IT firm Atos announces Riyadh HQ, sports technology center during LEAP conference

Global information technology services firm Atos announced on Sunday its plans to open a sports technology center in the second quarter of 2024 as part of its new MENA (Middle East and North Africa) headquarters in Riyadh. (Supplied)
Global information technology services firm Atos announced on Sunday its plans to open a sports technology center in the second quarter of 2024 as part of its new MENA (Middle East and North Africa) headquarters in Riyadh. (Supplied)
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Updated 03 March 2024
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IT firm Atos announces Riyadh HQ, sports technology center during LEAP conference

IT firm Atos announces Riyadh HQ, sports technology center during LEAP conference
  • The firm said its new Riyadh HQ and center of excellence would also help support Saudi Arabia’s development

LONDON: Global information technology services firm Atos announced on Sunday its plans to open a sports technology center in the second quarter of 2024 as part of its new MENA (Middle East and North Africa) headquarters in Riyadh.

Announced at the LEAP 2024 conference, an Atos statement said the center would enable the firm to continue providing “best-in-class IT services and solutions to global sporting events” and “develop cutting-edge technology applications to benefit athletes, fans and the sports sector in Saudi Arabia.”

Marc Veelenturf, CEO for the Middle East and Turkiye at Atos, said: “Through the Sports Technology Center of Excellence, Atos will empower organizations in Saudi Arabia with the technologies needed to thrive in the Kingdom’s digital economy. Drawing upon our best-in-class digital tools and IT solutions, the center will become the epicenter for major events technology and digital innovation in the region.” 

The firm said its new Riyadh HQ and center of excellence would also help support Saudi Arabia’s public sector initiatives, transformation projects and various giga-projects and smart destinations such as Expo 2030 and Saudi Entertainment and Amusement Expo.

Mutaz Salem, general manager at Atos, said: “Atos will enable Saudi’s major projects to become pioneering, future-proof smart destinations rooted in tradition, sport and culture with strong expertise and experience.”

Javier Escudero, commercial director at the firm’s Major Events arm, said: “The center of excellence will be located in the heart of Riyadh to provide major events with seamless technology, orchestrating flawless operations and secure data flow.

“Our unique track record in sport includes over 25 Asian projects such as the Olympic Games, and Asian, Arab and Gulf Games. Atos’ innovative solutions will serve as the backbone, enabling organizers to captivate audiences worldwide while ensuring reliability and precision behind the scenes.”


Doncic shines as Mavs sink Clippers; Timberwolves down Suns

Doncic shines as Mavs sink Clippers; Timberwolves down Suns
Updated 17 sec ago
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Doncic shines as Mavs sink Clippers; Timberwolves down Suns

Doncic shines as Mavs sink Clippers; Timberwolves down Suns
  • Jaden McDaniels scored 25 points as the Minnesota Timberwolves dominated the Phoenix Suns 105-93 to take a 2-0 series lead
  • Pascal Siakam poured in 37 points to guide the Pacers to an impressive series-leveling win over the Bucks

LOS ANGELES: Luka Doncic scored 32 points as the Dallas Mavericks battled to a series-tying 96-93 road victory over the Los Angeles Clippers on Tuesday in a tense NBA Western Conference playoff duel.

Slovenian star Doncic combined with Kyrie Irving for 55 points to ensure that Dallas will head back to Texas with honors even at 1-1 in the best-of-seven series.

Doncic and Irving formed a sublime double act in a hard-fought fourth quarter, orchestrating a crucial 14-0 run that effectively took the game away from the Clippers, who had downed Dallas in a 109-97 win in Game 1 on Sunday.

After trailing for most of the game, the Clippers threatened to snaffle another precious home victory after opening up a six-point lead early in the fourth quarter.

But the Doncic-Irving axis helped the Mavs regain control to set up a deserved win.

Doncic finished with 32 points, nine assists and six rebounds while Irving contributed 23 points, six rebounds, three assists and three steals.

“We had to make some noise in the second game, you know, first game wasn’t our best game,” Doncic said.

“So we had to come out here and prove that we can play with them,” Doncic added, before saluting the contribution of Irving.

“It’s amazing having him on our team,” Doncic said. “It just helps me a lot. A great guy and just happy that he’s here.”

James Harden and Paul George led the Clippers scoring with 22 points each.

In other playoff action, Jaden McDaniels scored 25 points as the Minnesota Timberwolves dominated the Phoenix Suns 105-93 to take a 2-0 series lead. Indiana roared back to beat Milwaukee 125-108 and square their best-of-seven duel at 1-1.

McDaniels led a balanced Minnesota offensive effort that saw all five starters finish in double digits as the Western Conference third seeds moved to within two wins of a series victory.

