‘The biggest and best ever’ — elite international players hail 2024 World Pool Championship

‘The biggest and best ever’ — elite international players hail 2024 World Pool Championship
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An event of epic proportions, 128 of the world’s greatest cueists are vying for the sport’s most prestigious title, with coverage broadcast to more than 90 countries. (Supplied)
‘The biggest and best ever’ — elite international players hail 2024 World Pool Championship
2 / 3
An event of epic proportions, 128 of the world’s greatest cueists are vying for the sport’s most prestigious title, with coverage broadcast to more than 90 countries. (Supplied)
‘The biggest and best ever’ — elite international players hail 2024 World Pool Championship
3 / 3
An event of epic proportions, 128 of the world’s greatest cueists are vying for the sport’s most prestigious title, with coverage broadcast to more than 90 countries. (Supplied)
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Updated 06 June 2024
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‘The biggest and best ever’ — elite international players hail 2024 World Pool Championship

‘The biggest and best ever’ — elite international players hail 2024 World Pool Championship

JEDDAH: The global superstars of professional pool have opened up about their experience at the 2024 World Pool Championship in Jeddah, hailing the event as the biggest and best of their careers.

As the jewel in the crown of the World Nineball Tour, the championship is currently making its inaugural appearance in the Kingdom, with the 33rd edition being hosted at the Green Halls until June 8.

An event of epic proportions, 128 of the world’s greatest cueists are vying for the sport’s most prestigious title, with coverage broadcast to more than 90 countries.

Having competed in major tournaments worldwide, none are better qualified to assess this year’s world championship than the players themselves.

Crucially, the assessment has been unanimous: A new benchmark has been set for future editions to emulate.

World #3 and former champion Shane Van Boening, widely considered as one of the greatest players of all time, said: “I don’t think I’ve ever seen an event like this. This year’s World Pool Championship in Saudi Arabia is probably the best tournament I’ve ever been to in my whole career. I’m glad to have the opportunity to play here and hopefully I can continue being here for a long time. It’s great to see a major pool tournament finally being held in the Kingdom.”

This sentiment is shared by Francisco Sanchez Ruíz, the world #1 and reigning champion. The Spanish star stated: “It’s fantastic to be out there defending the world championship in the biggest event ever seen in our sport — I’m living the dream. Walking into the area, I thought ‘Oh my, it’s so big’ — it was very exciting.”

While discussing his tournament experience to date, Ruiz insisted that the entire WNT roster welcomed the championship being held in the Kingdom. He added: “Arriving in a new destination is great for players and fans alike. It’s what’s needed for our sport to continue growing globally and the future is even more promising now we’re here.”

The World Pool Championship is being staged in Saudi Arabia as part of a major 10-year partnership between the Saudi Arabian Billiards and Snooker Federation, Ministry of Sport, and promoter Matchroom Multi-Sport. Although their collaboration has only just begun, the event organization has received glowing feedback.

Germany’s Pia Filler, the current sole female WNT player, said: “It’s the best set-up I’ve ever seen and the best venue I’ve ever played in. It’s an honor to be here in Saudi Arabia and playing on such a stage. It’s an incredible experience for us as players. The country is amazing; the people are super nice, the food is great, and the tournament organization has been excellent.”

Singaporean Aloysius Yapp also praised the Green Halls. The world #9 declared: “This is by far one of the most outstanding venues I’ve ever played in so far on the Nineball Tour – and I know it’s going to get even better. Being here this year is the first of many huge steps for the sport in Saudi Arabia and I already can’t wait for the coming years.”

Since Vision 2030 was introduced in 2015, over 100 international sporting events have been held in the Kingdom including football, F1, boxing, esports, golf, tennis and more.

Scottish cueist and world #5 Jayson Shaw revealed he has watched these events in awe from afar and said he hoped Saudi Arabia could take pool to new heights moving forward.

“Having a tournament here is just incredible. We’ve seen what the Kingdom has done with other sports and hopefully they can take pool to the next level too,” he said.

“As a pool player, sitting at home and watching the Saudi boxing events and other sports staged here, in my mind I was thinking, ‘Okay, pool maybe is next’ — and here we are. Hopefully over the next five to 10 years, the pool events here will become even bigger and better.”

