|CURATING THE BEST IN SPORT|
|November 17-24, 2020|
Saudi: Sportswashing or an opportunity for change?
The Kingdom of Saudi Arabia has an abhorrent human rights record. Indeed, the concept of “Human Rights” is a Western concept and there are grey areas regarding what could and should be considered an inalienable right. They are, in the end, subjective social constructions of aggregate consensus which distinct dialectic processes beget. But it is precisely because no one is the perfect arbiter and different conclusions can be valid, that freedom of speech must be protected and enshrined. In Saudi Arabia some people die if they dare to speak.
“Sportswashing” is a concept that relates to utilizing sports as means to improve a country’s -or other institution’s- image. Sport has an aesthetic and emotional appeal that makes people associate positive feelings towards that which involves sport, hence sport sponsorship. It is no surprise that the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia and its major company, Saudi Aramco, are utilizing sport to improve their image, severely tarnished by their human rights records, particularly against women’s rights and freedom of speech, and exacerbated by the murder of journalist Jamal Khashoggi.
Saudi should not get a free pass on their human rights records but sport is not the only agency in charge of helping improve the human rights conditions in Saudi. As long as countries keep on importing from Saudi and do not condemn their actions then it would also be wrong to scapegoat sport when there are more relevant actors and actions to attend to strive towards change.
Last week, Formula 1 announced it will be hosting a Saudi Grand Prix next year and the Ladies European Tour (Golf) held the Aramco Saudi Ladies International -won by Emily Kristine Pedersen (DEN)-, the best-paid tournament outside of the majors in the tour. This week they will host the Saudi Ladies Team International, which should be the most competitive team golf tournament in the year. These organizations have been criticized for being complicit with Saudi and their corporations.
Sport is having and will continue to have a huge platform in Saudi Arabia. This confers a great responsibility. Several opportunities arise: from the harder decisions of directly condemning or boycotting an event, to more political and sport-related options, such as raising awareness towards more equitable conditions towards women. Women were not allowed to drive in Saudi until last year -and it till does not mean women still have it easy- and also until last year they could not legally enter the country unaccompanied by men.
The fact that Formula E hosted a women’s-only test last year should have made a statement. So should if the women’s-only W Series hosts a support race to Formula 1 next year. And to put women at the forefront of a golf event, a sport that has been historically male-dominated (and still is on the causal play) can also become a catalyst to change. Even if that means that more women will be inspired to play the sport, or clubs to open membership, or for women to have more liberty to dress differently, this might have an important impact. But for media it is also our responsibility to remind the public that Saudi still needs to do better in other areas and that sport should not be an excuse to hide problems, but rather to become a positive force to help change them.
|Five things to know from last week|
- Moto Champions. Joan Mir (ESP, Suzuki) has sealed the MotoGP World Championship with one race to spare, by finishing seventh at the Valencian Community motorcycle Grand Prix, which was won by current runner-up, Franco Morbidelli (ITA, Yamaha). Fabio Quartararo (FRA, Yamaha), who won the first two races this season, fell for the third time in four races and is fifth in the Championship. 2019 Champion, Marc Márquez (ESP, Honda) only partook in the first race of the season due to injury and will be back next year. In Enduro, Steven Holcombe (ENG) took an exciting E2 and Overall World Championship after Brad Freeman (ENG) ran out of fuel. Freeman did secure the E3 title. Andrea Verona (ITA) took the E1 title and Jane Daniels (ENG) took the women’s title (EnduroGP)
- Final year, first Championship. Hélio Castro-Neves (BRA) has won the Indy 500 three times but had never won a car racing Championship in his distinguished career. That changed in his final year as a Penske driver (20 years later), by taking the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship with teammate Ricky Taylor (USA), who edged out his dad’s team’s divers Ryan Briscoe (AUS) and Renger van der Zande (NZL) by a single point. Then came Jonathan Bomarito (USA) and Harry Tincknell (ENG), who won the season-finale 12 Hours of Sebring, postponed form February. Patrick Kelly (USA) took the LMP2 race and Championship, Antonio García (ESP) and Jordan Taylor (USA, Ricky’s brother) won the GTLM Championship for Corvette -3rd time in four years for the Spaniard-, although Frédéric Makowiecki (FRA) and Nick Tandy (ENG) won the 12 Hours in the final IMSA GTLM race for Porsche, for now. Mario Farnbacher (GER) and Matt McMurry (USA) won the GTD Championship while Ryan Hardwick (USA) and Patrick Long (USA) took the season finale. In a very different form of motorsport, Masanori Kohashi (JAP) won his fourth D1GP drifting event, in Japan (Watch, D1GP).
