IOC chief Thomas Bach says key to Russian decision for Paris Olympics is athletes’ respectful conduct

IOC chief Thomas Bach says key to Russian decision for Paris Olympics is athletes’ respectful conduct
German International Olympic Committee (IOC) President Thomas Bach said on Tuesday the key factor in weighing the IOC’s ultimate decision on letting Russians participate at the 2024 Paris Games is how well athletes behave in international competitions. (File/AFP)
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Updated 19 July 2023
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IOC chief Thomas Bach says key to Russian decision for Paris Olympics is athletes’ respectful conduct

IOC chief Thomas Bach says key to Russian decision for Paris Olympics is athletes’ respectful conduct
  • Bach: It’s too soon to draw final conclusions. We have the responsibility not to punish athletes for the acts of their government
  • Bach clarified the IOC’s interest is mainly in ensuring athletes behave well in competitions, not how the war progresses

GENEVA: The key factor in weighing the IOC’s ultimate decision on letting Russians participate at the 2024 Paris Games is how well athletes behave in international competitions, the Olympic body’s president Thomas Bach said Tuesday.

“It’s too soon to draw final conclusions,” Bach said, adding “we have the responsibility not to punish athletes for the acts of their government.”

The International Olympic Committee has pushed sports governing bodies this year to approve some athletes from Russia and its military ally Belarus competing as neutrals for international competitions including Paris qualifying events.

Bach has previously said the IOC can take its own final decision “at the appropriate time, at its full discretion” which could include barring Russians and Belarusians as their countries’ war on Ukraine continues.

On Tuesday, Bach clarified the IOC’s interest is mainly in ensuring athletes behave well in competitions, not how the war progresses.

“Right now it is more to monitor the situation on the field of play, whether the rules are respected, the conditions are respected, by everybody,” Bach told reporters in an online briefing ahead of next week’s one-year countdown to the Paris opening ceremony.

Soccer and track and field have taken the toughest positions against Russia, excluding teams and athletes within days of the invasion of Ukraine starting in February 2022. Russia was removed from trying to qualify for the men’s and women’s World Cup in soccer.

The IOC shared that view when war started days after the closing ceremony of the Beijing Winter Games, citing Russia’s breach of the traditional Olympic Truce pledge agreed at the United Nations and security concerns for athletes.

Tennis and cycling continued to let Russians and Belarusians compete as neutrals — but not in team events — without their national identity, and the IOC and Bach have pointed to their success.

Ukrainian tennis players, including Wimbledon semifinalist Elina Svitolina, have refused to shake hands with opponents from Russia and Belarus leading to crowds at Roland Garros and Wimbledon booing what they saw — not seemingly always accurately –- as a breach of protocol.

“We can see that this is working pretty well,” Bach said Tuesday. “They are respectful and they make it clear they went to compete against the best athletes of the world.”

Governing bodies of individual Olympic sports have the final say which athletes compete and their umbrella group, known as ASOIF, said in May that finding a common position has been difficult in trying to define neutrality and what exactly is a team sport.

The Court of Arbitration for Sport was involved in helping to define neutrality, which the IOC has advised should include no active support for the war and no contacts since February 2022 with military or state security agencies.

In Ukraine, President Volodymyr Zelensky and past Olympic champions have urged the IOC to exclude Russia entirely. Zelensky invited Bach in January to visit the destroyed city Bakhmut “to see with his own eyes that neutrality does not exist.”

Another Olympic Truce text — the ancient tradition in Greece that paused wars and ensured safe passage to the games — is being prepared ahead of Paris. It should apply for several days ahead of the July 26-Aug. 11 Summer Games and for a few days beyond the Aug. 28-Sept. 8 Paralympic Games.

Bach said the host French government “is initiating this Truce resolution. We are waiting for this to happen and then are looking forward to having a result on which again all member states of the United Nations can agree.”