Another player with one eye fixed firmly on the future is Syria’s Mohammad Soufi, the world #29 and 2023 world championship runner-up. He believes holding the event in Saudi Arabia will open up previously unimaginable opportunities for talent across the Arab world.

“The World Pool Championship coming to Saudi Arabia is huge for the regional pool scene — it really is great news,” he said. “It’s an opportunity for Arab players now and in the future to show that we can compete with the world’s best and win. We have many really good, talented players in this part of the world — pool has always been popular here and I know the future is bright.”


New Zealand Olympic soccer team complains after Canadian team drone flown over its training session

New Zealand Olympic soccer team complains after Canadian team drone flown over its training session
Updated 24 July 2024
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New Zealand Olympic soccer team complains after Canadian team drone flown over its training session

New Zealand Olympic soccer team complains after Canadian team drone flown over its training session

WELLINGTON, New Zealand: New Zealand says it has complained to the International Olympic Committee’s integrity unit after a drone flown over a New Zealand women’s soccer team training session was found to be operated by a member of the Canadian team’s support staff.

Defending Olympic champion Canada and New Zealand meet in their opening match at the Olympic tournament on Thursday. The drone incident occurred earlier this week, the New Zealand Olympic Committee said Wednesday.

“Team support members immediately reported the incident to police leading to the drone operator, who has been identified as a support staff member of the wider Canadian Women’s football team, to be detained,” the NZOC said in a statement.

“The NZOC has formally lodged the incident with the IOC integrity unit and has asked Canada for a full review.”

The NZOC statement said Canada had apologized over the incident and is investigating.

“The NZOC and New Zealand Football are committed to upholding the integrity and fairness of the Olympic Games and are deeply shocked and disappointed by this incident, which occurred just three days before the sides are due to face each other in their opening game of Paris 2024,” the NZOC said.

“At this time the NZOC’s main priority is to support the New Zealand women’s football athletes and wider team as they start their campaign.”

It’s not the first time a Canadian soccer team has been accused of using a drone to film an international rival’s training session.

In 2021 at Toronto, Honduras stopped a training session ahead of its men’s World Cup qualifier against Canada after spotting a drone above the field, according to reports in Honduran media. The teams played to a 1-1 draw.


First edition of Olympic Esports Games to be held in Saudi Arabia in 2025

First edition of Olympic Esports Games to be held in Saudi Arabia in 2025
Updated 23 July 2024
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First edition of Olympic Esports Games to be held in Saudi Arabia in 2025

First edition of Olympic Esports Games to be held in Saudi Arabia in 2025
  • Saudi Sports Minister Prince Abdulaziz bin Turki Al-Faisal says: ‘We look forward to welcoming the global esports community to the Kingdom in 2025’
  • IOC President Thomas Bach says the NOC of Saudi Arabia will bring great, if not unique, experience to the project

