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DUBAI: When UFC returns to the UAE capital’s Yas Island on July 11, the message will be clear: Abu Dhabi is open for business. The two-week “Fight Island” will launch with the pay-per-view UFC 251, with three other fight nights taking place on July 15, 18 and 25. All will take place at Flash Forum.…

DUBAI: When UFC returns to the UAE capital’s Yas Island on July 11, the message will be clear: Abu Dhabi is open for business.

The two-week “Fight Island” will launch with the pay-per-view UFC 251, with three other fight nights taking place on July 15, 18 and 25. All will take place at Flash Forum.

For Ali Al Shaiba, Executive Director, Tourism and Marketing at Department of Culture and Tourism (DCT) Abu Dhabi, it represents so much more.

“This is not just for Abu Dhabi or the UAE, but for the whole region,” he said. “We want to show that we were able to handle the challenges [of the coronavirus crisis] and able to organize an event of this magnitude.”

With fighters flying in from all over the world, Fight Island is set to be the biggest post-Covid-19 international sporting event yet.

To welcome the fighters, their trainers and delegates to Abu Dhabi, a 10km state of the art “Safey Zone” has been built by DCT on Yas Island, where nothing has been left to chance to ensure the safety of everyone involved.

”We were in discussion with UFC for three months. For us the big challenge at the start was how we can hold this event safely in the middle of what was going on. How can we control this?” said Al Shaiba.

“We needed an open space that can be utilized safely. As you know Abu Dhabi is an island, in fact it is made up of almost 215 islands. We thought why not have it on an island where we can control the border and all the points of entry? Where we can be sure of the safety and hold it comfortably.”

UFC welterweight champion Kamaru Usman (L) trades punches with Colby Covington in their welterweight title fight during UFC 245 at T-Mobile Arena on Dec. 14, 2019 in Las Vegas, Nevada. (Steve Marcus/Getty Images/AFP)
Headlining UFC 251 will be welterweight champion Kamaru Usman’s title bout with Gilbert Burns, and also on the card is the rematch between reigning featherweight champions Alex Volkanovski and Max Holloway. The third title fight will take place between Petr Yan and Jose Aldo for the vacant bantamweight crown.

Every precaution has been taken to make sure that every one of the expected 2,500 essential personnel involved in the event at any level will have been tested thoroughly before being allowed inside the Safety Zone.

”We have different testing protocols for the staff who are involved in the organization here and for the fighters and camps who will be coming from abroad,” Al Shaiba said.

“The staff in Abu Dhabi were in quarantine for 14 days on one of the five or six hotels on Yas Island which will be holding delegates and participants. In those 14 days they are tested three times, and after the last one, they are allowed to leave the hotels and carry on their in their roles across the Safety Zone.”

Those coming from overseas, Al Shaiba said, will be tested 48 hours before departure, and then again on landing at Abu Dhabi Airport. After that they will receive a third test 48 hours later at their hotel.

The event’s strict guidelines mean that normal Covid-19 safety procedures will apply to everyone taking part once on the island. That means social distancing will be maintained, while wearing masks will be a requirement while moving around Fight Island. Meals and food deliveries will also follow government regulations that apply to the rest of the population.

Al Shaiba revealed that during their downtime the fighters and their colleagues will have plenty to keep them entertained, with golf courses, beaches and fine dining outlets open for all to visit under controlled conditions.

Above all, a meticulous training program has been devised for the fighters to ensure minimal contact with other participants.

“We ensured that we used best practices in planning the schedules,” Al Shaiba added. “For example, in the hotels where the fighters will be staying, every floor will have its own gym and training facilities, so there will less need for them to be constantly take elevators every day.”

While cutting down on such unnecessary movements ensures a higher level of safety, there will also be further measures in place to facilitate greater freedom during the preparations.

”Of course each hotel has its own main gym for the more advanced training the fighters need to take part in,” he said. “And there are other training facilities around the island that will follow safe distancing procedures. The different schedules of the fighters will comfortably not interfere with each other.”

Al Shaiba pointed out that while they were expecting up to 100 fighters to take part in the two-week event, at any one time, only some of them will be on Fight Island.

”This involved with UFC 251 for example, will leave after their fights, while others involved in the fight nights might arrive a week after that. The arrivals and schedules of the fighters will be staggered according to their participations.”

Abu Dhabi’s partnership with UFC is only set to get stronger in the coming years.

On Sept. 7, 2019, The Arena, Yas Island held UFC 242, which saw headliner Khabib Nurmagomedov defeat Dustin Poirier in the lightweight title fight. It was the first of five agreed UFC fight nights with DCT, and Al Shaiba was keen to clarify that Fight Island is a standalone event, and separate from that initial agreement. There will be plenty more to look forward to in the coming months and years.

”Our contract with UFC is for five years, with one fight night scheduled per year,” he said. “Fight Island is an additional event to that. We promise fans four more events, starting hopefully with one at the end of 2020 if at all possible.”

