ban Russia from Olympics, IOC says sanctions stand

Ukraine on mission to ban Russia from Olympics, IOC says sanctions stand
  • Kyiv wants ban on Russian and Belarusian athletes
  • IOC has opened door to them competing in qualifiers

KYIV: Ukraine hopes to secure widespread international support for banning Russian and Belarusian athletes from the Paris Olympics in 2024 due to Moscow’s invasion, the sports minister said on Tuesday.

Vadym Huttsait, 51, a former Olympic fencing champion, told Reuters the idea of allowing Russian and Belarusian athletes to compete as neutrals was unacceptable.

“It is impossible for us at a time when the full-scale war is going on, when our athletes, our soldiers are defending our homeland,” he said in his Kyiv office, beside a wall with portraits of athletes killed in the war.

Last week the International Olympic Committee said it was open to including Russian and Belarusian athletes as neutrals at the Games and opened a door to them competing in qualifiers, prompting an international campaign by Kyiv to keep them out.

Moscow said on Tuesday it would welcome any IOC moves to allow its athletes to compete in the Olympics. But hours later the IOC said it was standing by sanctions imposed against the countries over Russia’s invasion.

President Volodymyr Zelensky said in a video address on Tuesday that “Russian politization of sport would invariably mean justification of terror.”

At least 220 Ukrainian athletes and coaches have died in the war, said Huttsait, who won an Olympic fencing team gold in 1992 for the so-called Unified Team, which comprised 12 of the 15 former Soviet republics. He also coached Ukraine’s winning team at the 2008 Games.

“Ukraine will unite with many countries ... and it (Russians competing) will not be allowed,” he added, saying 40 nations had given Ukrainian athletes housing and training assistance abroad during the war.

There has been little public support yet from other nations for an outright ban on Russians at Paris.

The IOC’s initial recommendation to ban Russians and Belarusians has been applied by many sports federations.

But last week, it backed a proposal by the Olympic Council of Asia to allow them to compete in Asia, which could potentially include Olympic qualifying events.

Should that happen, Ukraine’s sporting authorities and athletes will face a “very difficult decision” whether to boycott Paris, Huttsait said.

“When we lose so many people, so many athletes, the lives of Ukrainians are more important to us than any medal at international competitions,” he said.

Ukrainian officials have turned on the IOC in recent days for promoting “violence, mass murders, destruction” with the idea of giving Russia a “platform to promote genocide.”

The IOC has called that defamatory and said such words do not promote constructive discussion.

Zelensky said “only the free world acting together can protect sport from those sports bureaucrats who for some reason are ready to close their eyes to reality.”

On Tuesday, former boxing champion Wladimir Klitschko called on IOC head Thomas Bach not to betray the Olympic spirit and become an “accomplice in this abominable war.”

Moscow is trying to turn the page on years of doping scandals after its teams were forced to compete without their flag or anthem at the Olympics and major international events.


Warriors stop 11-game road skid, beat Rockets 121-108

Warriors stop 11-game road skid, beat Rockets 121-108
Updated 21 March 2023

Warriors stop 11-game road skid, beat Rockets 121-108

Warriors stop 11-game road skid, beat Rockets 121-108
  • Zach LaVine scored 26 points, DeMar DeRozan had 25 and Chicago defeated Joel Embiid and the Philadelphia 76ers in double overtime

HOUSTON: Stephen Curry scored 30 points and Klay Thompson added 29 as the Golden State Warriors snapped an 11-game road skid with a 121-108 win over the Houston Rockets on Monday night.

The game was close most of the way before the Warriors used a 12-2 spurt early in the fourth quarter to pull away and hold on for their first win away from home since Jan. 30 at Oklahoma City.

The Warriors, who entered the game seventh in the Western Conference, have been great at home this season (29-7) but have struggled on the road, where Monday’s win improved them to just 8-29.

The Western Conference-worst Rockets got 21 points and 12 rebounds from Tari Eason.

TIMBERWOLVES 140 KNICKS 134

In New York, Julius Randle scored 57 points to tie the third-highest total in Knicks history, but Minnesota rode a sizzling start and a steady finish to beat New York.