But it was the Timberwolves’ defense who turned the game in the home side’s favor, shutting down Phoenix in the second half to frustrate Suns stars Kevin Durant and Devin Booker.

A torrid night for Phoenix ended with Booker fouling out in the fourth quarter while the Suns also were handed an injury scare, with Grayson Allen hobbling off in the third quarter after rolling an ankle.

The Timberwolves will go into Friday’s game three brimming with confidence after restricting Phoenix’s offense to 42 second-half points.

Minnesota scored 31 points off 20 Phoenix turnovers while the Suns took just two points from the Wolves’ 14 turnovers throughout the game.

“We’ve had issues with that throughout the course of the year, taking care of the basketball and it reared its head again tonight,” Phoenix coach Frank Vogel said.

McDaniels led the home side’s scoring with 25 points, eight rebounds and three assists while Rudy Gobert and Mike Conley added 18 apiece.

Anthony Edwards finished with 15 points, eight assists and three rebounds and Karl-Anthony Towns finished with 12 points.

“We got a lot of guys who can put the ball in the basket,” Minnesota coach Chris Finch said. “We’re really making the right plays right now.”

In Milwaukee, Pascal Siakam poured in 37 points to guide the Pacers to an impressive series-leveling win over the Bucks.

Siakam finished with 11 rebounds and six assists while Myles Turner added 22 and Andrew Nembhard 20 as the Pacers claimed a deserved win.

“He just doesn’t get rattled,” Pacers coach Rick Carlisle said of Siakam. “He plays the game at his pace. He was excellent tonight.

“He’s a unique player. His experience shows and he had a lot of big, big plays for us tonight... his experience in the playoffs is invaluable.”

Milwaukee started brightly, with Damian Lillard once again taking on the lion’s share of the scoring duties in the absence of the injured Giannis Antetokounmpo.

But Lillard’s 34 points were not enough to keep the Pacers at arm’s length. Indiana took the lead just before half-time and finally pulled away in the fourth quarter, leading by 23 points at one stage.

“Give them credit, their pressure forced us into taking tough shots,” Bucks coach Doc Rivers said.

“They pushed us around. I thought they were the more physical team tonight.”

Game 3 in the series takes place in Indianapolis on Friday.


Sinner plays down Djokovic, Alcaraz comparisons

Sinner plays down Djokovic, Alcaraz comparisons
Updated 2 min 51 sec ago
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Sinner plays down Djokovic, Alcaraz comparisons

Sinner plays down Djokovic, Alcaraz comparisons
  • The Italian world No. 2 can come within touching distance of the top-ranked Djokovic in the standings should he triumph in Madrid this fortnight and he arrives in the Spanish capital brimming with confidence
  • In the absence of Djokovic, who has pulled out of the tournament, Sinner is the top seed in Madrid

MADRID: Jannik Sinner on Tuesday dismissed the idea that he is the best player in the world right now, saying he should not be compared to his fellow top-three rivals, Novak Djokovic and Carlos Alcaraz.

The Italian world No. 2 can come within touching distance of the top-ranked Djokovic in the standings should he triumph in Madrid this fortnight and he arrives in the Spanish capital brimming with confidence and carrying an impressive 25-2 win-loss record for the season.

The reigning Australian Open champion, who owns a tour-leading three titles in 2024, is ranked No.1 in the ATP’s Race to Turin, and is 1,650 points ahead of second-placed Daniil Medvedev.

“I think it’s a tough question to answer. We always see only this moment and I think that sometimes it’s good but also not good,” the 22-year-old Sinner told reporters in Madrid.

“I still believe that you cannot compare myself with Novak with all that he has done. And the same goes for Carlos. Also Carlos won more than me.

“I have a lot of respect for both of them. I just try to play my game, trying to understand what works best for me and then we see what I can achieve.”

Sinner has never made it past the third round in either of his previous two appearances at the Caja Magica and will be looking to change that this time around.

In the absence of Djokovic, who has pulled out of the tournament, Sinner is the top seed in Madrid, where he faces Richard Gasquet or Lorenzo Sonego in the second round.

“I used to struggle quite a lot in the previous years, finding my level here, so it’s going to be interesting to see how I’m going to play this year,” he added.

Meanwhile, Alcaraz had no qualms describing Sinner as the game’s best and the Spanish world No. 3 acknowledges it will be tough trying to stop his good friend and rival from taking over the top spot in the rankings.

“He’s dangerous, he’s really dangerous. He’s the best player in the world right now,” said Alcaraz, who is the two-time defending champion in Madrid.

“Probably everybody thinks that his tennis doesn’t suit very much clay but he makes good results on clay as well, he can win every tournament he goes to, and I’m fighting with him, with Novak, to be in the first spot and I’m trying not to let them stay there.