Russia has also faced investigations and calls to be excluded from each of the past four Olympics since 2016 because of scandals tied to a state-backed doping program that tainted the 2014 Sochi Winter Games. Russia eventually sent teams to each Olympics though under a neutral identity starting in 2018.


Saudi Arabia beat Thailand to edge closer to AFC U-23 Asian Cup quarterfinals

Saudi Arabia beat Thailand to edge closer to AFC U-23 Asian Cup quarterfinals
Updated 20 April 2024
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Saudi Arabia beat Thailand to edge closer to AFC U-23 Asian Cup quarterfinals

Saudi Arabia beat Thailand to edge closer to AFC U-23 Asian Cup quarterfinals
  • The 5-0 win leaves the Green Falcons top of Group C of the tournament, which acts as qualification for this summer’s Olympic Games in Paris

DOHA: Saudi Arabia on Friday night thrashed Thailand 5-0 to edge closer to the quarterfinals of the 2024 AFC U-23 Asian Cup.

The win at Khalifa International Stadium leaves the Green falcons top of Group C with a maximum of six points from three two matches.

Iraq, who defeated Tajikistan 4-2 later on Friday, sit in second with three points, with Thailand third on goal difference. Tajikistan, with two defeats, are bottom of the group with no points.

A win or draw for Saudi Arabia against Iraq on Monday will secure top spot in the group and progress to the last eight.

Saudi took the lead against Thailand after four minutes through Ayman Yahoo’s third goal of the tournament, before Ahmed Al-Ghamdi and Abdullah Radif scored in first-half stoppage time to all but end the match as content.

Radif went on to complete his hat trick with strikes in the 52nd and 73rd minutes.

The U-23 Asian Cup, which runs until May 3, also provides a pathway to the men’s football competition at the 2024 Olympic Games in Paris.

The tournament sees 16 nations split into four groups of four teams, with the top two from each progressing to the quarterfinals. The competition also serves as a route to the Olympic Games in Paris this summer, with the winners of the two semifinals both securing automatic qualification.

The two losing semifinalists will contest third place, with the winners also booking a place in Paris, while the fourth-place finishers have a final chance with a play-off against an African qualifier.


Loughnane tops 2024 PFL featherweight stands after first-round win in Chicago

Loughnane tops 2024 PFL featherweight stands after first-round win in Chicago
Updated 20 April 2024
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Loughnane tops 2024 PFL featherweight stands after first-round win in Chicago

Loughnane tops 2024 PFL featherweight stands after first-round win in Chicago
  • Umalatov, Musaev, Braga, Yamauchi, Khizriev, Borics, Kamaka, Ramazanov, Madge also earn 2024 PFL Global Season victories

CHICAGO: The Professional Fighters League on Friday returned for its third Global Season event of 2024 at Wintrust Arena in Chicago, with Brendan Loughnane emerging the big winner of the night to top the featherweight standings.

The 12-fight card, featuring combatants in the welterweight and featherweight divisions, was the final event of the first half of the 2024 PFL Global Season.

Loughnane, the “Pride of Manchester,” stepped into the PFL SmartCage on a mission. The 2022 PFL featherweight champion secured a first-round TKO victory over Pedro Carvalho. The victory gives Loughnane six points in the featherweight standings and the 15th knockout of his career, and he is now one step closer to a return to the PFL Playoffs.

The evening’s main event featured a strategic battle between Andrey Koreshkov and Magomed Umalatov in a highly anticipated welterweight bout. Both combatants showed their technical prowess, with Umalatov pulling away and securing a unanimous decision, keeping his perfect record intact.

Logan Storley matched up with Shamil Musaev in more welterweight action. Musaev put on an impressive display and dispatched Storley in the second round via KO. The result improved Musaev’s record to 17-0-1 with 10 wins by KO, and earned five points in the division.

2023 PFL featherweight runner-up Gabrial Braga unleashed a flurry of strikes against Justin Gonzalez, resulting in an emotional first-round knockout and a gain of six points. Braga dedicated the victory to his father, Diego, whom he lost in January.

