Zahra Lari made history when she decided to pursue figure skating professionally, not only becoming the first Emirati to do so but she rightly earned the moniker ‘Ice Princess of the UAE’.
The three-time UAE national figure skating champion is now all set to represent her country in the 2018 Winter Olympics qualifying competition held in Oberstdorf, Germany from September 27-30.
The 22-year-old Emirati is excited to rub shoulders with some of the biggest names in the world of figure skating at the competition, and while qualifying for the Olympics is her ultimate dream, Lari says skating clean will be enough for her to leave Germany with her head held high.
Follow Zahra Lari on Instagram @zahralari to stay up to date with all her latest activities.
The clock is ticking yet there will be no room for excuses. It may have been an unprecedented step to name two Olympics editions at once, though for Los Angeles 2028, the International Olympic Committee’s (IOC) decision should be seen as a blessing.
Never before have hosts been named one after another but such is the lack of clamour to put on the greatest show on earth, Paris in 2024 and the City of Angels were given the nod last week. As contenders fell by the wayside, chances were seized by both.
It will be the first time the summer Olympics has been Stateside since Atlanta in 1996 and after botched attempts for 2012 and 2016, another defeat could have seen the US Olympic Committee give up once and for all.
LA wanted 2024 yet were forced to concede and wait a bit longer, albeit with plenty of caveats on offer. Their third Olympics – previous games were held in 1932 and 1984 – came not only with a bumper $1.8 billion (Dh6.6bn) gift from the IOC but also the agreement of increasing the amount of revenue shared as well as waiving a further $50m (Dh183.6m) in fees.
The IOC has also agreed to not take their normal 20 per cent share of any surplus that’s left over, thus giving the green light for LA organisers to bring domestic sponsors in, which could result in hundreds of millions of dollars.
Advance payments of $180m (Dh661m) to ease having an extra four years in which to plan will be made while $160m has been earmarked to help boost youth sports in the area. Those kind of sums normally surface after the last race has finished, not before the starting gun has sounded.
The IOC were fretting with no interested parties and felt obliged to shower LA, the only city in the fight, with gifts, wiping their hands clean of the inherent risks which come bestowed onto hosts.
“What we were able to negotiate, this deal was too good to pass up,” Mayor Eric Garcetti said in an attempt to win ‘Understatement of the Year.’
Almost all the venues and stadia will already be in place – the new $1 billion home for the newly acquired Chargers and Rams NFL teams will be over 10 years old by the time the Olympics rolls around.
The athletes village, often one of the most expensive outlays for an organising committee, will be on the campus of UCLA’s sports complex.
The estimated cost of $5.3bn (most of the money goes toward operations, technology, and workforce, with another $177m for the opening and closing ceremonies) is less than half of the cost for Rio, one of the most disappointing Olympics in recent times.
Images of the mess left behind in Brazil amid a backdrop of huge financial problems continue to cast a dark shadow over a city and country which should never have taken on the task in the first place.
Los Angeles, however, is different. Or so they say. Most infrastructural change will centre around revamping the public transport system which will in turn bring the city closer together.
This is a place, don’t forget, which has recovered from brutal riots in the early 90’s which ripped families apart and left trust in the authorities from an increasingly angry African American community at an all time low.
Los Angeles 1984 was seen as the games which restored pride and belief following the atrocities of Munich ‘72 and the abject disappointment of Montreal’s attempt four years later. Fast forward 33 years, and it’s deja-vu.
They were the only bidders back then too and posted a $250m profit. Los Angeles is now a thriving melting pot of diversity and culture.
“There are different types of legacy – infrastructure, venue and facilities. London did well with that, the regeneration of East London, low cost housing thanks to the creation of the athletes village which is the most expensive part of hosting the games,” brand expert Lois Jacobs, the CEO of global strategic branding company Landor, who worked on the Athens and Beijing Olympics, told Sport360.
“The bigger thing of legacy which is usually when countries bid, they have an underlying theme – education, healthier living, sport for everyone. LA has a lot longer than most to work out what theirs might be. It’s an unprecedented amount of time.”
In that case, getting it wrong isn’t an option.
It was supposed to be the moment Miami was waiting for. Four long years of in-fighting, broken promises and plans moving at a pace which would embarrass snails were poised to come to an end.