“Honestly it’s going to be difficult. They deserve to be there and let’s see what’s going to happen the next tournaments.”

The 20-year-old Alcaraz is coming off a right arm injury that forced him to skip the tournaments in Monte Carlo and Barcelona.

He said he managed to increase the intensity of his training since his arrival in Madrid and is hoping to be 100 percent ready for his opener on Saturday against Arthur Rinderknech or Alexander Shevchenko.

On the eve of the tournament, Alcaraz attended the Laureus World Sports Awards and presented Real Madrid star Jude Bellingham with the Breakthrough of the Year award, giving an impressive speech, in English, in front of a marquee audience.

“I didn’t feel comfortable on the stage. I was so nervous. I practiced that speech during the week almost 50 times just to make sure it’s going to be perfect and I was shaking, my legs were shaking. I’m not used to giving a speech in front of legends of the sports and in front of that kind of people,” confessed Alcaraz.

Elsewhere, world No. 4 Medvedev is hoping to avoid another on-court tantrum if faced with questionable officiating after his fiery reaction to disputed calls in Monte Carlo made headlines.

While most big tournaments have adopted electronic line-calling, many clay events still use line judges, given the mark of the ball should be easy to see on the red dirt.

Monte Carlo witnessed numerous issues with officiating though, and Medvedev is aware he has to find a way to control his temper throughout the clay season.

“Mistakes can happen. I wish I hadn’t reacted like this, so let’s see if next time it happens, I cannot promise anything, but hopefully I can focus more on the match than on the mistake itself,” said the 28-year-old Russian.


Five-star Arsenal thrash Chelsea to open up Premier League lead

Five-star Arsenal thrash Chelsea to open up Premier League lead
Updated 24 April 2024
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Five-star Arsenal thrash Chelsea to open up Premier League lead

Five-star Arsenal thrash Chelsea to open up Premier League lead
  • The destiny of the title remains in Man City’s hands as the defending champions have two games in hand

LONDON: Kai Havertz and Ben White scored twice as Arsenal thrashed Chelsea 5-0 on Tuesday to surge ahead in the Premier League title race and ramp up the pressure on Liverpool and Manchester City.
Leandro Trossard was also on target in a record win over Chelsea for the Gunners, who move three points clear of Liverpool and four of Manchester City.
The destiny of the title remains in City’s hands as the defending champions have two games in hand.
Liverpool have also played one fewer game than Arsenal and are in action at Everton in the Merseyside derby on Wednesday.
However, Mikel Arteta’s men’s goal difference advantage now looks unassailable should it become decisive in the title race.
“We have made our people very proud, it is a big derby for us and I know what it means,” said Arteta.
“We started the game really well but didn’t convert all our chances — we were a bit sloppy in certain areas of the pitch.
“In the second half we were much more disciplined and created chances and were ruthless in front of goal.”
Chelsea and Arsenal’s title rivals were dealt a huge blow before kick-off as the Blues’ danger man Cole Palmer was ruled out due to illness.
Palmer has scored or assisted nearly 50 percent of Chelsea’s Premier League goals this season and his presence was badly missed by the visitors.
Despite enduring a disappointing first season under Mauricio Pochettino, Chelsea had been unbeaten in eight consecutive league games prior to their FA Cup semifinal defeat to Manchester City on Saturday.
But they were blown away by an Arsenal side keen to reaffirm their title credentials after losing their last home game to Aston Villa.
“So difficult (a) result and performance (to accept) because it is not nice to see your team playing like this from the beginning of the game,” said Pochettino.
“Today we didn’t compete against a team fighting for the Premier League. We need to be aware we need to compete in a different way.”
The hosts flew out of the blocks and were in front inside five minutes.
Trossard only ended up at the Emirates after Arsenal were gazumped by Chelsea in the battle to sign Mykhailo Mudryk in January 2023.
The Belgian has proved to be a far more productive signing and smashed in his 15th goal of the season at Djordje Petrovic’s near post.
Petrovic redeemed himself for a mistake at the opening goal with two brilliant saves to turn away Havertz’s low effort and a deflected shot by Trossard to keep his side in the game before half-time.
The Serbian briefly held Arsenal at bay early in the second period with saves from Declan Rice and Havertz.
However, the floodgates opened once White curled in Arsenal’s second after Chelsea failed to clear a corner on 52 minutes.
Havertz scored the winning goal in a Champions League final for Chelsea during his three years in west London, but he never performed consistently to the level he has found in recent months under Arteta.
Martin Odegaard’s stunning through ball was met with the finish it deserved as Havertz smashed high past Petrovic.
His next finish was more subtle as the German international fired in off the post from Bukayo Saka’s pass for his seventh goal in his last 14 club games.
A night for forget for Chelsea was summed up when White’s attempted cross flew into the top corner from another sensational Odegaard pass.
Defeat leaves Chelsea still in ninth, three points adrift of the European places.
Next up for Arsenal is what appears their toughest hurdle remaining away to Tottenham in Sunday’s north London derby.
Should Arteta’s side prevail at the home of their fiercest rivals, City will likely need to be perfect in their final six games to retain the title.


