October 4th, 2013
07:56 AM ET

Is Qatar abusing migrant workers?

Qatar's new World Cup facilities will be constructed by thousands of migrant laborers toiling in extreme heat.

And human rights groups say that many already working in the country are being severely mistreated.

Gulf migrant researcher for Amnesty International James Lynch tells me the exploitation of workers in Qatar is far too commonplace.

"We've met workers who have been in severe distress having not been paid for months at at time, not able to leave the country, and living in dire conditions," he says.

"And add to that the very long working hours that go beyond the legal limits and the exterme heat as well."

The head of the Qatar 2022 Supreme Committee tells CNN the country is committed to workers' safety.

But Hassan al-Thawadi also acknowledged that it takes time to develop and enforce labor rights laws in Qatar.

International scrutiny is growing and the pressure is on. Both Qatar and FIFA, which is currently holding an executive crisis meeting on the 2022 World Cup, are being urged to act.

July 26th, 2012
06:59 PM ET

Awesomely bad portraits of Olympic athletes


A photo exhibit of Team USA 2012 opens in New York on Friday. A press release from the art gallery reads, "You will not see world-class athletes like this anywhere."

Critics will say that's because the pictures by AFP photographer Joe Klamar are terrible. They pick at the lighting, awkward poses and shoddy backdrop.


His supporters call the work honest and original. AFP defended Klamar in a blog post addressing the controversy.

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Filed under: Over and Out There • Sport
August 10th, 2011
11:25 AM ET

Sachin Tendulkar's hunt for a hundred hundreds

Call him the Little Master, the God of Cricket or an icon in cricket-crazed India, one thing is certain: Sachin Tendulkar sits on the brink of making history… again. He is close to becoming the first cricketer to knock his 100th international 100.

That’s scoring one hundred runs, one hundred times. And that's something special.

It was hoped that Tendulkar would rewrite the record books in the first test at the so-called "Mecca of cricket", Lord's. It would have been almost too perfect. It would have been his 100th international century, on the 100th match between the two nations and on the 2000th test match ever. In short, it would have been numerical poetry.  FULL POST

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Filed under: Sport
July 20th, 2011
11:23 PM ET

China bids farewell to Yao Ming

If you browse through pictures of the Chinese national basketball team on their official website, you may notice a famous face missing.

Hours after announcing his retirement on Wednesday, Yao Ming was already consigned to history by China's basketball association. But netizens have fonder memories of the 7-foot-6 basketball giant who spiked China’s interest in the NBA. FULL POST

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Filed under: China • General • Sport
July 11th, 2011
10:13 AM ET

Yao Ming's lost legacy

He entered the NBA with a promise like few others. Yao Ming brought a rare combination of talent and the ability to unlock a massive new market for the sport. Nine years later, reports say Yao is set to retire. And despite his best efforts, the sad truth is his career wasn’t what it could have been.

Yao could have been the NBA’s next great center. The NBA has a long history of dominant big men leading their teams to the title, from George Mikan in the 50s, to Bill Russell, Wilt Chamberlain, Kareem Abdul-Jabaar, Hakeem Olajuwon, and Shaquille O’Neal. Yao was drafted at the height of Shaq's dominance in 2002, but he had the tools to take him on.

Shaq’s strength and weight made him an unstoppable force in front of the basket. But Yao’s ability to shoot from further out forced Shaq to leave his comfort zone and chase him; physically moving a seven foot tall obstacle from the hoop. And Yao was a full four inches taller. In their eagerly awaited first meeting, Yao demonstrated his height advantage by blocking Shaq twice in the first few minutes. The Rockets won that game, and Yao had arrived.

But success didn’t quite follow.

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Filed under: China • General • Sport
June 21st, 2011
02:29 PM ET

Wimbledon's Marathon Men

There is nothing quite like Wimbledon. The world's most famous tennis tournament is quintessentially British, aside from the sporting action, it is an excellent excuse for eating strawberries and cream, drinking Pimm's and having a picnic on Henman Hill/Murray Mount.

Last year, it also provided an unprecedented and unforgettable spectacle: an 11-hour, 5-minute marathon match between John Isner and Nicolas Mahut. The match stretched over three days before John Isner finally won 70-68 in a fifth set that lasted for 138 games and was longer in duration than any other complete match in the history of tennis. I'm exhausted just thinking about it.

If you have as much difficulty as I do in processing a match that long, let me help you out. The match lasted longer than:

  • A flight from London to Los Angeles (10 hours, 10 minutes)
  • The entire first season of Mad Men (10 hours, 19 minutes)
  • The time football World Cup Champions Spain spent playing in the entire 2010 tournament, minus injury time (11 hours)

Sadly, Isner and Mahut did not quite make it to our next milestone: the length of time it takes to watch the entire extended edition of the Lord of the Rings trilogy (11 hours, 48 minutes).

No wonder then, that the gruelling combat between two previously unheralded players had become a global phenomenon long before it had come to a close, making front-page news and trending on Twitter around the world.

