Asian Games set to go in China with more athletes than Olympics but same political intrigue

Asian Games set to go in China with more athletes than Olympics but same political intrigue
Jiaxing Ye (L), a traditional Chinese ceramist, and writer Mai Jia exchange the flame during the Asian Games torch relay in Hangzhou, China, on September 8, 2023. (Photo courtesy: AFP)
Short Url
Updated 08 September 2023
Follow

Asian Games set to go in China with more athletes than Olympics but same political intrigue

Asian Games set to go in China with more athletes than Olympics but same political intrigue
  • The giant sports festival beginning Sept 23 in Hangzhou has already listed 12,417 athletes, organizers say 
  • The biggest event of the games might be a possible India vs. Pakistan gold-medal game in cricket on Oct 7 

TOKYO: The Asian Games are set to go in China, the first multi-sport international event in the country since pandemic restrictions were lifted there about nine months ago. 

This giant sports festival in the eastern city of Hangzhou involves more athletes than the Olympics with 12,417 entered, according to organizers. 

About 11,000 participated two years ago in the scandal-filled Tokyo Olympics, and about 10,500 are headed to next year’s Paris Games. 

Unmatched for size, the Asian Games may even surpass the Olympics for controversy, power politics, and intrigue. 

The games begin on Sept. 23 amid an open power struggle between International Olympic Committee President Thomas Bach and Kuwait’s Sheikh Ahmad Al-Fahad Al-Sabah, a long-time IOC member who is often described as the “kingmaker” who helped Bach win election in Buenos Aires in 2013. 

Bach is due to step down in 2025 because of IOC term limits and hardball politics are in play around who succeeds him. 

In a rare move, the Switzerland-based IOC openly intervened in early July to invalidate the presidential election of the Olympic Council of Asia, which oversees the Asian Games and Olympic sports on the continent. 

The July 8 election was ostensibly won by Kuwait’s Sheikh Talal Fahad Al-Ahmad Al-Sabah, the younger brother of Sheikh Ahmad. The elder sheikh is the former 30-year president of the OCA, an organization that was created by his father. 

Sheikh Talal defeated another Kuwaiti, Husain Al-Musallam, the veteran director general of the OCA and Sheikh Ahmad’s loyal aide. Since 2021, Al-Musallam has also been the head of swimming’s governing body World Aquatics. 

A few weeks after the election, the IOC suspended Sheikh Ahmad for three years for influencing the result of the election after he was cautioned not to be the IOC. 

He was already self-suspended as an IOC member since 2018 after he was indicted in Switzerland for forgery that led to his conviction two years ago. He has appealed the ruling. 

“This is all about raw power and wielding influence through titles, money, and privilege,” said Jules Boykoff, a political scientist at Pacific University and the author of “Power Games: A Political History of the Olympics.” 

“If the IOC doesn’t figure out a way to allow Bach to extend his tenure beyond the 12 allotted years — and I would not be surprised if the group in fact did that — space will open up for someone new at the reins at the IOC,” Boykoff told Associated Press. 

Sheikh Ahmad has also revived his political career in Kuwait and is now its defense minister and deputy prime minister. Despite the IOC’s moves, he is unlikely to be sidelined. 

“As this battle for the (IOC presidency) job heats up, Sheikh Ahmad could wield significant influence,” Boykoff said. 

In July, addressing the Kuwaiti legislature, Sheikh Ahmad gave no indication he would back down. And he carries more power now as the representative of a sovereign government. 

“I am personally the president of the Olympic Council of Asia,” he told the body. “This is my second hat.” 

The IOC has said it will continue to recognize Randhir Singh of India as interim president of the OCA until new elections are held. The IOC has said Bach will attend the opening ceremony in Hangzhou. 

Bach and the IOC have distanced themselves from the sheikh since an indictment by Geneva prosecutors was revealed in November 2018. The forgery case was unrelated to sports and involved a factional rivalry in the Kuwaiti royal family and government. 

Thousands of athletes care little about the leadership, but billions are in play over who runs Olympic sports in Asia. Many sports body in Asia, as elsewhere, depend heavily on monetary payments from the IOC. 

The Asian Games involve China and India, the world’s two most populous countries — and Indonesia, the world’s fourth most populous. 

Asian sports powers Japan and South Korea are also on hand, as is the self- governing island of Taiwan, which China views as a renegade province. 

The biggest event of the games might be a possible India vs. Pakistan gold-medal game in cricket on Oct. 7, which would be one of the most-watched global sports events all year. 