PARIS: The International Olympic Committee announced on Tuesday that the first edition of the Olympic Esports Games will be held in Saudi Arabia in 2025.
The international Olympic body unanimously endorsed the proposal by the executive board during the 142nd IOC Session in Paris.
The Saudi Minister of Sport and President of the Saudi Olympic and Paralympic Committee Prince Abdulaziz bin Turki Al-Faisal said: “Thanks to Vision 2030, introduced by Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, esports in Saudi Arabia already have a rich past, an exciting present and a promising future.
“And the reason why, is the same reason why we are investing across all sports — our young people. Our commitment to esports is simply a reflection of the world our young people live in, and we now all have the chance to write new Olympic history together: The chance to inspire new dreams and new ambitions for literally millions of athletes around the world.”
Saudis believe that taking part in the Olympics is the ultimate honor for any athlete, he said, adding: “That is why we are committed to providing the ultimate platform for new heroes to perform, and for the Olympic spirit to be shared.
“Together we all share the prospect of instilling Olympic values in new and innovative ways. And we look forward to welcoming the global esports community to the Kingdom in 2025.”
IOC President Thomas Bach said: “This is truly a new era for the IOC. With the confirmation by the IOC Session of the creation of the Olympic Esports Games, we are keeping up with the pace of the digital revolution.
“The esports community, represented in our Esports Commission, has enthusiastically engaged with this initiative. This is further proof of the attractivity of the Olympic brand and the values it stands for among young people.”
He stressed that the National Olympic Committee of Saudi Arabia will bring great, if not unique, experience in the field of esports to the project.
He said: “This partnership is based on the Olympic Charter and the Olympic values.”
The IOC has been engaging with esports since 2018 in a holistic way. This culminated in the organization of the Olympic Esports Week in Singapore in 2023. The IOC president then asked the IOC Esports Commission at the 141st IOC Session in India, in October 2023, to look into the creation of the Olympic Esports Games.
The commission, under the leadership of IOC member David Lappartient, devised a project which addressed the interests of the esports community while respecting Olympic values.
IOC member Princess Reema Bandar Al-Saud, who is also a member of the board of directors of the Saudi Arabian Olympic and Paralympic Committee and president of the Women’s Committee, said: “We have been at the very heart of the esports industry for many years.
“We see that hosting the Olympic Esports Games in 2025 is a natural next step in our journey of opening up Saudi Arabia to the world, and the world to Saudi.”
Prince Abdulaziz and Princess Reema presented the project together to the IOC session.
In the last two years, through major international tournaments, including the inaugural Esports World Cup, Saudi Arabia has hosted over 1,700 elite players from more than 80 countries.
Further underlining its hosting credentials, esports events in Saudi Arabia have welcomed nearly 4 million fans to enjoy the live experience in the Kingdom, with a further 1.3 billion views from across the globe on a variety of streaming platforms.
Work will now begin on selecting a city and venue for the Olympic Esports Games, with the timing of the event, the titles to be included, the qualification process for the players, and further details to be analyzed.
The IOC will also create a new dedicated structure within its organization, clearly separated from the organizational and financial model for the Olympic Games.
In order to address the specific nature of the Olympic Esports Games, the IOC will also take a different approach with regard to the financing and organization of the event.
The IOC has emphasized that international federations already engaged in an e-version of their sport, that is considered for inclusion in the Olympic Esports Games, will be its first go-to partners.
The same will be true for National Olympic Committees that already include esports in their activities.


Bach says IOC neutral after Palestinian call for Israel Olympic ban

Palestinian swimmer Yazan Al Bawwab reacts during the men's 100m freestyle heats at the World Swimming Championships in Fukuoka.
Palestinian swimmer Yazan Al Bawwab reacts during the men's 100m freestyle heats at the World Swimming Championships in Fukuoka.
Updated 23 July 2024
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Bach says IOC neutral after Palestinian call for Israel Olympic ban

Palestinian swimmer Yazan Al Bawwab reacts during the men's 100m freestyle heats at the World Swimming Championships in Fukuoka.
  • “We are not in the political business, we are there to accomplish our mission to get the athletes together,” Bach said
  • The Palestinian call highlights how the rising death toll and growing humanitarian crisis in Gaza is impacting the Paris Games