Al Ain knock out Al Hilal to reach Asian Champions League final

Al Ain knock out Al Hilal to reach Asian Champions League final
Updated 24 April 2024
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Al Ain knock out Al Hilal to reach Asian Champions League final

Al Ain knock out Al Hilal to reach Asian Champions League final
  • Hernan Crespo’s Al Ain will face either Yokohama F-Marinos or Koreans Ulsan Hyundai in the final in May

RIYADH: Al Ain reached the Asian Champions League final for the first time since 2016 with a 5-4 aggregate victory over four-time winners Al Hilal, despite a 2-1 second-leg defeat in Riyadh on Tuesday.
Trailing 4-2 after their record 34-match winning run was ended in last week’s first leg, Al Hilal quickly cut the deficit through Ruben Neves’ fourth-minute penalty.
Brazilian Erik drew Al Ain level on the night, though, to leave runaway Saudi Pro League leaders Al Hilal with a mountain to climb in the second half.
But Salem Al Dawsari scored a rebound less than six minutes after the restart to give the hosts renewed hope.
Brazilian Michael and former Lazio star Sergei Milinkovic-Savic both went close as Al Hilal piled on the pressure, the latter seeing his effort cleared off the line.
Al Ain goalkeeper Khalid Eisa enjoyed a fine evening, making six saves, including from Michael and Mohamed Kanno late on.
The Emirati visitors clung on desperately through nine minutes of added time, with Eisa keeping out a Michael header in the 98th minute.
Hernan Crespo’s Al Ain will face either Yokohama F-Marinos or Koreans Ulsan Hyundai in the final in May as they bid for a second triumph in the competition and first since 2003.
Japanese club Yokohama trail 1-0 on aggregate heading into their semifinal second leg on Wednesday.


Griner contemplated suicide during Russian prison ordeal

Griner contemplated suicide during Russian prison ordeal
Updated 23 April 2024
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Griner contemplated suicide during Russian prison ordeal

Griner contemplated suicide during Russian prison ordeal
  • Griner made the revelation in excerpts of an upcoming interview with ABC Television released on Tuesday
  • “Yeah, I just didn’t think I could get through what I needed to get through,” an emotional Griner said

LOS ANGELES: WNBA superstar Brittney Griner has revealed she contemplated suicide during her nine-month ordeal in a Russian jail that left her feeling “less than a human.”
Griner, who was detained in a Moscow airport in February 2022 on drug charges before being sentenced to nine years in prison, made the revelation in excerpts of an upcoming interview with ABC Television released on Tuesday.
“Yeah, I just didn’t think I could get through what I needed to get through,” an emotional Griner said when asked by her interviewer on ABC’s 20/20 news show if she had considered “ending it all.”
In other segments of the interview, Griner, who was freed in late 2022 as part of a prisoner swap, gave an insight into the grim conditions of her incarceration at a Russian penal colony.
“The mattress had a huge blood stain on it. I had no soap, no toilet paper. That was the moment where I just felt less than a human,” Griner said.
Griner said at one stage during her imprisonment she was ushered into a room to find “a huge knife sitting on the table.”
“And I was like ‘Now, this is going to be a ride,’” she said. “You’ve got to do what you got to do to survive.”
Griner was arrested and charged by Russian officials for possessing vape cartridges containing hashish oil in her luggage as she passed through airport security.
She later testified she had “no intention” of breaking the law and had packed the cartridges by accident.
Asked by ABC what she felt when she realized that she had left the cartridges in her luggage, she replied: “My life is over right here.”
Later in the interview, Griner recalls the moment she was handed her nine-year prison term.
“I was just so scared for everything because there’s so much unknown,” she said.
A two-time Olympic gold medalist, WNBA champion, Griner was eventually released in December 2022 as part of a deal that saw her swapped for notorious Russian arms dealer Viktor Bout — known as the “Merchant of Death.”
At the time, Griner was one of several US-based players playing in Russia during the WNBA off-season in order to boost her income.
She has vowed never to play basketball abroad again for clubs following her jail sentence.
Griner’s full interview, which comes ahead of the release next month of a memoir by the basketball player detailing her ordeal, will be aired on May 1.