Organizers say 45 nations and territories in Asia will participate at 56 competition venues. Twelve venues are newly built, and 44 venues are renovated or temporary buildings. 

China’s state-run media says the total cost of competition or training venues is 10.19 billion yuan, or $1.4 billion.


3rd annual Rally Jameel gets underway in Hail, with 110 women taking part

3rd annual Rally Jameel gets underway in Hail, with 110 women taking part
Updated 05 March 2024
Follow

3rd annual Rally Jameel gets underway in Hail, with 110 women taking part

3rd annual Rally Jameel gets underway in Hail, with 110 women taking part
  • 55 teams of racers, each comprising a driver and co-driver, from 36 nations will tackle 5 stages over the course of 5 days, covering a total distance of 1,600 km

 

HAIL: The third annual Rally Jameel began in Hail on Monday, with 110 leading female racers from Saudi Arabia, the region and the rest of the world competing in an event that will pass through Hail, AlUla, Umluj, Yanbu and King Abdullah Economic City during five days of racing.

Prince Abdulaziz bin Saad, the governor of Hail Region, flagged off the competitors at the start of opening stage, which began at Al-Maghwah Amusement Park, to officially get the world-class navigational rally underway.

Fifty-five teams of racers, each comprising a driver and co-driver, from 36 nations will tackle five stages covering a total distance of 1,600 kilometers before crossing the finish line at KAEC on Friday.

Munir Khoja, the managing director of marketing communications at Abdul Latif Jameel Motors, told Arab News at the event on Monday: “We are all ready for the challenge. Since its inception in 2022, the importance of Rally Jameel has grown with its participation.

“It was the first motor sports event for women in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia and the region. Since then it has been present in the motor-sporting calendar ever since and gained international interest and official attention after the rise in popularity of rallying, locally, regionally and internationally.

“Today we have over 100 participants from 36 nationalities, exceeding our expectations. More importantly, it is an inspiring testament to our efforts aimed at supporting Saudi Arabia’s vision to empower women.”

After passing mandatory vehicle checks on Monday morning, several of the leading competitors spoke to the media before the start of the race.

“I am so excited to repeat this experience with the rest of the female drivers,” Saudi driver Maha Al-Hamali, who has competed in the event before, told Arab News. “We really appreciate the support of Jameel Motor Sports and I am focusing on enjoying this rally and aiming to win it this time.”

Her co-driver, Eleanor Coker from the US, added: “We have done everything we could. We did our homework and reflected on our experience. We feel we are prepared and confident to win but you never know; there are amazing female drivers from all over the world taking part part but we will go ahead and enjoy it.”

Fawzia Bakhshab, who is taking part in the rally for the first time, said she expects it to be a tough challenge, especially as she and her co-driver are taking on some of the best in the world.

“I think we feel ready and are looking forward to finishing among the top positions,” she said.

Her co–driver, Calheine Taye Perry from Germany, said she was confident that they have the driving and navigation skills to challenge for the title.

Rally Jameel is supported by the FIA’s Women in Motorsport Commission and the Saudi Automobile and Motorcycle Federation, in keeping with the commitment of authorities in the Kingdom to fostering and encouraging participation in sport among women.


Ronaldo back in action for Al-Nassr but cannot prevent defeat by Al-Ain in Asian Champions League

Ronaldo back in action for Al-Nassr but cannot prevent defeat by Al-Ain in Asian Champions League
Updated 04 March 2024
Follow

Ronaldo back in action for Al-Nassr but cannot prevent defeat by Al-Ain in Asian Champions League

Ronaldo back in action for Al-Nassr but cannot prevent defeat by Al-Ain in Asian Champions League
  • The 1-0 defeat in the first leg of the quarter-finals leaves the Saudi side with a lot to do in the home leg next Monday
  • Rahimi cut in from the left, latched onto Alejandro Romero’s beautiful pass into the area, and skipped past Ospina to shoot into an empty net

AL-AIN: Cristiano Ronaldo was back in the Al-Nassr lineup on Monday, after serving a one-game Saudi Pro League suspension for gesturing toward opposing fans during a recent game, but could not prevent his team falling to a 1-0 defeat at the hands of Al-Ain in the first leg of their Asian Champions League quarter-final.

It means they have much work to do at home next Monday if they are to progress to the semi-finals, where they would face one of their domestic rivals: Al-Hilal or Al-Ittihad.