Taurean Prince scored a season-high 35 points and went 8 for 8 from 3-point range for the Timberwolves, while Mike Conley added 24 points and 11 assists. His three free throws gave Minnesota the lead for good with 2:17 remaining.

The Timberwolves made more than 70 percent of their shots in the first half and led by 17 before Randle carried the Knicks back with a franchise-record 26 points in the third quarter.

He finished tied with Richie Guerin behind the only two 60-point games in Knicks history, Carmelo Anthony’s 62 on Jan. 24, 2014, and Bernard King’s 60 on Christmas Day in 1984. But the Knicks had their three-game winning streak snapped.

BULLS 109 76ERS 105, 2 OT

In Philadelphia, Zach LaVine scored 26 points, DeMar DeRozan had 25 and Chicago defeated Joel Embiid and the Philadelphia 76ers in double overtime to snap their eight-game winning streak.

Nikola Vucevic added 21 points and 12 rebounds for the Bulls, who have won three games in a row and five of six. Chicago are fighting for the final playoff spot in the East.

Embiid had 37 points, 16 rebounds and three blocks before fouling out with 3:54 left in the second overtime. It was the 10th straight game in which he has scored at least 30 points.

Philadelphia could’ve clinched a playoff spot with a victory, but the 76ers struggled once Embiid left the court after a foul on LaVine.

GRIZZLIES 112 MAVERICKS 108

In Memphis, Tennessee, Jaren Jackson Jr. scored 28 points, including a key layup with 17 seconds left as Memphis defeated Dallas in Ja Morant’s first game back with the team after an eight-game NBA suspension.

Santi Aldama added 22 for the Grizzlies and Desmond Bane finished with 17 as Memphis won for the sixth time in seven games.

Kyrie Irving led the Mavericks with 28 points, but missed all eight of his shots in the fourth quarter as Memphis outscored Dallas 29-12 in the period.

Morant did not dress for the game but was on the Memphis bench, coming out to a hearty ovation from fans just before tipoff. The NBA assessed the suspension after a video from a Denver-area strip club earlier this month showed Morant brandishing a gun.

Meanwhile, the Mavericks were again without leading-scorer Luka Doncic, who missed his fifth game with left thigh soreness.

JAZZ 128 KINGS 120

In Salt Lake City, Ochai Agbaji scored a career-high 27 points, including six 3-pointers, to lead Utah over Sacramento.

Kelly Olynyk had 19 points, 10 rebounds and eight assists for the Jazz. Kris Dunn added 18 points and 10 assists. Udoka Azubuike chipped in with a career-high 13 points and a season-best eight rebounds.

Eight players scored in double figures for the Jazz, who shot 52 percent from the field.

De’Aaron Fox had 37 points and seven assists to lead the Kings. Keegan Murray added 22 points.

HORNETS 115 PACERS 109

In Charlotte, N.C., Kelly Oubre Jr. scored 28 points and Charlotte erased a 21-point first-half deficit to beat Indiana and stop a six-game home losing streak.

Terry Rozier added 23 points and Gordon Hayward had 22 for the Hornets, who outscored the Pacers 19-4 over the final six minutes to deal their postseason hopes a significant blow.

Nick Richards was strong in the second half for Charlotte, finishing with 14 points and 17 rebounds.

Myles Turner and Buddy Hield each had 20 points for the Pacers, who entered the night 1 1/2 games behind Chicago for 10th place in the Eastern Conference standings.

The Hornets trailed 105-96 with 6:23 left but a 13-0 run put them in control as the Pacers went scoreless for more than five minutes.


Precociously talented Foden grateful to be part of Manchester City’s domination

Precociously talented Foden grateful to be part of Manchester City’s domination
Updated 21 March 2023

Precociously talented Foden grateful to be part of Manchester City’s domination

Precociously talented Foden grateful to be part of Manchester City’s domination
  • The 22-year-old England international already has four Premier League titles, an FA Cup medal, four League Cup medals and back-to-back Young Player of the Year awards to his name

“Sky is the limit” reads the tattoo that stretches from Phil Foden’s left ear down to the bottom of his neck. He had it done just over a year ago, after scoring a crucial late winner for Manchester City against Everton in the Premier League.

