French security authorities foil a plan to attack football events during the Paris Olympics

French security authorities foil a plan to attack football events during the Paris Olympics
The French Interior Minister said Friday that security authorities have foiled a plan to attack soccer events during the Paris Olympics. (AP/File)
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Updated 02 June 2024
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French security authorities foil a plan to attack football events during the Paris Olympics

French security authorities foil a plan to attack football events during the Paris Olympics
  • A Chechnyan man was arrested on May 22 on suspicion of being behind a plan to attack football events that will be held in Saint-Etienne
  • The planned attack was to target spectators and police forces

PARIS: France’s security authorities have foiled a plan to attack football events during the upcoming Paris Olympics, the country’s interior minister said Friday.

It was the first such thwarted plot targeting the Games, which start in eight weeks as France is on its highest threat alert level.

Gerald Darmanin said in a statement that members of the General Directorate of Internal Security arrested an 18-year-old man from Chechnya on May 22 on suspicion of being behind a plan to attack football events that will be held in the southern city of Saint-Etienne.

According to the initial investigation, the man was preparing an attack targeting the Geoffroy-Guichard stadium in Saint-Etienne that will host several football matches during the Summer Games. The planned attack was to target spectators and police forces, the statement said. The suspect wanted to attack the Olympic events “to die and become a martyr,” the statement also said.

The Paris Olympics will run from July 26-Aug. 11. Football matches will take place in cities across France before the final in Paris’ Stade de France.

France is on in its highest security alert ahead of the Paris Olympics and Paralympics, which are expected to draw millions of visitors.

Darmanin, the interior minister, did not cite a specific security threat against the football event, but has said there are multiple potential threats, including those from Islamic extremist groups, violent environmental activists, far-right groups and cyberattacks from Russia or other adversaries.

The Paris Olympics organizing committee said it was made aware of the arrest and praised intelligence and security services. ‘’Security is the highest priority of Paris 2024. We are working daily in close coordination with the Interior Ministry and all stakeholders — and will continue to be fully mobilized,” it said in a statement.

Security concerns are notably high for the exceptional opening ceremony, which brings more than 100 world leaders to the French capital. It involves boats carrying athletes along the Seine River on a 6-kilometer (3.7-mile) open-air parade and huge crowds watching from the embankments.

In April, French President Emmanuel Macron said the July 26 opening ceremony could be moved instead to the country’s national stadium if the security threat is deemed too high.

Organizers had originally planned to host as many as 600,000 people, most watching free of charge from riverbanks. But security and logistical concerns have led the government to progressively scale back its ambitions. Earlier this year, the overall number of spectators was reduced to around 300,000.

The French government also decided that tourists won’t be given free access to watch the opening ceremony because of security concerns. Free access will be invitation-only instead.

Extra security is also on hand for the Olympic torch relay, which passed on Friday through the monastery outcropping of Mont-Saint-Michel, which sees thousands of tourists daily.


Rory McIlroy shoots 11 over to miss British Open cut

Rory McIlroy shoots 11 over to miss British Open cut
Updated 19 July 2024
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Rory McIlroy shoots 11 over to miss British Open cut

Rory McIlroy shoots 11 over to miss British Open cut

Troon, UK: Rory McIlroy’s 10-year wait to win a major will stretch into 2025 after missing the cut at the British Open on Friday.
McIlroy ended a torrid two days at Royal Troon on 11 over par with the projected cut set to be at six over in blustery conditions on Scotland’s west coast.
It is only the second time in 15 majors that McIlroy has failed to make the cut.
The world number two had been hoping to bounce back from his heartbreak at narrowly missing out at the US Open last month by one shot to Bryson DeChambeau.
McIlroy has repeatedly come close to adding to his four majors and had finished in the top 10 at five of the previous seven British Opens.
However, a seven over par opening round left him with work to do and he was never in contention to reach the weekend after a disastrous start.
McIlroy dropped six shots in four holes between the third and the sixth, including a triple bogey eight at the fourth.
He steadied the ship with seven consecutive pars before holing a chip from the green-side bunker at 14 for his first birdie of the day.
The 35-year-old picked up another shot at the 16th but still fell five short of the projected cut.
His attention now turns to trying to win Olympic gold for Ireland at Le Golf National in Paris from August 1.