“Tonight was a fitting end to the first half of the 2024 PFL Global Season, the toughest test in MMA, with the best welterweights and featherweights providing unrivaled action to fans worldwide,” said PFL CEO Peter Murray. “As we head into the second half of the 2024 PFL Global Season, fighters and fans alike know what it will take to clinch a PFL Playoff berth and continue the million-dollar journey. It is time to win or go home.”

“The PFL athletes provided another spectacular night of fights as we wrap up the first half of the 2024 PFL Global Season,” said Ray Sefo, president of fighter operations at PFL. “The PFL’s season format provides the best action and highest stakes in all MMA.”

Goiti Yamauchi and Neiman Gracie went toe-to-toe for three rounds in other welterweight action. Yamauchi won a hard-fought unanimous decision, improving his career record to 29-6 and earning three points in the standings.

Kai Kamaka and Bubba Jenkins showcased skill and determination in the featherweight division. Kamaka topped Jenkins via a unanimous-decision victory and earned three points, bringing his winning streak to four.

Adam Borics and Enrique Barzola duked it out in featherweight division action with the bout going the three-round distance. The judges awarded Borics the unanimous decision and three points in the PFL Global Season standings.

In other PFL Global Season featherweight action, Timur Khizriev and Brett Johns stepped into the PFL SmartCage. Both men traded blows for three rounds, but it was Khizriev who earned the unanimous decision and three points in the division.

Welterweight action continued with Laureano Staropoli facing Murad Ramazanov. After a brief back-and-forth exchange, Ramazanov submitted Staropoli with a rear naked choke in the first round and was awarded six points.

The first PFL Global Season welterweight bout featured Don Madge and Brennan Ward. Madge used his exceptional wrestling technique to secure the win by submitting Ward in the first round and earned six points.

In a PFL featherweight alternate bout, Tyler Diamond collided with Otto Rodrigues. Both men left it all in the PFL SmartCage, but ultimately Diamond came away victorious via a unanimous decision.

Starting the night was a PFL welterweight showcase bout between Romain Debienne and Thad Jean. Jean ended the fight quickly, knocking out Debienne at 2:07 in the first round.


Indian walks from Dubai to Riyadh hoping to meet hero Ronaldo

Indian walks from Dubai to Riyadh hoping to meet hero Ronaldo
Updated 20 April 2024
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Indian walks from Dubai to Riyadh hoping to meet hero Ronaldo

Indian walks from Dubai to Riyadh hoping to meet hero Ronaldo
  • “I pray to God to make this dream come true and meet Ronaldo”

JEDDAH: A Cristiano Ronaldo superfan has arrived in Riyadh after a grueling walk from Dubai hoping to meet the Al-Nassr star.

After 1,200 km and 36 days of travel mostly across the arid landscape separating the cities, Civin KP arrived in the Saudi capital.

“Finally, I am here in front of Al-Awal Park where Al-Nassr plays (their) official games and I hope I can meet Ronaldo,” he said.

He posted images of himself on Instagram at the stadium where he managed to take a seat at the home team’s bench and walked pitch-side at the 25,000-capacity venue.

“I came all the way from Dubai on foot and crossed all this distance just to pay respect and show my love to the best player in the world,” said Civin, who is originally from the state of Kerala in India.

Ronaldo is one of the most recognizable faces of international football and has fans across the world who enjoy his skills and passion for the game. He signed for the Riyadh club in 2022 after years of playing in Europe’s top leagues.

Civin feels proud to have completed the journey but still awaits the biggest prize.

“The unexpected moment is always sweeter,” he wrote, “hopefully waiting for more.”

A photo with the Portuguese great and an autograph would be a moment of a lifetime, Civin told MBC as he visited the ground.

“I pray to God to make this dream come true and meet Ronaldo,” he said. “I will cherish this moment, if it happens, for the rest of my life.”