The words reflect the mindset of the precociously talented player, whose lofty ambitions are far from sated. Since making his first-team debut at the age of 17 in 2017, as a substitute in a 1-0 Champions League victory over Feyenoord, Foden has reveled in the spotlight.

Now 22, he already has a packed trophy cabinet that includes four Premier League titles, one FA Cup and four League Cup winners’ medals and back-to-back Professional Footballers’ Association Young Player of the Year awards.

“All the time I think about what has happened, what I’ve achieved, I’m just grateful to be where I am now,” Stockport-born Foden told Arab News during an exclusive interview. “I always look at that and it’s crazy because it’s gone so quick.”

Foden says he has enjoyed every moment of his career so far and just wants to keep on enjoying it as much as possible.

“I came from a rough area and not many people make it from my area,” he said. “So to come out of that and see what I’ve done, I’m obviously proud of that.”

But he wants more. And in his pursuit of that, he demands more of himself.

“It’s so special to be part of this City team,” said Foden, who has been with the club since he was nine years old. He was even a ball boy.

“Hopefully, in years to come, I can talk about my experience to my young kids and tell them how it was. Hopefully I can be remembered as a legend here when I finish, hopefully get a statue … I want that, definitely,” he adds with a beaming smile.

“For now, I’m just enjoying every moment.”

There are three statues at the Etihad Stadium already, honoring former captain Vincent Kompany, club-record goalscorer Sergio Aguero, and Foden’s idol, David Silva, the Spanish attacking midfielder they called “Merlin.”

It is now Foden who provides the magic, a role he accepts with relish while displaying a growing maturity and willingness to take on greater responsibility in a team packed with world-class players.

He is the boy who dared to dream and achieved his goal of playing for his beloved club, where the supporters now laud him as “one of our own.”

Feted for performances for club and country that are reminiscent of former Newcastle, Tottenham Hotspur and England hero Paul Gascoigne, with the ability to excite and excel in attack, there is a lot of pressure resting on Foden’s young shoulders.

“I think there are expectations, definitely, because I’ve set my standards so high in the last few seasons,” he said.

“People expect me to be the game-changer now and I don’t mind that … you know,” Foden said. “I want to be that person who scores and decides a game. I thrive on it; it makes me better and I like the pressure. It’s definitely hard to keep level-headed but I felt I’ve dealt with that pretty well over the time.

“I’ve always tried to put the hard work in training as much as I possibly can to get the rewards. That’s the mentality I have and will just keep trying to do that.”

Foden has returned to fitness and form following the World Cup in Qatar, during which England were beaten in the quarter-finals by France. Manager Gareth Southgate’s squad this week begin another quest for a first major trophy since the 1966 World Cup, with Euro 2024 qualifiers against Italy and Ukraine on Thursday and Sunday.

Passionate about the game, Foden hopes to display his top qualities for both club and country in the remaining three months of the season.

“It’s stressful not playing, of course — the manager knows that, with all the players that we have got who just love playing football,” he said. “We are all, just in the changing room at City, two-touch or whatever we are doing, (we) just love to play football.

“Like Bernardo Silva, for example, in the game against Newcastle (on March 4). He didn’t start but when he came on, he made the difference with the second goal. I feel that’s the group we are building now. We all have each other’s back and work for each other.”

With their lives under ever-greater scrutiny, trying to remain level-headed can be hard for young footballers in the modern era.

Foden, however, is already the father of two young children and said: “I think it’s helped me, yes, being a dad, (it has) kept me focused on football.

“It’s always nice, if things don’t go right on the football pitch, you can go home, see your kids and everything gets back to normal. So it’s definitely kept me grounded.”

At the same time, his family also provide a great inspiration for him to continue to strive to reach ever-greater heights, he said.

City are sitting second in the Premier League, eight points behind Arsenal, and thrashed Burnley 6-0 on Saturday to book their spot in the FA Cup semi-finals, in which they will face Championship side Sheffield United at Wembley on April 22.

The Champions League is the one trophy that has eluded Foden, and City, so far, with a 1-0 defeat by Chelsea in the 2021 final the closest they have come. That loss was painful, as was a foot injury later that summer that ruled Foden out of the delayed Euro 2020 final in which England lost to Italy on penalties. There were some tears, he admitted.