7 talking points from USA Basketball Showcase in Abu Dhabi

7 talking points from USA Basketball Showcase in Abu Dhabi
Updated 19 July 2024
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7 talking points from USA Basketball Showcase in Abu Dhabi

7 talking points from USA Basketball Showcase in Abu Dhabi
  • After wins over Australia and Serbia at Etihad Arena, Team USA have matches in London ahead of the Olympic Games in Paris

After a productive and jam-packed five days in Abu Dhabi, Team USA have moved on to London, where they will play two final exhibition matches —against South Sudan and Germany — ahead of their Olympic Games campaign starting on July 28.

There is a lot to unpack from the US’ victories over Australia and Serbia this week in the UAE capital.

Here are some of the main takeaways as the Americans head to Paris searching for a fifth consecutive Olympic Games gold medal.

Curry, James, Embiid likely starting trio

It is taking Joel Embiid some time to adjust to this American super team —and to international basketball in general — but US head coach Steve Kerr has made it clear the 2023 NBA MVP will be an integral part of his starting unit.

Despite Anthony Davis shining for the US so far and outperforming him, Kerr has started Embiid in all three exhibition games they have contested.

Making his Team USA debut this summer, Embiid has averaged 6.5 rebounds per game across the three friendlies he played (versus Canada, Australia and Serbia) and has combined for nine turnovers.

Kerr believes it is only a matter of time until the Sixers center hits his stride.

“He’s getting better and better every day,” said Kerr. “It usually takes big guys longer to get rhythm and flow. I love Joel. He’s a dominant player.”

The three constants in Kerr’s starting five so far throughout the team’s exhibition schedule have been LeBron James, Stephen Curry and Embiid, as the Golden State Warriors coach continues to tinker with his lineup for the remaining two spots.

“I like those three guys in the starting lineup. We’ve been looking at other guys around them and we obviously have a lot of great options, but I do like those three guys in the starting lineup,” said Kerr in Abu Dhabi on Wednesday.

 

 

For someone who is used to carrying the Warriors offense year-round, Curry did not make a huge impact in the first two games but caught fire against Serbia on Wednesday with 24 points in 21 minutes and going 6-9 from beyond the arc.

Curry explained after the Australia clash that making sure Embiid is well-utilized has been a main focus for the starters.

“He demands a lot of attention so you have to utilize that and get him in position,” said Curry.

“We still have to figure out our spacing around him to give him looks, whether he shoots and scores, whether he kicks it out. And then if he’s not in the post, we’re trying to figure out different looks, and the chemistry of that group.

“I think we got a little bit better and we’ve got more games to get even better with it and utilize the threat of everything he can do and everybody else out there.”

Embiid having ‘time of my life’

While things have yet to click for Embiid, the 30-year-old American-Cameroonian player has enjoyed every moment of this training camp so far.

“It’s been good. Obviously it’s new, so we’re still working on the chemistry, reading each other. Some of the turnovers that we had, most of them have been miscommunication,” he said on Wednesday.

“But it’s good, I’m having the time of my life, I don’t have to do anything. I’m happy just chilling, just hanging out, dealing with the little things, and then just play together and win.”

Curry on adjusting to the FIBA game

With the FIBA game known to be more physical and with a faster pace compared to the NBA, players have to make significant adjustments in order to excel in this format.

For Curry, who is making his first national team appearance in 10 years, this is not necessarily the main challenge.

“The biggest difference is from game to game, there’s just such drastic different styles from country to country, the way they play,” said the 36-year-old point guard.

“That’s the biggest adjustment. Physicality, the speed, all that, we can adjust to whatever but to focus on game plan and being disciplined on that front from game to game, that’s tough, because everybody plays so different.”

The US have Serbia, South Sudan and Puerto Rico in their pool at the Olympics, meaning they will face three teams boasting basketball schools from three different continents.

We have not seen US’ full potential yet

As Bam Adebayo and James both said after their win over Serbia, we have not seen the best from this squad just yet.

The Stars and Stripes beat a Nikola Jokic-led Serbia by a 26-point margin but are not reading too much into it ahead of their rematch in Olympic pool play next week.

“Not at all,” responded Adebayo when asked if the US’ performance against Serbia reflected the team’s potential.