David Beckham worked the floor before the MLS All-Star game in Chicago, saying hello to his hopefully soon-to-benew franchise owning friends. Don Garber, the commissioner, faced the press who believed an announcement which would confirm Beckham and his investors were indeed voted in as the newest team to help boost the league’s power and popularity.
Garber, though, had bad news. “We’re not announcing MLS Miami today, but I am confident we’ll be able to do that, perhaps by the end of the summer,” he said. “We’re getting really, really, really close.”
Sources close to Beckham remain confident, especially now the proposed land where a 25,000 seater stadium has been purchased.
There are dissenters in MLS ownership ranks with grumbles about the cut-price deal Beckham was able to negotiate. But while the waiting game goes on, it surely won’t be for much longer.
Jamal Adams couldn’t have timed it any better. The 22-year old NY Jet decided to make the most ridiculous comment of his life while NFL supremo Roger Goodell was sat beside him.
Quizzed by fans during a special Q&A session about the concussion scandal which is threatening the integrity of football, Adams plumbed new depths. “We live and breathe (football) and this is what we’re so passionate about,” Adams said.
“If I had a perfect place to die, I would die on the field.” Goodell, who has to find an answer as to why 99 per cent of players whose brains were given to research displayed CTE – the degenerative brain disease linked with getting smashed in the head – sat still displaying an uneasy smile.
Blinkered fans clapped and hollered. Hell, yeah. Die for the Green and White. Adams’ family, however, weren’t laughing.
Squash icons Jahangir Khan and Nick Matthew have voiced their concerns that the sport still refuses to be accepted on the grand stage of the Olympic Games.
Last August, squash was again excluded from the list of sports to make their debut at the next edition of the Olympics at Tokyo 2020. It was a third straight bid by the World Squash Federation nor its players to get the ultimate recognition – and it was a third straight rejection.
That means a sport played by over 20 million people globally on a daily basis, in 185 countries, has failed to earn a place at sport’s greatest spectacle for the last 12 years – and legends of the game past and present cannot fathom why it remains squeezed out.
Sport climbing, surfing, and skateboarding, meanwhile, have been given the green light.
“I think it was time about 10 years ago to be honest,” said veteran Englishman Nick Matthew on the eve of the PSA World Series Finals held last week.
“We’re not better than any other sports but we’re definitely on a par. I don’t think there’s much else left for this port to do. We were ready five years ago but now I think we’re ready to take the Olympics by storm.”
After Malaysian squash star Nicol David – widely considered the game’s greatest female player – won her sixth world championship in 2011, she told reporters she would give up all of her eight world championship medals for a shot at an Olympic gold.
Although broadcasting a game that played within the confines of four glass walls may not be the most thrilling of spectator sports, squash has been revolutionised in the last decade, with the introduction of HD cameras, instant replays and other high-tech visual improvements.
After playing the first World Series Finals to be held in Dubai at the foot of the world’s tallest building – the Burj Khalifa – in 2016, this year the season-ending spectacle was held at the stunning Dubai Opera.
And Matthew added innovative new venues are just another attractive facet to squash’s continuing evolution.
“Venues like this showcase the sport around the world,” the 36-year-old said of Dubai Opera.
“This type of venue would be played in maybe once a year and now it’s the pinnacle, the season climax, while we also play in front of the Pyramids of Giza in Egypt.
“We could put the court in any country in the world and showcase that country like very few other sports.”
His concerns that squash is being continually overlooked are shared by Khan – renowned as the game’s greatest ever player.
“As a player I always felt like I should be playing there, at the Olympics, but it never happened in my lifetime,” said Khan, 53, who was also in Dubai last week.
“We came very close in London. I remember that we were shortlisted from five sports to two sports, along with karate. I always felt like we should have got in. The voting procedure or support from the executive board members of the IOC, we didn’t get.
“I felt it was unfair because squash has 185 nations that are official members. The circuit is played around the world, 25-30 million people are playing every day, so it surprises me. I feel it’s not fair.
“After London, when we shortlisted, some games that were left out are now in, like golf and rugby sevens and others, while squash is still not there.
“If you talk about the charter or rules or regulations we fulfill everything for the Olympics. I think they have to change their minds to increase more sports and athletes into the Olympics now, because this is not the 1950’s or 60’s. It’s the 21st Century and everything has changed.”