PARIS: President Thomas Bach on Tuesday stressed the neutrality of the International Olympic Committee after a Palestinian call for Israel to be barred from the Paris Games over the war in Gaza.
As the Israeli team settled into the Athletes’ Village, the IOC studied a letter from the Palestine Olympic Committee asking Bach to ban the Israelis, citing the bombings of the besieged Gaza Strip as a breach of the Olympic truce.
The letter sent days before Friday’s opening ceremony “emphasized that Palestinian athletes, particularly those in Gaza, are denied safe passage and have suffered significantly due to the ongoing conflict.”
It said “approximately 400 Palestinian athletes have been killed and the destruction of sports facilities exacerbates the plight of athletes who are already under severe restrictions.”
But Bach said in a press conference: “The position of the IOC is very clear. We have two National Olympic Committees, that is the difference with the world of politics, and in this respect both have been living in peaceful co-existence.
“The Palestinian NOC has greatly benefitted. Palestine is not a recognized member state of the UN but the NOC is a recognized National Olympic Committee enjoying the equal rights and opportunities like all the other NOCs.”
He added: “We are not in the political business, we are there to accomplish our mission to get the athletes together.”
The Palestinian call highlights how the rising death toll and growing humanitarian crisis in Gaza is impacting the Paris Games.
France’s foreign minister has already had to intervene to stress that Israeli athletes are welcome after a far-left French politician called for them to be barred over the Gaza offensive.
Competitors flooded into the Olympic Village in northern Paris, with national flags hanging from many windows.
Some of the biggest names set to perform at the Olympics — American gymnast Simone Biles and Spanish tennis pair Rafael Nadal and Carlos Alcaraz — have been spotted at the village.
Reviews of the food and accommodation were broadly positive, but some people reported issues with the transport to and from sports venues.
“Usually at Olympics, the transport takes a bit of time to work out,” Tom Craig, a player in the Australian hockey team, told AFP.
“We’ve heard about some teams getting taken to the wrong venue, but it hasn’t happened to us. One day we got a bit lost, but it was fine.”
American gymnastics coach Sam Mikulak, a veteran of four Olympics, praised the village as the best he had seen.
“Ten out of 10. It’s the best set-up, the best conditioning space (gym), very organized,” he told AFP.
Meanwhile, Britain’s joint most decorated woman Olympian, dressage specialist Charlotte Dujardin, withdrew from the Games after a video emerged showing her making “an error of judgment” during a coaching session.
It was not immediately clear what three-time Olympic champion Dujardin had done but Olympic and equestrian authorities have taken an increasingly strict line against alleged improprieties relating to the treatment of animals in recent years.
During the delayed Tokyo Olympics in 2021, a German modern pentathlon coach was thrown out the Games for striking a horse.
In other developments, as organizers put the final touches to the opening ceremony on the Seine, videos posted online showing US pop star Lady Gaga in Paris sparked rumors that she will be among the performers.
The line-up for the ceremony, the first time a Summer Olympics has opened outside of the main stadium, is yet to be fully announced.
Paris Mayor Anne Hidalgo said she hoped the weather would be fine for the ceremony after rain on Tuesday.
“We don’t make the weather so we will anxiously watch what it will be like on July 26, but we will make do and they will be exceptional Games.”


‘An achievement for all Arabs’: PSG President Nasser Al-Khelaifi takes part in Olympic Torch Relay in Paris ahead of opening ceremony

‘An achievement for all Arabs’: PSG President Nasser Al-Khelaifi takes part in Olympic Torch Relay in Paris ahead of opening ceremony
Updated 23 July 2024
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‘An achievement for all Arabs’: PSG President Nasser Al-Khelaifi takes part in Olympic Torch Relay in Paris ahead of opening ceremony

‘An achievement for all Arabs’: PSG President Nasser Al-Khelaifi takes part in Olympic Torch Relay in Paris ahead of opening ceremony

PARIS: Nasser Al-Khelaifi, president of Paris Saint-Germain, took part in the Olympic Torch Relay on Monday afternoon ahead of this Friday’s opening ceremony of the 2024 Summer Olympic Games in Paris, France.

The Torch Relay is passing through more than 400 towns and cities across France and its overseas territories with the help of a host of illustrious figures from the world of sports, entertainment, and culture, including the prince and princess of Monaco, Formula One driver Charles Leclerc, and Hollywood actress Halle Berry.

In recognition of Al-Khelaifi’s contribution to French sport, as well as to the upcoming competition, the International Olympic Committee offered the PSG president the chance to collect the Olympic torch in Vigneux-sur-Seine in the southern suburbs of the French capital, where he carried it for close to 500 meters before passing it to 84-year-old Marie-Rolande Biro, the former head of the Epinay judo club.

A former ATP tennis player from Qatar who is now also chairman of beIN Media Group and Qatar Sports Investments, Al-Khelaifi was greeted on the street by throngs of fans cheering and calling his name. After posing for photos and interacting with supporters, he spoke about how sport has influenced his life and work ethos and helped him connect with people from all walks of life.