“We still have work to do. We still got some turnovers to clean up, we still got some defensive schemes to clean up and we still have one guy that’s still working his way back.”

James echoed Adebayo’s sentiments: “We’ve still got so much room to improve but we want to continue to get better and not waste the opportunities. I felt like tonight we got better.”

Kerr is likely to continue with the hockey subs strategy, replacing all five starters with a second unit and alternating between both groups throughout the game.

“I think the identity of the team is our depth, the strength of the team is the depth. And so, if we can play in four-, five-minute bursts of just playing intense defense, hitting bodies, rebounding, being physical, then it makes sense to play that way,” said Kerr.

“We’ll see if we keep doing it but for now, it’s allowed groups to get together, AD (Anthony Davis) and Bam (Adebayo) for example, Steph and LeBron, kind of learn how to play together, having a better feel for each other. The strength of our team is just the depth and so if we have to play that way, we’ll play that way.”

KD still out, but making progress

Three-time Olympic gold medalist Kevin Durant is still nursing a calf strain and has yet to feature for this US squad but coach Kerr is hopeful the Phoenix Suns forward will be ready for Paris.

“Kevin’s been doing more the last couple of days and he’s trending in the right direction,” said Kerr on Wednesday.

As America’s all-time lead scorer at the Olympics, Durant brings a wealth of experience to this squad and will no doubt make an impact should he be ready to play.

Ant-Man made for the big stage

Anthony Edwards has evolved into one of the best players in the league this past season and the 22-year-old is bringing confidence and explosiveness to the team.

He has averaged 14.3 points per game during this preparation period for the Olympics and is delivering whether he is a starter or coming off the bench.

“I thought he took his experience in the World Cup last year and got much better and became one of the best players in the whole NBA last season,” said coach Kerr of Edwards.

“He still has things to improve on. I talk to him about it frequently, rebounding and defense, not letting anybody get behind him, keeping vision defensively.

“He’s so talented, he’s a great, great player. But the best players always get better. Every summer they keep working on new things. So I’m going to encourage Anthony to keep getting better.”

 

 

Another slam dunk from Abu Dhabi

The UAE capital continues to solidify its position as the hub for international basketball in the Middle East and has once again delivered a stellar event.

After hosting preseason games between the Milwaukee Bucks and Atlanta Hawks in 2022, and the Dallas Mavericks and Minnesota Timberwolves in 2023, Abu Dhabi has also proven to be the perfect spot for national teams to hold training camps and prepare for big competitions.

Before last year’s FIBA World Cup, teams including the US, Greece and Germany trained in Abu Dhabi and played exhibition games. And the Americans returned this year with the same agenda ahead of the Olympics.

Etihad Arena was sold out for both US games this week and it will no doubt be at full capacity when reigning NBA champions the Boston Celtics and the Denver Nuggets come to Abu Dhabi for preseason games in October.

“We’ve had an incredible five days here. The hospitality in Abu Dhabi has been amazing, the people are wonderful. We just had a great trip and we really appreciate how welcomed we felt from everyone here,” said Kerr.

Embiid added: “It’s been amazing. I got here and called my wife and I told her it’s really beautiful here. I’ve been having the time of my life just meeting different people.

“I’m all about culture, me being African, learning about other people’s culture, that’s big for me. So being here, seeing how beautiful it is has been an amazing experience.”


Saudi pole vaulter Al-Hizam aims to inspire Kingdom’s next generation with Olympic success

Saudi pole vaulter Al-Hizam aims to inspire Kingdom’s next generation with Olympic success
Updated 19 July 2024
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Saudi pole vaulter Al-Hizam aims to inspire Kingdom’s next generation with Olympic success

Saudi pole vaulter Al-Hizam aims to inspire Kingdom’s next generation with Olympic success
  • The 26-year-old earned his spot at the Paris Games after he placed among the top 32 competitors in his sport

Saudi Arabian pole vaulter Hussain Al-Hizam will, in every sense, be making a giant leap, when he makes his Olympic debut in Paris next month.

The 26-year-old, who hails from Al-Jubail in the Kingdom’s Eastern Province, earned his spot at the Games through world rankings, after he placed among the top 32 competitors in his sport.