Monday’s game was a far-from-vintage performance from Al-Nassr, who lacked fluidity and rhythm and struggled to create clear chances, despite having more possession than the 2003 champions. A late red card for Aymeric Laporte did not help matters.

Al-Nassr, who are looking for their first Champions League title, started brightly, however, with Sadio Mane testing goalkeeper Khalid Eisa in the second minute. Four minutes later, fans had a glimpse of Ronaldo’s ability but the Portuguese star’s spectacular overhead kick bounced wide.

Midway through the half, Al-Ain, led by Hernan Crespo, very nearly took the lead when the lively Soufiane Rahimi turned outside the area to unleash a first-time shot that was creeping into the far corner until David Ospina got down well to turn it away for a corner.

There was nothing the former Arsenal goalkeeper could do in the 28th minute, however, when Al-Ain got the ball in the net and the 22,000 fans in the Hazza bin Zayed Stadium on their feet. The goalkeeper delivered a long kick to the right wing where Rahimi was waiting to send a low cross into the six-yard box for Kaku to convert from close range. Fortunately for Al-Nassr, the video assistant referee ruled that Rahimi had strayed just offside.

He made amends for this just before the break when he cut in from the left, latched onto Alejandro Romero’s beautiful pass into the area, and skipped past Ospina to shoot into an empty net.

Ronaldo replied almost immediately with a stinging half-volley from the right of the area, which brought a great save from the goalkeeper. Early in the second half, he had another good chance but could not quite get hold of a right-sided cross from Ayman Yahya and his shot bounced over. Soon after, Yahya attempted a low shot that was saved by Eisa.

Al-Nassr grew increasingly frustrated and their night almost got worse when, with 20 minutes remaining, Rahimi broke free to put the ball in the net. But for the second time, he was ruled to have strayed offside and the goal was disallowed.

With 12 minutes remaining, Al-Nassr had one of their better chances of the night when Mane headed the ball back across goal from the far post, but Sami Al-Najei fired his low shot wide.

Then Ronaldo came even closer. A low cross from the left found its way to him just outside the six-yard box and everyone expected the net to bulge. Instead, Eisa, who was going the wrong way, stuck out a hand to make a top-class save.

Things then started to get scrappy and bad-tempered, which suited Al-Ain a lot more than their visitors, but there was always a sense that there would be at least one more big chance before the end, especially when the referee added 11 minutes of stoppage time.

Unfortunately for Al-Nassr, the most notable event of this added time was the red card for Laporte. The former Manchester City defender bundled over Bandar Al-Ahbabi as they jostled for position in the area and, after checking the pitch-side monitor, the referee ruled it was violent conduct.

This summed up a miserable evening for Al-Nassr, who almost equalized late on through an attempted lob by Ronaldo from the halfway line. They will be be without Laporte for the second leg in Riyadh next Monday and improvement is needed if they are going to keep their Asian dreams alive.


Shadab leads Islamabad to 29-run Pakistan Super League win over Peshawar

Shadab leads Islamabad to 29-run Pakistan Super League win over Peshawar
Updated 05 March 2024
Follow

Shadab leads Islamabad to 29-run Pakistan Super League win over Peshawar

Shadab leads Islamabad to 29-run Pakistan Super League win over Peshawar
  • Shadab Khan scored 80 runs from 51 balls and then dismissed three Peshawar batsman
  • Peshawar faltered at 167 in their 197-run chase, despite an 87-run knock by Aamir Jamal

ISLAMABAD: Islamabad United defeated Peshawar Zalmi by 29 runs in their Pakistan Super League (PSL) 9th edition match at the Rawalpindi Cricket Stadium on Monday.

Peshawar won the toss and sent Islamabad in to bat in the game. Shadab Khan top-scored with 80 runs from 51 deliveries as Islamabad dominated the game.

Salman Ali Agha 37 runs and Azam Khan 29 runs to take their side to 196 at a loss of four wickets. In the second innings, Peshawar batting was rattled by Khan and the Babar Azam-led side was restricted to 167 runs.

"Dominant at home," PSL commented on X after the match. "Islamabad United get valuable two points on the board with a 29-run triumph!"

 

 

Saim Ayub returned two Islamabad batsmen to pavilion for 15 runs, while Luke Wood and Salman Irshad took one wicket each.

Peshawar did not begin their 197-run chase well, losing their skipper for a duck. Aamir Jamal put up a brilliant resistance as he scored 87 runs from 49 deliveries, but that was not enough.