“It was an immense honor to carry the Olympic torch and flame of Paris 2024, representing such powerful symbols of unity, friendship and peace,” he said. “It is an indescribable feeling to carry it, as a Qatari, Arab, and Muslim in the French capital, Paris. It is an achievement for all Arabs, not just the state of Qatar, and I thank God for this honor. When I was an athlete and I played tennis, I always had this dream. Today that dream has come true.”

Nasser Al-Khelaifi, president of Paris Saint-Germain, takes part in the Olympic Torch Relay on Monday afternoon. (Supplied)

Al-Khelaifi carried the torch along Avenue Henri Barbusse, some 27 km south of the Parc des Princes, home of PSG. The club’s distinguished stadium will host 10 football matches during the Games, including the first event of Paris 2024 this Wednesday, a men’s tie between Uzbekistan and Spain, as well as the men’s and women’s football finals on Aug. 9 and 10, respectively.

“Paris Saint-Germain is so proud that 26 of our male and female athletes — across men’s and women’s football, handball and judo — are competing in the Games, and we look forward to a magnificent sporting spectacle in our home city of Paris,” added Al-Khelaifi. “This is an honor for Paris Saint-Germain, for me personally, for all club members, and for the state of Qatar.”

Qatar is taking a delegation of 14 athletes to Paris 2024, including Mutaz Barshim, regarded as one of the best high jumpers of all time after securing gold in the 2020 Tokyo Games and silvers in the 2012 London and 2016 Rio Olympics, as well as weightlifter Fares Ibrahim Hassouna, who also won gold in Tokyo.

PSG meanwhile has had representatives competing in Olympic sports for 40 years. At the 2020 Tokyo Olympics, the French club celebrated 15 Olympic and four Paralympic medalists. This year, as well as the 26 athletes, more than 70 staff are also helping in various capacities across event management, operations, and technical support.

The 2024 Olympic Games will start on July 26, preceded by preliminary events in soccer and rugby sevens, which start on July 24. The closing ceremony on Aug. 11 will mark the conclusion of the quadrennial event.


Iran slams Israel participation in Paris Olympics

Iran slams Israel participation in Paris Olympics
Updated 23 July 2024
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Iran slams Israel participation in Paris Olympics

Iran slams Israel participation in Paris Olympics
  • “They do not deserve to be present at the Paris Olympics because of the war against the innocent people of Gaza,” Iran’s foreign ministry said on X
  • Iran does not recognize Israel and prohibits all contact between Iranian and Israeli athletes

TEHRAN: Iran condemned on Tuesday the “reception and protection” of Israeli athletes at the Olympic games in Paris, demanding their exclusion over Israel’s handling of the Gaza war.
Israel’s delegation, which headed to France on Monday ahead of Friday’s opening ceremony, is being tightly protected in the French capital amid growing international outrage over the high civilian casualty toll and unfolding humanitarian crisis in Gaza.
“Announcing the reception and protection of the apartheid terrorist Zionist regime’s delegation means giving legitimacy to the child killers,” Iran’s foreign ministry said in a post on X.
“They do not deserve to be present at the Paris Olympics because of the war against the innocent people of Gaza,” it added, calling on organizers to ban Israel.


The Gaza war was triggered by the October 7 attacks on Israel by Iran-backed militant group Hamas, which led to the deaths of 1,197 people in Israel, most of them civilians, according to an AFP tally of Israeli official figures.
Israel’s retaliatory offensive against the militants has killed at least 39,090 people in Gaza, also mostly civilians, according to figures from the Hamas-ruled territory’s health ministry.
Iran does not recognize Israel and prohibits all contact between Iranian and Israeli athletes.
The Islamic republic has made support for the Palestinian cause a centerpiece of its foreign policy since the 1979 Islamic revolution.
In February, Iran’s football federation asked the sport’s governing body, FIFA, to suspend its Israeli counterpart over the war in Gaza.
Last August, Iranian authorities imposed a lifetime ban on weightlifter Mostafa Rajaei after he shook hands with an Israeli competitor at an event in Poland, state media reported at the time.
In 2021, Iran’s supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei urged athletes “not to shake hands with a representative of the (Israeli) criminal regime to obtain a medal.