Since March, with weekly updates from World Athletics, Al-Hizam had been optimistic about his qualification prospects. Despite initially aiming for an automatic qualification, he is content with how he made the cut and has little fear of competing at the highest level.

“I am pretty confident that I have not reached my full potential and I believe that it could all come together on that day (in Paris), that I can shock everyone. I really believe that I can do that,” Al-Hizam told Arab News from Germany, where he is doing a full body check-up with his doctor before heading to France.

Al-Hizam says it is important to ensure he is fully performance-ready and is not leaving anything to chance.

Having missed out on the 2020 Olympic Games in Tokyo, the Saudi athlete is determined to make his mark in Paris.

“I learned my lesson from missing the Tokyo Olympics. I should have been there, but I wasn’t following the new ranking system close enough and it was too late for me to qualify,” he said. “But I learned from that and now I am here. I am ready to show why I am here, that I can compete with the best of the best.”

Paris will be the pinnacle of Al-Hizam’s career, surpassing his performances at the 2022 and 2023 World Athletics Championships, where he finished 14th and 26th.

“I am excited to be here and to be heading to Paris, but my goal is to win an Olympic medal. That’s my focus. Enjoying the journey is part of it, but I must keep my eyes on the prize — winning an Olympic medal for my country. That is the moment,” he said.

On Aug. 2, he will compete in the qualifications against pole vault’s top 32 athletes, with a place in the top 12 the requirement to advance to the final two days later, when the top three spots will be up for grabs.

Al-Hizam is familiar with rivals but is more focused on himself.

“Pole vaulting is a solitary sport. Although I keep an eye on the other competitors, my real competition is me,” he said. “I focus on improving every time, faster, higher and more powerful than my last one — that’s what I want to achieve every time I go out there. And it will be the same in Paris. Yes, the stakes are higher, the stage larger, but it’s still the same sport and the same people I compete against all year round. So the game plan is to focus on me, my mindset and my performance.

“On the day, I will keep my pre-competition routine the same. I try to eat a normal breakfast. I am assuming it will be a morning event and as we are at the track for a long period, I will pack some snacks to take with me. It can be about four hours down by the track, so I need to keep my energy up while I am there.”

Al-Hizam also has several routines that help him stay relaxed ahead of competing.

“I like to listen to some piano music before a competition. It helps me feel calm and gives me body awareness when I listen to certain rhythms,” he said. “I don’t normally watch others compete … I spend time going over my body’s movements, what I need to do, what I want to do and envisioning. The pre-competition butterflies are key. It means I am excited and if I didn’t care about a competition, then I would just hang up my spikes.”

Al-Hizam knows that pole vaulting is not among Saudi Arabia’s top sports, like football or motor racing, but he hopes that he can show aspiring athletes — the ones who may not have been pushed to pursue track and field — that it is a worthy Olympic sport.

“I would like to think I am paving the path for the next generation, more so inspiring the parents of the young kids who want to take up track and field or another sport besides football, to push their kids, give them the opportunities, feed them healthy meals and teach them the discipline to become world-class athletes,” he said. “Because we belong here, and every four years there should be more and more athletes from my home competing on this stage — really competing, showing that just because we are relatively new to the scene doesn’t mean we should be underestimated — and winning medals at the Olympics is that exact statement.

“So, my goal in winning an Olympic medal isn’t just a personal feat. I hope that the young kids of Saudi will see me, just a kid from a small town who is able to compete with the rest of the world,” Al-Hizam said. “With countries that have a long and rich Olympic history, we have the same athletic body and competitive spirit as they do, and we deserve to be here.”


Saudi Esports museum opens at Boulevard Riyadh City

Saudi Esports museum opens at Boulevard Riyadh City
Updated 19 July 2024
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Saudi Esports museum opens at Boulevard Riyadh City

Saudi Esports museum opens at Boulevard Riyadh City
  • Museum documents the federation’s work since its inception and celebrates Saudi Arabia’s impact on the global gaming and esports industry

RIYADH: The Saudi Esports Federation Legacy Museum has opened at the SEF Arena at Boulevard Riyadh City.

The new museum documents the SEF’s history since it was formed in 2017 and celebrates the Kingdom’s impact on the global gaming and esports industry.

It features sections such as “Moments in Saudi Arabian Esports,”, with Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman pictured announcing the Esports World Cup at the New Global Sport Conference last October. He is also shown emphasizing the significance of the gaming and esports industry and Saudi Arabia’s prominent role within it.