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Mass testing, government support keep Covid-19 death rate low in UAE: Doctors

Dr Syed Nadir, who has been treating a number of Covid-19 patients, thanked the UAE government for its full support in the ongoing battle against Covid-19. The UAE on Wednesday, July 15, declared that not a single Covid-19 death was reported across the emirates in 24 hours, an update that sent a wave of hope…

Dr Syed Nadir, who has been treating a number of Covid-19 patients, thanked the UAE government for its full support in the ongoing battle against Covid-19.

The UAE on Wednesday, July 15, declared that not a single Covid-19 death was reported across the emirates in 24 hours, an update that sent a wave of hope among residents amid the pandemic. Health experts attributed the achievement to the outstanding crisis management and proactive steps taken by the country’s leaders.
Dr Syed Nadir, who has been treating a number of Covid-19 patients, thanked the UAE government for its full support in the ongoing battle against Covid-19.
“It is indeed a big achievement and I think it was made possible due to the collaborative effort of the frontliners, volunteers and proactive thinking of the UAE leaders,” said Dr Nadir, acting head of internal medicine at Adam Vital Hospital in Dubai.
Thanks to mass testing, contact-tracing, isolation of patients and awareness drives, the UAE’s Covid mortality rate (0.6 per cent) is considerably lower than the global average (which is around 4.3 per cent), he said.
‘Screenings helped massively’
Mass testing, in particular, has been crucial in flattening the curve, doctors said. More than four million PCR tests have so far been carried out nationwide, with the UAE ranking first globally in the number of Covid-19 screenings done per capita.
“Screenings have been instrumental in identifying asymptomatic patients. This has helped the nation ensure that treatment is provided before a patient’s condition worsens. The time for recovery of these patients was shorter,” said Dr Nabeel Debouni, group medical director at VPS Healthcare.
Dr Nadir added that regular updates and guidance from the authorities have also been a big help for front-liners. “The health authority has been guiding us on the best, evidence-based practices. This helped us keep the situation under control.”
All hospitals in the country have followed these guidelines and found them ‘very helpful’ in managing and treating Covid-19 patients, Dr Debouni said. “Most of the patients have recovered completely.”
Timely management
Calling the UAE a role model for the world, Dr Raza Siddiqui, executive director at RAK Hospital, said the timely management of the outbreak ultimately helped the country keep the death rate low.
“UAE leadership was quick to identify the threat and understood that a comprehensive testing and screening will be the perfect strategy to contain the spread of Covid 19 and we are continuing with the drive. All this became possible because of the visionary leaders of the country,” he said.
“Multi-language awareness programmes, country-wide sterilisation drives, and stringent safety measures have also ensured that the country remained ahead in the fight against Covid-19.”
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Indians, other teams pressured after Redskins drop nickname

CLEVELAND: The spotlight for change is shining on the Cleveland Indians. Now that the NFL’s Washington Redskins have retired their contentious nickname and logo after decades of objection and amid a nationwide movement calling for racial justice, the Indians appear to be the next major sports franchise that might assume a new identity. Along with the…

CLEVELAND: The spotlight for change is shining on the Cleveland Indians.

Now that the NFL’s Washington Redskins have retired their contentious nickname and logo after decades of objection and amid a nationwide movement calling for racial justice, the Indians appear to be the next major sports franchise that might assume a new identity.

Along with the Indians, who recently announced they are in the early stages of evaluating a name change for the first time in 105 years, the Atlanta Braves, Chicago Blackhawks and Super Bowl champion Kansas City Chiefs are among those facing backlash along with the potential of sponsors pulling their financial support. For some, the time has come for widespread changes to sports nicknames, mascots and symbols as the country reckons with its legacy of racism.

“I understand people aren’t willing to change or so quickly, or they’re hoping this moment is going to pass. It’s not,” said activist Frances Danger, who is Muscogee (Creek) and Seminole from Oklahoma. ”And now that we’ve gotten what we needed on the Redskins side, we’re going to start working on the rest of them. We’re not going to let up.”

On Monday, Washington announced it was dropping a nickname that had been in place since 1933 and had grown into an embarrassing scar for the NFL franchise. The team buckled under financial pressure from sponsors including FedEx, the shipping giant and naming rights holder to the teams’ stadium, as well as other groups.

While the debate over the Redskins’ nickname waged for years, the drastic change came just two weeks after owner Dan Snyder, who once said he would never change the team’s moniker, said the franchise would undergo a “thorough review” before its next move. Cleveland’s situation is different from Washington’s on several fronts.

First, the Indians are not feeling heat from any corporate sponsors. At least not publicly.

When the Redskins announced their review earlier this month, the Indians released a statement within hours of Washington’s that said, “we are committed to engaging our community and appropriate stakeholders to determine the best path forward with regard to our team name.”

The Indians didn’t promise to change their nickname. But it would be hard to imagine them going through a detailed evaluation and deciding to stick with a nickname that Native American groups have condemned for years as degrading and racist. 

Cleveland showed a willingness to rebrand itself when it pulled the highly debated Chief Wahoo logo off its game jerseys and caps. 

While the red-faced, toothy caricature remains a presence on some team merchandise, its reduced status and removal from the diamond and signage around Progressive Field was applauded as a positive step.