On Friday, Civin was able to secure a ticket to watch Al-Nassr beat Al-Fayha 3-1, but unfortunately his hero did not feature as he is serving a suspension.


KL Rahul shines as Lucknow Super Giants beat Chennai Super Kings in IPL

KL Rahul shines as Lucknow Super Giants beat Chennai Super Kings in IPL
Updated 20 April 2024
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KL Rahul shines as Lucknow Super Giants beat Chennai Super Kings in IPL

KL Rahul shines as Lucknow Super Giants beat Chennai Super Kings in IPL
  • Innings played key role in pushing Lucknow past Chennai’s 176-6 with six balls to spare.

LUCKNOW: KL Rahul’s solid 82 runs off 53 balls helped Lucknow Super Giants comfortably beat Chennai Super Kings by eight wickets in the IPL on Friday.
Rahul’s time at the crease, which saw him smash nine fours and three sixes, played a key role in pushing Lucknow past Chennai’s 176-6 with six balls to spare.
“I felt that if we bat well, we could chase it down... when your partnership goes on, you can take a few more chances. Glad that it happened,” said Rahul.
Chennai got off to a slightly jittery start after being invited to bat first, losing Rachin Ravindra (zero) and skipper Ruturaj Gaikwad (17) in the first five overs. Ajinkya Rahane looked to steady the side, with the help of Ravindra Jadeja, but fell in the ninth over after racking up a respectable 36 runs off 24 balls.
Lucknow’s clinical bowling restricted Chennai in the middle overs, with Shivam Dube (three) not being able to pop off.
But Jadeja soldiered on for the rest of the game, getting his half-century in the seventeenth over.
Reliable warhorse M.S. Dhoni, who smacked 28 runs off 9 balls, helped Chennai turn up the heat in the last three overs and pushed the team to 176-6.
Lucknow openers Quinton de Kock and KL Rahul set up the chase with a superb 134-run partnership, before de Kock, who hit five fours in his 43-ball 54, fell in the fifteenth over.
Rahul went onto smash an incredible 82 runs off 53 balls before being dismissed in the eighteenth over. A final push by Nicholas Pooran (23) helped seal the victory for Lucknow.
“We lost wickets regularly and were 10-15 short,” said Gaikwad.
“Good to play them again soon, will come back with homework done.”


Saudi Arabia’s PIF signs sponsorship deal with Mutua Madrid Open tennis tournament

Saudi Arabia’s PIF signs sponsorship deal with Mutua Madrid Open tennis tournament
Updated 19 April 2024
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Saudi Arabia’s PIF signs sponsorship deal with Mutua Madrid Open tennis tournament

Saudi Arabia’s PIF signs sponsorship deal with Mutua Madrid Open tennis tournament
  • Agreement is latest in wider partnership with the ATP

LONDON: Saudi Arabia’s Public Investment Fund announced on Friday it had agreed a multi-year deal to sponsor the Mutua Madrid Open tennis tournament.

The deal is the latest in PIF’s wider tennis partnership with the Association of Tennis Professionals as a Platinum Partner and as the official naming partner of the PIF ATP Rankings.

The fund said the agreement marked its continued investment in growing tennis globally, along with a wider focus on its four sponsorship pillars: inclusivity, sustainability, youth, and technology.

As part of the partnership, PIF will develop a platform to allow tennis fans new and old to engage and train with legendary players and coaches on the ground in Madrid, and youth-focused fan zones.

A statement said: “PIF is committed to providing opportunities for young players across all levels of the game, inspiring participation, enhancing talent discovery and developing new pathways for future generations of tennis players around the world.

“As part of this priority, PIF is engaging local tennis academies in Spain and supporting future players through the PIF tennis bootcamp.”

PIF has also partnered with ATP Masters 1000 events in Indian Wells, Miami and the Nitto ATP Finals, in addition to the Beijing ATP 500 event, and the Next Gen ATP Finals presented by PIF, to be hosted in Jeddah until 2027.