800 athletes from 45 nations set for IMMAF Youth World Championships in Abu Dhabi

800 athletes from 45 nations set for IMMAF Youth World Championships in Abu Dhabi
The IMMAF Youth World Championships will be held at the Mubadala Arena in Abu Dhabi from Aug 6-10. (SUPPLIED)
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Updated 25 June 2024
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800 athletes from 45 nations set for IMMAF Youth World Championships in Abu Dhabi

800 athletes from 45 nations set for IMMAF Youth World Championships in Abu Dhabi
  • The event will run from Aug. 6-10 at Mubadala Arena in Zayed Sports City

ABU DHABI: Preparations are well underway for the 2024 IMMAF Youth World Championships from Aug. 6 to 10 at Zayed Sports City, the organizing committee has announced.

The International Mixed Martial Arts Federation championship, to feature 800 athletes from 45 countries, will be held in the UAE capital for the third consecutive year.

In 2021, the tournament attracted 331 athletes from 23 countries, and in 2022 featured 500 competitors from 42 countries. Last year there were 700 male and female athletes from 45 countries.

The next generation of MMA athletes will compete in three age categories: 12 to 13 (Youth C), 14 to 15 (Youth B), and 16 to 17 (Youth A).

In 2022, the UAE National Team debuted in the championship with 28 athletes, winning one gold, one silver, and two bronze medals.

Last year, the UAE team comprised 40 athletes and clinched four gold, four silver, and four bronze medals. Fahad Al-Hammadi (Youth A/70.3 kg division), Ghala Al-Hammadi (Youth B/40 kg division), Saif Alblooshi (Youth C/40 kg division), and Zamzam Al-Hammadi (Youth B/52 kg division) were among the gold medalists for the hosts.

This year, the team comprises 50 athletes who will undergo intensive training over the next few weeks to enhance their mental and physical readiness under the guidance of international coaches.

The IMMAF’s President Kerrith Brown said recently he was looking forward to the championships. “Returning to Abu Dhabi is always a pleasure for us. The level of commitment of the entire team is truly inspiring and we are happy to report another record-breaking attendance number for this year.

“We are excited to continue to build a safe pathway for youngsters to develop as athletes and human beings and everyone can expect increased efforts from the IMMAF to continue making safeguarding a priority as we expand our youth tournaments around the globe.”

Mohammed bin Dalmouk Al-Dhaheri, board member of the UAE Jiu-Jitsu and Mixed Martial Arts Federation and chairman of the body’s Mixed Martial Arts Committee, said the UAE was honored to host the event.

“With less than two months remaining until the largest event that MMA fans worldwide look forward to, we are working hard to ensure that this edition comes out in the best possible way. The previous two editions saw great success and contributed to solidifying Abu Dhabi’s status as a much sought-after destination for major sporting events,” Al-Dhaheri said.


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.


What we know about the Paris Olympics opening ceremony

The moon rises behind the Olympic rings displayed on the Eiffel Tower in Paris ahead of the Paris 2024 Olympic Games. AFP
The moon rises behind the Olympic rings displayed on the Eiffel Tower in Paris ahead of the Paris 2024 Olympic Games. AFP
Updated 23 July 2024
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What we know about the Paris Olympics opening ceremony

The moon rises behind the Olympic rings displayed on the Eiffel Tower in Paris ahead of the Paris 2024 Olympic Games. AFP
  • Up to 500,000 people are set to watch in person from specially built stands
  • Two-thirds of the ceremony will take place in daylight, then dusk

Paris: Organizers of Friday’s opening ceremony for the Paris Olympics — the first time it will be held outside a stadium — have provided teasers for their spectacular plans but refused to give specifics.
Here is what we know about the concept, the artists, and the music based on public statements over the last few months and press leaks:
Instead of using the main athletics stadium for the opening parade, as is customary, organizers have moved the event outside and into the heart of the capital — in keeping with their motto “Games Wide Open.”
Around 6,000-7,000 athletes are set to sail down a six-kilometer (four-mile) stretch of the river Seine from the Austerlitz bridge in the east to the Eiffel Tower, on 85 barges and boats.
Up to 500,000 people are set to watch in person from specially built stands, where tickets have been sold for up to 2,700 euros ($2,900), on the riverbanks for free, and from the overlooking balconies and apartments.
“Organizing a ceremony on the Seine is not easier than doing it in a stadium... but it has more punch,” chief organizer Tony Estanguet told AFP earlier this month.
Because of the size and complexity of the parade, it has never been rehearsed in full.
The show has been designed by prodigious theater director Thomas Jolly, a 42-year-old known for the hit rock opera musical “Starmania.”
He brought on board a creative team that includes the writer of the French TV series “Call My Agent,” Fanny Herrero, best-selling author Leila Slimani, and renowned historian Patrick Boucheron.
The show has been split into 12 different sections, with around 3,000 dancers, singers, and entertainers on both river banks, bridges, and nearby monuments.
A tribute to Notre Dame Cathedral, in the process of being renovated after a devastating fire in 2019, is guaranteed, possibly with dancers on its scaffolding.
Starting at 07:30 p.m. (1730 GMT), two-thirds of the ceremony will take place in daylight, then dusk — Jolly is hoping for one of Paris’s stunning summer sunsets — and will end with a light show.
The music will be a mix of classical, traditional ‘chanson francaise’, as well as rap and electro.
Franco-Malian R&B star Aya Nakamura is widely tipped to perform despite criticism from far-right politicians, including Marine Le Pen who suggested an appearance by her would “humiliate” France.
French electro superstars Daft Punk said they had turned down an invitation to play, while globe-trotting French DJ David Guetta has been overlooked — much to his irritation.
Asked to sum up his message last week, Jolly said it was “love.”
Despite the risk of irking conservatives, he said his work would be a celebration of cultural, linguistic, religious and sexual diversity in France and around the world.
“I think the people who want to live together in this diversity, this otherness, are much more numerous, but we make less noise,” he told AFP.
It is fair to assume it will be nothing like the widely panned retro-styled opening ceremony of last year’s Rugby World Cup, which featured a succession of French cliches from baguettes to berets and the Eiffel Tower.
Jolly’s team is also wary of over-emphasizing France’s historic contribution to the development of democracy and the concept of universal human rights thanks to its Enlightenment philosophers and 1789 Revolution.
“We wanted to avoid our natural tendency to lecture people,” Herrero told Le Monde newspaper recently.
And don’t expect a three-hour tribute to French greatness to rival the nationalistic pageantry seen at the Beijing Games in 2008.
“The opening ceremony in Beijing in 2008 was exactly what we did not want to do,” Boucheron told Le Monde.
With so much still under wraps, it’s hard to predict.
A performance by Aya Nakamura, after so much controversy about her role, would be a major moment so soon after parliamentary elections that saw the anti-immigration far-right gain a historic 143 seats in the national parliament.
Jolly has strongly hinted that a submersible or submarine could emerge from the waters of the Seine at some point.
“You have the sky, you have bridges, you have water, you have banks, you have so much space to make poetry,” Jolly told reporters last week. “So why not under the river also?“
The biggest moment of all might simply be the end if everyone gets home safely.
The ceremony has given French police cold sweats ever since it was unveiled in 2021 because of the difficulty of securing so many people over such a vast urban area.
Around 45,000 members of the security forces will be on duty.