Paul Walter hit 33 and Tom Kohler-Cadmore scored 12 as Peshawar ended the innings at 167 at a loss of nine wickets.

Shadab Khan dismissed three for 41 runs, while Hunain Shah and Rumman Raees took two wickets each.

Both Islamabad and Peshawar now have three wins from their seven matches played this season.


Saudis victorious at GCC Golf Championship in Doha

Saudis victorious at GCC Golf Championship in Doha
Updated 04 March 2024
Follow

Saudis victorious at GCC Golf Championship in Doha

Saudis victorious at GCC Golf Championship in Doha
  • Khalid Attiya took top prize in individual competition while the team event saw Kingdom’s golfers awarded gold
  • Prince Khalid bin Saud: Our team’s prowess and dedication were evident throughout the championship, culminating in a well-deserved victory

DOHA: Saudi golfers have emerged triumphant at the Gulf Cooperation Council Golf Championship, claiming gold in both the team and individual categories.

The 26th edition of the tournament for adults — held alongside the 15th edition for youth — was hosted at the Doha Club in the Qatari capital and saw five teams from the GCC take part.

The individual gold medal went to Khalid Attiya, who clinched victory after a showdown with Qatari contender Saleh Al-Kaabi on the tournament’s final day.

The Saudi’s four rounds yielded 297 strokes, for an impressive nine-under winning total.

Meanwhile, the Saudi team maintained a commanding lead throughout the championship to secure the top position in the adults category.

Noah Alireza, CEO of Golf Saudi, praised the Saudi team’s achievement, highlighting their consistent excellence throughout the championship.

“At Golf Saudi, our unwavering dedication is to foster players’ success,” Alireza said, highlighting the significance of the the championship as a platform for players to hone their skills against the best of the GCC.

Prince Khalid bin Saud, a prominent player, commended the Saudi team’s performance, attributing their success to the invaluable support of the Saudi Golf Federation.

“Our team’s prowess and dedication were evident throughout the championship, culminating in a well-deserved victory,” he said.

Following his victory, Attiya expressed his gratitude for the unwavering support of the Saudi Golf Federation, which enabled him and the team to emerge victorious.

“The Saudi team’s strong presence and performance were instrumental in securing our place atop the podium,” he said.


Saudi Ministry of Education Integrates rugby into physical education curriculum

Saudi Ministry of Education Integrates rugby into physical education curriculum
Updated 04 March 2024
Follow

Saudi Ministry of Education Integrates rugby into physical education curriculum

Saudi Ministry of Education Integrates rugby into physical education curriculum
  • Initially starting in Riyadh, training programs will be offered to 25 girls’ schools and 25 boys’ schools before expanding to the rest of the Kingdom
  • Initiative underscores the Ministry of Education’s commitment to diversifying sports education and promoting physical activity among the youth

RIYADH: The Saudi Ministry of Education has announced today the inclusion of rugby as an elective sport within its physical education and student activities curriculum.

The School Rugby Initiative aims to introduce rugby as an optional learning unit in PE programs across the nation.

As part of this initiative, ongoing training courses will be offered to 25 girls’ schools and 25 boys’ schools across various educational stages. Initially launching in the Riyadh educational region, the program is part of a planned expansion to other regions of the Kingdom in the coming years.

The initiative was officially launched with a presentation by the technical director of the Saudi Arabian Rugby Federation, Sami Mohammed Samara, to 46 physical education teachers from public schools in Riyadh, culminating in a symbolic gesture of tossing rugby balls from ministry representatives to the teachers, marking the kickoff of this groundbreaking initiative.

Recognizing rugby sevens as an Olympic sport, the inclusion of rugby in the curriculum is poised to expand and accelerate the pathway for young players to excel in the sport. This strategic move aims to cultivate a strong foundation for rugby in the Kingdom, enabling aspiring athletes to represent Saudi Arabia in elite sporting events, including the Olympics.

Ali Musbah Al-Dajani, president of the Saudi Rugby Federation, and Dr. Anwar bin Abdullah Abu Abbad, head of student activities, both expressed their enthusiasm and support for the initiative, highlighting its potential to enrich the physical education landscape and foster a new generation of rugby enthusiasts in Saudi Arabia.

This initiative underscores the Ministry of Education’s commitment to diversifying sports education and promoting physical activity among the youth, aligning with broader educational and developmental goals within the Kingdom.