Even if the Indians decide to drop the nickname, there are numerous other layers — trademark contracts, new logos, Major League Baseball’s approval — to work through before the change could take effect.

While the Indians seem open to a new identity, the Braves aren’t budging.

They have no plans to change their nickname, telling season-ticket holders in a letter last week that “we will always be the Atlanta Braves.” However, the team said it will review the team’s ”tomahawk chop” chant — a tradition borrowed in the early 1990s from Florida State’s powerful football program.

The Blackhawks, too, have no plans for change, saying their name honors a Native American leader, Black Hawk of Illinois’ Sac & Fox Nation. The NHL team said it plans to work harder to raise awareness of Black Hawk and “the important contributions of all Native American people.”

“We’re trying to honor the logo and be respectful,” general manager Stan Bowman said. “There’s certainly a fine line between respect and disrespect, and I think we want to do an even better job. I think the most important thing is to be clear that we want to help educate. … I think we’ve done a good job, but we want to do a better job. And I think we’re committed to that as we go forward.”

Part of Atlanta’s insistence to keep a nickname the franchise brought from Milwaukee in 1966 is due to the the team’s “cultural working relationship” with the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians in North Carolina and other tribal leaders it collaborates with regularly.

But as teams look to make changes, Danger will continue to push them to abandon any connection with Native Americans, who have been portrayed as mascots for generations.

“We’re being paraded around without a say in how we’re seen,” she said. “It’s a less bloody continuation of that, of us being a sideshow. It’s not hard to choose the right side of history, so I hope these teams will take that step with us, side by side, as we all work together to change the world.”

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Anger after Indonesia agrees to pave paradise for coal road project

JAKARTA: Conservationists on Tuesday slammed a decision by the Indonesian government to allow a mining contractor company to build a road through a restoration forest in South Sumatra. Critics claim the project could damage the sensitive ecosystem and threaten the critically endangered Sumatran tiger, the only tiger subspecies left in the country after two other subspecies …

JAKARTA: Conservationists on Tuesday slammed a decision by the Indonesian government to allow a mining contractor company to build a road through a restoration forest in South Sumatra.

Critics claim the project could damage the sensitive ecosystem and threaten the critically endangered Sumatran tiger, the only tiger subspecies left in the country after two other subspecies  became extinct in Java and Bali.

“This is contradictory to the government’s said commitment to restore forests and rehabilitate the ecosystem, that could serve as the natural habitat for wild species and a top predator such as the Sumatran tiger,” Yoan Dinata, a member of Forum Harimau Kita (Our Tiger Forum), in Jambi, told Arab News.

Once completed, the road would cut across the Harapan rainforest, a 98,555-hectare wildlife haven in South Sumatra and Jambi provinces managed by Restorasi Ekosistem Indonesia (REKI) as the concession holder.

The forest is the first ecosystem restoration concession in Indonesia based on a collaboration led by Burung Indonesia, the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds, and BirdLife International.

Dinata said the existing road network built by companies managing various concessions in nearby industrial forests had already put a barrier between conservation areas inhabited by tigers.

Opening the forest for a road project could escalate human-tiger conflicts in Sumatra, he added, as tigers often entered human settlements in search of food as a result of deforestation and habitat loss.

“Forest restoration is also aimed to increase the tiger’s population. If their natural habitat is shrinking, they would not be able to breed, and we would not be able to increase their population.”

There were at least 20 tigers in the Harapan forest based on a 2015 research, according to REKI data. But camera traps installed inside the forest, which represents 20 percent of the remaining lowland forest in Sumatra, have captured tiger sightings over the years. 

Mangarah Silalahi, REKI’s president director, told Arab News that the company so far never received formal notification from the Forestry Ministry that they had permitted the coal transport company to build a road that cuts through their concession, allowing the company to use 424 hectares of land in the forest, on which some parts of the coal road project would be constructed. 

The designated areas are part of the Asian elephants’ track and the tigers’ home roaming range. 

“If this permit is really issued, it is difficult for us to say that the forestry ministry supports the Harapan forest restoration.” 

Arab News tried to contact the ministry for confirmation but failed to receive a response in time. Meanwhile, Diki Kurniawan, a director at the Jambi chapter of the Environmental Legal Aid Foundation (YLBHL) told Arab News that activists had urged the company to use an existing road network which goes around the forest or has been constructed by other firms in the area. 

“They could negotiate with those companies to use the road, instead of opening the forest just to construct their own road,” he said. The forest is also home to an indigenous, semi-nomad community, the Batin Sembilan, who have made the forest their home for centuries.  

Although some members of the community have settled in permanent dwellings inside the forest, they still rely on the forest for their livelihood by harvesting non-wood produce such as honey, resin gum, or rattan. Kurniawan said the YLBHL and 36 other civil society organizations that formed a coalition called South Sumatra-Jambi Anti Forest Destruction to reject the plan is mulling over assisting the indigenous tribe – as the party directly impacted by the project – to challenge the ministry’s decision through a legal channel. 

“The road project could open access to poachers and illegal logging. We have seen from previous practices that companies that open the forests could not prevent the forest from the devastating impact,” Kurniawan said.

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