“I don’t like to show it but, definitely, behind the scenes there are emotional times,” he said.

Having been drawn against Bayern Munich in the quarter-finals of this season’s Champions League, and with the prospect of facing holders Real Madrid or Chelsea in the last four, City have another tough task ahead of them this season if they are to claim the biggest prize in European club football.

Foden, whose game has evolved under Pep Guardiola, with roles across the forward line, said: “I hope it’s this year. Definitely, the Champions League is the one we are all looking at now.

“We want to take a step further. We have been in a final and obviously it was heartbreaking to lose. Hopefully, if we can get there again we can use the defeat in the final, and the experience of winning the Premier League and other cups, to help us through it.”

Whatever happens, Foden said it “feels special” to be part of City’s trophy hunt.

“I’m still such a young player and the more big games you play the better you learn to deal with them,” he said.

“I think I’m becoming more mature as a player, and in the game I feel I can play a lot more different positions. I think I could before but now I understand them a bit more.”

As he learns to combine greater knowledge with his evolving natural ability, the sky truly is the limit for what Foden might yet achieve.


Paris aims to keep Olympians cool without air conditioners

Paris aims to keep Olympians cool without air conditioners
Updated 21 March 2023

Paris aims to keep Olympians cool without air conditioners

Paris aims to keep Olympians cool without air conditioners
  • In anticipation of hot weather, organizers have been studying heatwaves block by block in the Athletes Village
  • Eliud Kipchoge, a two-time Olympic champion and marathon world record holder, endorsed the Paris sustainability plan

PARIS: The Paris Olympics is going underground to find a way to keep athletes cool at the 2024 Games without air conditioners.

Organizers are planning to use a water-cooling system under the Athletes Village — much like the one that has helped the Louvre Museum cope with the sweltering heat that broke records last year — to keep temperatures in check for the Olympians and Paralympians who stay there.

The decision is part of the organizing committee’s goal to cut the carbon footprint of the Paris Games by half and stage the most sustainable Olympics to date by installing a special technology to use natural sources to keep everyone cool even during a potential heat wave.

“I want the Paris Games to be exemplary from an environmental point of view,” said Paris Mayor Anne Hidalgo, who has resolved to tackle climate change with an ambitious action plan that aims to drastically reduce greenhouse gas emissions and make the City of Lights carbon neutral by 2050.

Compared to a conventional project, the carbon impact will be reduced by 45 percent for the Athletes Village during the construction phase and over the entire Olympic cycle, she said.

For two months between July and September 2024, the Athletes Village north of Paris will host 15,600 athletes and sports officials during the Olympics and 9,000 athletes and their supporting teams during the Paralympics. After the games, the 50-hectare (125-acre) site next to the River Seine in the popular district of Seine-Saint-Denis will become a zero-carbon, eco-friendly residential and commercial neighborhood with 6,000 new inhabitants — the first ones moving in as soon as 2025.

In anticipation of hot weather, organizers have been studying heatwaves block by block in the Athletes Village. They have simulated conditions in the parts of the accommodation most exposed to the sun and have tested the effectiveness of the cooling system with an objective to keep the indoor temperature between 23 and 26 degrees Celsius (73 and 79 degrees Fahrenheit).

The geothermal energy system will ensure that the temperature in the athlete apartments in the Seine-Saint-Denis suburb does not rise above 26 degrees Celsius (79 degrees Fahrenheit) at night, including during a potential a heat wave, said Laurent Michaud, the director of the Olympic and Paralympic Villages.

He said organizers have conducted tests in rooms that are located on the highest floors of the residences and are facing south and exposed to direct sun on two sides. They also considered directions of winds in the region and the water temperature in the Seine. They have worked closely with France’s national weather agency to develop temperature forecasts.

“Despite outdoor temperatures reaching 41 degrees Celsius (106 degrees Fahrenheit), we had temperatures at 28 degrees (82 degrees Fahrenheit) in most of these rooms,” Michaud told The Associated Press, detailing the results of a heatwave simulation. “In other rooms, we clearly had lower temperatures.”

