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Qatar brings first newly-built 2022 World Cup stadium to life

by Robie de Guzman   |   Posted on Friday, May 17th, 2019

Courtesy : Reuters

Qatar inaugurated the first of seven new World Cup 2022 stadiums on Thursday (May 16), just weeks before a crucial FIFA summit will decide whether to expand the tournament and potentially push it beyond the tiny Gulf state’s borders to accommodate a larger format.

Fans packed into the Al Janoub stadium, a 40,000 seat venue designed by late architect Zaha Hadid and made to resemble the sail of a dhow, or traditional wooden sailboat, to cheer on Qatari teams playing in the final of the Emir Cup, a local tournament for the country’s club sides.

The inauguration comes as soccer’s world governing body FIFA floats a plan to expand the next World Cup to 48 teams from 32, which could require a last-minute co-host despite a protracted dispute between Qatar and some of its neighbours, bans on alcohol and a lack of facilities restricting likely candidates.

Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain and Egypt have imposed a political and trade boycott on Qatar since mid-2017, accusing it of supporting terrorism, which Doha denies.

That rift has strained efforts by FIFA President Gianni Infantino to push for a suitable Word Cup co-host even as qualifying matches begin early next month.

FIFA will host its annual congress in Paris on June 5, where it is expected to make a final call on the expansion, though any decision must be signed off by Qatar, the first Arab country to win hosting rights for the tournament in 2010.

The finals will start in November 2022, having been moved from the usual June-July slot to avoid the searing summer heat.

Al Janoub, a fully air-conditioned stadium which kept the temperature 10 degrees lower than the 29 Celsius outside during Thursday’s inauguration match, was previously called Al Wakrah after the city hosting it just south of Doha.

However, Qatar’s Emir Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad al-Thani tweeted before the match that it was being renamed.

It is one of seven venues built from scratch for the 2022 World Cup, with an eighth stadium renovated and opened in 2017.

Qatar has pushed ahead with an ambitious scale-up of its infrastructure ahead of 2022 that includes $6-8 billion on stadiums and sporting facilities, part of efforts to use the tournament to diversify its energy economy and project itself on to the world stage through sport. (REUTERS)

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Tanker attacks in Gulf of Oman fuel security, oil supply fears

by Robie de Guzman   |   Posted on Friday, June 14th, 2019

Fire burning on oil tanker at sea | Courtesy: Image grabbed from a Reuters video

Attacks on two oil tankers on Thursday (June 13) in the Gulf of Oman left one ablaze and both adrift, shipping firms said, driving oil prices up 4 percent over worries about Middle East supplies.

The Front Altair was on fire in waters between Gulf Arab states and Iran after an explosion that a source blamed on a magnetic mine. The crew of the Norwegian vessel were picked up by a vessel in the area and passed to an Iranian rescue boat.

A second Japanese-owned tanker was abandoned after being hit by a suspected torpedo, the firm that chartered the ship said. The crew were also picked up.

The attacks were the second in a month near the Strait of Hormuz, a major strategic waterway for world oil supplies. (REUTERS)

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Saudi Arabia’s Abha airport attacked by Yemen’s Houthi group

by Robie de Guzman   |   Posted on Friday, June 14th, 2019

Courtesy : Reuters

The Saudi-led military coalition vowed to respond firmly to a missile attack by Yemeni Houthi forces on a civilian airport in southern Saudi Arabia on Wednesday (June 12) that wounded 26 people.

The coalition said a projectile hit the arrivals hall at Abha airport, causing material damage.

Three women and two children were among the wounded, who were of Saudi, Yemeni and Indian nationalities, it said in a statement on Thursday (June 13).

Meanwhile, planes from the Saudi-led military coalition fighting in Yemen bombed areas around the capital Sanaa on Thursday, residents and the Houthi-run Al-Masirah TV said.

The Western-backed, Sunni Muslim coalition has been battling the Iranian-aligned Houthi movement in Yemen since 2015 when it intervened to try to restore the internationally recognized government that was ousted from the capital Sanaa by the Houthis in late 2014. (REUTERS)

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Hong Kong protesters condemn ‘unreasonable’ police violence

by Robie de Guzman   |   Posted on Friday, June 14th, 2019

Police gathered in Tamar Park | Courtesy: Image grabbed from a Reuters video

Hong Kong demonstrators who experienced tear gas when the anti-extradition protest turned violent said on Thursday (June 13) that they condemned the ‘unreasonable’ use of force by the police.

Hundreds of people remained on the streets to protest a planned extradition law with mainland China, a day after police fired rubber bullets, tear gas and pepper spray in a series of skirmishes to clear demonstrators from the legislature, with officials saying 72 people had been admitted to hospital by 10 p.m.

Uniformed police with helmets and shields blocked overhead walkways in Hong Kong’s financial district on Thursday, while a long row of police vans was parked nearby.

Plainclothes police officers checked commuters’ identity papers as a massive clean-up was underway, clearing streets of debris, like broken umbrellas used by protesters to protect themselves and broken baricades, left from the violent clashes.

Protesters, some still wearing face masks and goggles in case police once again use tear gas, were joined by students during the day.

But their numbers eased off later to a few hundred, after a Legislative Council meeting to discuss the extradition bill was postponed. (REUTERS)

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