A “Kingdom Champions” area is dedicated to elite stars who have made global headlines through their esports exploits. Mosaad Al-Dossary is shown lifting the FIFAe World Cup 2018 trophy, while the Saudi national team is depicted celebrating their Overwatch World Cup crown in 2023. The women’s team is cheering Valorant glory in the Afro-Arab Esports League last year.

Other sections include a “Heroes” zone, a “Center of the Game” video display, and an interactive area called “Experience the Moment”.

Prince Faisal bin Bandar bin Sultan, chairman of the Saudi Esports Federation, said: “The unveiling of the Saudi Esports Federation Legacy Museum is a milestone moment in the history of our federation and Saudi Arabia’s gaming and esports journey. It celebrates and showcases the passion for gaming in our country and the phenomenal impact and success that Saudi Arabia has had on the global stage in a relatively short space of time.

“In a country that deeply cherishes history and tradition, it is an honor for us to lay a permanent marker on Kingdom soil epitomizing the modern Saudi Arabia.”

He added: “None of this progress would have been possible without the unwavering support of Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, the tireless efforts of the federation’s employees, and the collaboration of all our partners. The journey continues towards further advancements for this generous country.”

The museum is open seven days a week from 6pm until Boulevard Riyadh City closes each night. Admission is free of charge.

Turki Al-Fawzan, CEO of the Saudi Esports Federation, said: “Recognizing the achievements of the past is a vital part of ensuring progression in the future. The Saudi Esports Federation Legacy Museum provides inspiration for all who visit, especially those who play a role — or want to play a role — in capturing the full potential of gaming and esports in Saudi Arabia. Looking around the museum and seeing special moments dedicated to world-class, game-changing tournaments such as Gamers Without Borders, Gamers8 and the Esports World Cup is a thoroughly enjoyable and moving experience. We encourage all members of the public to visit the museum and relish the documentation of modern Saudi Arabian success.”

The museum has opened while Riyadh hosts the inaugural Esports World Cup, the largest gaming festival in the world which features a record-breaking prize pool of $60 million.

The eight-week long event, which runs until Aug. 25 at Boulevard Riyadh City, pits the world’s top clubs and players against each other across 22 global competitions in 21 leading games.

More than 1,500 players representing over 60 nationalities are battling out, with week three seeing competitions in the Dota2 Riyadh Masters, Counter Strike 2, and PUBG Mobile.


Brazil’s FURIA storm into Counter-Strike 2 quarterfinals at Esports World Cup

Brazil’s FURIA storm into Counter-Strike 2 quarterfinals at Esports World Cup
Updated 19 July 2024
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Brazil’s FURIA storm into Counter-Strike 2 quarterfinals at Esports World Cup

Brazil’s FURIA storm into Counter-Strike 2 quarterfinals at Esports World Cup
  • The team entered the resurrection stage knowing that nothing short of a hat-trick of wins would see them progress

RIYADH: FURIA Esports has secured its place in the Counter-Strike 2 quarterfinals at the Esports World Cup, storming into the competition’s last eight with a series of stunning victories on Thursday.

Following defeat in the qualifying round, FURIA — one of Brazil’s most popular esports clubs with an internationally renowned fanbase — faced the resurrection stage knowing that nothing short of a hat-trick of wins would see them progress.

Crucially, they accomplished this feat, defeating American outfit Flyquest (13-5) and Sashi Esport of Demark (19-15) to set up a shootout with The MongolZ of Mongolia. With the quarterfinals awaiting one and elimination the other, FURIA proved too strong, sealing a 13-9 win to progress. The Brazilian team goes head-to-head with Germany’s MOUZ on Friday with the semifinals awaiting the victor.

Elsewhere on Thursday, Gaimin Gladiators and Team Liquid prevailed in their Dota2 Riyadh Masters upper bracket semifinals and the two now meet for a place in Sunday’s Grand Final over the weekend. On the other side of the draw, four clubs are contending for the other Grand Final place, including Team Falcons of Saudi Arabia.

Counter-Strike 2 and the Dota2 Riyadh Masters are running throughout Week 3 at the Esports World Cup, concluding on Sunday, July 21.