In addition to the underfloor cooling, the insulation built into the buildings will enable residents to keep the cold obtained during the night throughout the day, Michaud said. To keep the coolness inside, the athletes will have to follow some basic rules, he added, including making sure the window blinds are shut during the day.

Laurent Monnet, who is in charge of the green transition at Saint-Denis City Hall, Paris’ northern suburb where the main Olympic Village will be located, said all rooms should be 6 degrees Celsius (11 degrees Fahrenheit) cooler than the outside temperature, without an AC unit. Although some Olympic hopefuls have already expressed concern about the lack of air conditioning, Monnet said athletes should adapt and help contribute to fight against climate change.

“We need athletes to set an example when they use the buildings,” Monnet said. “We can build the most virtuous village we want, it is also the use that will be made of it that will weigh on our carbon footprint.”

Eliud Kipchoge, a two-time Olympic champion and marathon world record holder, endorsed the Paris sustainability plan. The Kenyan is one the sport’s most vocal proponents of environmental justice and has repeatedly sounded the alarm on climate change and the impact of global warming.

“It’s a good thought, because we all need to reduce our carbon,” Kipchoge said in an interview with the AP.

He called on fellow athletes to help combat climate change by reducing their carbon impact during competition, training and their lives in general because “we are all going to go through the same scenario.”

Paris organizers have been in touch with national Olympic committees and said they will have the option of setting up their own AC units in specific cases and on condition that the devices comply with the organizing committee’s technical criteria.

Most national Olympic officials have responded to the plans to keep their athletes cool during the Paris Games with a wait-and-see attitude. Some Olympic officials are not excluding bringing their own air conditioners to France — or paying for one on the spot — depending on the weather at the time.

The Australian Olympic Committee said it will keep an eye on the weather patterns in Paris over the coming year to ensure “the optimal high-performance environment for our athletes, including heat and humidity mitigation that may be required.”

Michaud, the director of the Olympic Village, said organizers want to be kind to the environment, but not endanger the health of athletes. Some athletes, especially in Paralympic events, have difficulty regulating their body’s core temperature and if they reside in rooms in which it proves impossible to keep at 26 degrees Celsius (79 degrees Fahrenheit) at night, national delegations will be able to install a portable AC system.

“It will be on a case-by-case basis, and for health and safety of the athletes,” Michaud said, adding that ventilators vaporizing water droplets could be installed instead of traditional air conditioning units.

Hidalgo, the Paris mayor, is adamantly against turning next year’s event into the bring-your-own-air-conditioning Olympics — health exceptions aside.

“I can assure you that we will not change course and that there will be no changes to the construction program of the village regarding air conditioning,” Hidalgo said.

Regarding the option of organizers providing national teams with an additional cooling mechanism, she said: “I am not in favor of it. We must be consistent with our objectives.”


Germany hopes to repair reputation before hosting Euro 2024

Germany hopes to repair reputation before hosting Euro 2024
Updated 21 March 2023

Germany hopes to repair reputation before hosting Euro 2024

Germany hopes to repair reputation before hosting Euro 2024
  • The campaign starts this week with friendly games against Peru in Mainz on Saturday, then Belgium in Cologne three days later

BERLIN: With the European Championship looming next year, host Germany hopes this week to start repairing the tattered reputation of its men’s national soccer team.

Two World Cup flops and a poor showing in between have taken their toll on what was a proud heritage for Germany. The four-time World Cup winner no longer strikes fear among opponents.

The German Soccer Federation wants to change that before the country hosts Euro 2024. It’s an opportunity to restore lost pride, albeit with the potential for more embarrassment.

The campaign starts this week with friendly games against Peru in Mainz on Saturday, then Belgium in Cologne three days later.

The federation has given coach Hansi Flick another chance to lead the team after its first-round exit at the 2022 World Cup. It also brought in former Germany striker and coach Rudi Voller as sporting director to oversee what it hopes will be a successful shakeup.

Another one.

Former coach Joachim Low attempted a shakeup after Germany’s first-round exit at the 2018 World Cup, then ditched it after a 6-0 drubbing by Spain when he recalled veterans Thomas Muller and Mats Hummels for the coronavirus-delayed Euro 2020 tournament. It only got his team as far as the second round, where England ended Low’s 15-year stint in charge.