Then came the re-match on the longest day of 2011. How appropriate...


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Filed under: General • Personal musings • Sport
June 5th, 2011
08:07 PM ET

Roger Federer and the quest to be the best

In sport, there is always a burning desire to know: Who’s the greatest of all time? The answer, unfortunately, is never that easy.

It is almost impossible to compare teams and players from one era to another. Still, we try: Could World Cup winners Spain beat Pelé’s Brazil? Is Tiger Woods better than Jack Nicklaus? Never mind that sports evolve considerably down the years; rules change, equipment changes, and we change. Humans are in general bigger, faster and stronger than they used to be.

Even when eras do overlap and we get the match-up we want, time and age do not always cooperate. Witness the long-awaited fight between Lennox Lewis and Mike Tyson. Lewis was at the peak of his powers; Tyson was far from the fighter known in his prime as “The Baddest Man on the Planet.” Lewis knocked him out but could he knock out a young Tyson?

And then there's the case of Roger Federer. FULL POST

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Filed under: General • Personal musings • Sport
June 1st, 2011
04:30 AM ET

Bully-boy tactics making Blatter, FIFA 'family' untouchable?

Sepp Blatter prays his stranglehold can be sustained.

Take yourself back to the school playground. You may have been in with the in crowd. You may have been out on a limb. You may have been a bully. You may have been bullied. But it’s likely you recall the experience.

In or out, bully or bullied, many of us secretly loathed the clique creators while outwardly expending far too much time and energy trying to ingratiate ourselves with their inner circle. Because within that inner circle there was security and there was power.

Take yourself back to those occasions when teams were being picked in gym class. You may have been first choice. You may have been last.  I was personally in the latter category and I've never felt so isolated. I was not a sporty kid, and this, in Scottish terms, means I was not a football-playing kid. The epithet "beautiful" attached to the game never really held water with me back then. And, having since met Peter Beardsley, it doesn't hold water with me now.

I digress. My point is that, while the game ain’t exactly pretty at times, what’s happening in its corridors of power is positively grisly. Football itself may not overly excite me but FIFA fills me with morbid fascination.  Why? Because the sport’s governing body takes playground nightmares and writes them large.


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Filed under: General • Personal musings • Sport
January 25th, 2011
07:31 AM ET

Admiring Andy Murray

Getty Images

I was going to call this post “The Strife of Supporting Scottish Sportspeople” but I appreciate there’s only so much alliteration people can stomach in one sitting.

Let me first make my shocking confession: I really do admire Andy Murray. His tennis style can be spectacularly entertaining – but his off-court antics delight me just as much. In the Age of Beige, when sports stars are typically media trained to within an inch of a coma, Murray is nothing if not unpredictable. In his post-match interviews, he is frequently grouchy. But he is just as often very funny. In fact, only Australian Open comedy queen Caroline Wozniacki has challenged him in this department of late.


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Filed under: General • Personal musings • Sport
December 3rd, 2010
12:35 PM ET

Can tiny Qatar handle one of the world's biggest sporting events?

I need to start with a disclaimer: I am not against the 2022 World Cup going to Qatar.

I just can't wrap my head around how it will work.

We've heard before how tiny Qatar is. How it's the smallest country ever to host the World Cup. But putting it into perspective makes it even more inconceivable.

Qatar is less than a third the size of the next smallest country to host the World Cup, Switzerland - and the Swiss hosted it in 1954. There were only 16 teams, 26 matches and a total attendance of 890,000 at the 1954 World Cup. Compare that to 2010: South Africa hosted 32 teams, 64 matches, with a total attendance of 3.2 million . And remember that Qatar has a population of just 1.7 million. How will all those visitors fit into one small country for a month of football?

If you're struggling to picture this, just take a look at the approximate size of Qatar superimposed over Switzerland in Google Earth:

And they will be clustered into a small part of Qatar: 10 of the 12 proposed stadiums are within a 30km radius. It's staggering to think that Doha wasn't considered suitable to host the Olympics in 2016... yet six years later, the city will take on the most of the burden of staging an event that normally takes an entire country to host.

On the pitch, Qatar's challenges are no less daunting. They have never qualified for the World Cup before. This is not unprecedented; Japan were awarded the 2002 World Cup before they'd ever reached the tournament, but Japan eventually did qualify in 1998. Leaving aside the first two tournaments for obvious reasons, no country has ever made their debut in the World Cup as hosts.

Can Qatar qualify? It's not impossible; they have come close on two occasions. But it's also fair to say that they are not very good. Qatar are ranked 113th in the world, below Haiti, Gambia and Iceland. They have failed to win any of their last 11 matches at the Asian Cup; their last victory was back in 1988. And in the wake of Qatar's successful bid, a video featuring an awful miss in front of an open goal by a Qatari player started trending high on social media.


On the bright side, Qatar have longer than most hosts to prepare: There are a full 12 years to go until the first Middle Eastern World Cup. But they also have more challenges to solve than most World Cup hosts.

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Filed under: General • Great graphics • Sport