Flick is banking on more success with the latest focus on youth, building his squad on a foundation of talented but untested under-21 players. Flick has called up six debutants for the games against Peru and Belgium, while leaving out established regulars like Muller, Leroy Sane, Ilkay Gundogan, Antonio Rüdiger and Marco Reus among others.

“We’ve taken this path to see which players have the potential to be at the European Championship next year,” Flick said.

Bayer Leverkusen’s 19-year-old attacking midfielder Florian Wirtz is the German team’s new star, particularly with Bayern Munich’s 20-year-old Jamal Musiala ruled out of the upcoming games through injury. Both were already established players for the senior team, though Wirtz missed the World Cup last November with a knee injury.

Perhaps to underline Germany’s new faith in its youth setup, under-21 coach Antonio Di Salvo appeared alongside Flick and Voller at Monday’s press conference.

Di Salvo is preparing his team for the Under-21 European Championship in Georgia and Romania this summer, but said he was happy to see players like AC Milan defender Malick Thiaw get their chance with Flick’s senior team.

“It’s an honor for the players. It’s also an honor for all the coaches involved along the way from the club to the under-21 team,” Di Salvo said.

Voller also stressed the importance of Germany’s underage sides.

“I myself am a child of the under-21 team,” said Völler, whose goals helped West Germany win the World Cup in 1990.

The now 62-year-old Voller said Germany’s success at the 1982 Under-21 European Championship, where his team reached the final, laid the foundation for the 1990 World Cup win. He also referred to 2009 European champions Manuel Neuer, Sami Khedira, Benedikt Höwedes, Mesut Özil and others helping Germany win the World Cup in 2014.

“That’s the basis for us,” said Voller, who said all the players in Flick and Di Salvo’s teams had the chance to play for Germany at Euro 2024.

“It’s fortunate we have this wonderful European Championship here next year. It’s important for every player and it shows the young players, especially those who are there, how lovely it is to have such a big tournament in your own country,” Völler said. “Every tournament is hugely important and it brings you forward. But to have a tournament in your own country is something special.”


US trounce Cuba 14-2 to reach World Baseball Classic final

US trounce Cuba 14-2 to reach World Baseball Classic final
Updated 20 March 2023

US trounce Cuba 14-2 to reach World Baseball Classic final

US trounce Cuba 14-2 to reach World Baseball Classic final
  • The US play Japan or Mexico in Tuesday night’s championship, trying to join the Samurai Warriors as the only nations to win the title twice

MIAMI: Trea Turner, Paul Goldschmidt and an unrelenting US lineup kept putting crooked numbers on the scoreboard, a dynamic display of the huge gap between an American team of major leaguers and Cubans struggling on the world stage as top players have left the island nation.

Turner homered twice to give him a tournament-leading four, driving in four runs to lead the US to a 14-2 rout Sunday night and advance the defending champion Americans to the World Baseball Classic final.

Goldschmidt also homered and had four RBIs and Cedric Mullins went deep in a game interrupted three times by fans running on the field to display protest signs.

“The team kind of represents the government over there, and people aren’t too happy about it,” US manager Mark DeRosa said.

The US play Japan or Mexico in Tuesday night’s championship, trying to join the Samurai Warriors as the only nations to win the title twice.

“I think it took us a little bit of time, but now we kind of found our stride a little bit,” Turner said.

Turner has a tournament-leading 10 RBIs. He followed his go-ahead, eighth-inning grand slam a night earlier against Venezuela with a solo homer in the second inning off Roenis Elias (0-1) and a three-run drive in the sixth against Elian Leyva.

“I kept saying every time he went deep, who is the idiot that’s hitting him ninth?” DeRosa said.

Cuba went ahead when their first four batters reached off Adam Wainwright (2-0) without getting a ball out of the infield. After forcing in a run with a walk to Alfredo Despaigne, the 41-year-old right-hander recovered to strand the bases loaded.

“I put myself in that situation in the first place by making horrible PFP plays — or not making PFP plays,” Wainwright said in a reference to pitchers’ fielding practice and two grounders he failed to come up with.

American batters had 14 hits, including eight for extra bases, and seven walks as they scored in seven of eight innings — five with multiple runs.