- More Champions. Also in sportscars, Toyota took the FIA World Endurance Championship with José María López (ARG), Mike Conway (ENG) and Kamui Kobayashi (ENG) by beating their teammate car that won Le Mans while Marco Sørensen (DEN) and Nicki Thiim (DEN) took the GTE Championship in their Aston Martin. United Autosports won LMP2 with Filipe Albuquerque (POR), Philip Hanson (ENG) and Paul di Resta (SCO). Emmanuel Collard (FRA), Nicklas Nielsen (DEN) and François Perrodo (FRA) took the GTE AM Honors for the AF Corse Ferrari. AF Corse also won the 1000 km of Paul Ricard, final race of the GT World Challenge Europe, as Alessandro Pier Guidi (ITA) took the lead in the final hour to win the Endurance Championship. His race teammates were Tom Blomqvist (ENG) and Côme Ledogar (FRA). 20 year-old Timur Boguslavskiy (RUS) won the Overall GT World Challenge Europe. Another Champion was Yann Ehrlacher (FRA), who took the FIA World Touring Car Cup honors, aged 24, driving the Chinese-Swedish Lynk & Co 03. Learn more about how he skipped karting (TouringCarTimes)
- Phantom head clash. In an outrageous decision, Joshua Franco (USA) maintained his World Boxing Association World Super Flyweight Title after referee Russell Mora determined a no contest due to accidental headbutt by Andrew Moloney (AUS). What is outrageous is that a series of referee reviewed the footage for over half an hour and upheld the decision. The replay, however, shows no headbutt occured in the fight to that side of Franco’s injury. In the same card, Terence Crawford (USA) scored a 4th-round TKO over Kell Brook (ENG) to maintain his World Boxing Organisation World Welterweight Title. He remains undefeated in 37 fights but is criticized for not having faced any of the very best fighters in the division. In England, Katie Taylor (IRL) successfully defended her unified Lightweight World Title with a fine decision over brave Miriam Gutiérrez (ESP), while Rachel Ball (ENG) defeated Jorgelina Guanini (ARG) for the WBO Bantam and Terri Harper (ENG) beat Katharina Thanderz (NOR) for the WBC Super Feather on a triple-female-fight card. There are several interesting fights Taylor could do (BBC).
- eSports. Joona ‘Serral’ Sotala (FIN) won the Starcraft 2 Winter (Dreamhack Masters) after having also won the Summer Championship but losing the European tournament last week (semifinals). He defeated Kim “Stats” Dae Yeob (KOR). In a different game, The Peacekeeper Elite Championship 2020 -a Chinese rebranded version of PUBG Mobile- was won by Chinese players from mainland China and Taiwan, members of the Nova Esports team. Tencent will invest over $30 Million USD in this game (Gamereactor UK)
|GLOBAL PODIUM OF THE WEEK|
|Gold: Lewis Hamilton|
(England, Auto Racing)
Lewis has made it: He is a seven-time Formula 1 World Champion, equalling Michael Schumacher’s (GER) record. By also holding the record for most victories, poles and podiums -among others-, he is now be the most successful Formula 1 driver of all time. And the way he did it was just a masterclass. He won the Turkish Grand Prix and looked as a class of his own after taking the lead from Sergio Pérez (MEX, Racing Point), to never look back and to win by over thirty seconds, even when he used the same intermediate tyres for over 50 laps, as did the Mexican driver, who would finish 2nd, after an exciting finish that saw him recover the spot from Charles Leclerc (MON, Ferrari) with two corners to go. There, Sebastian Vettel (GER, Ferrari) also passed his teammate, to take the final podium spot. Hamilton lapped his teammate, Valtteri Bottas (FIN, Mercedes-Benz), who finished 14th and lost any chance of becoming the Driver’s Champion, with three races to go.
Watch the Turkish Grand Prix highlights (F1)
|Silver: Dustin Johnson|
(United States of America, Golf)
Dustin Johnson looked as a class of his own at the Masters Tournament at Augusta, a Major by the PGA, European Tour and Japan Golf Tour, and arguably the most prestigious golf tournament in the world. He did not only just win, but he made it with the lowest score in history (-20) -the previous record was -18- and by five strokes over Im Sung-jae (KOR) and Cameron Smith (AUS). He is the second golfer to win both,the FedEx Cup and the Masters on the same year (Jordan Spieth, USA) and the first #1 ranked golfer to win the Masters since Tiger Woods (USA, 2002), who this time finished T38, one under par, after a 10-stroke par-3 in the 12, Round 4. Bernhard Langer (GER) had a great performance by finishing T29, 3 under par, aged 63.
Watch every shot from Johnson’s Final Round (Masters)
|Bronze: Fan Zhendong|
(People’s Republic of China, Table Tennis)
23 year-old Fan Zhendong tied the record for most Men’s Table Tennis World Cup (Singles) Finals won, with four (2016, 2018, 2019, 2020) and is the first to win three consecutively and maintains his #1 in the World Ranking. He defeated Ma Long (CHN), the current Olympic and World Champion, and two-time World Cup winner, four sets to three.
Watch the Men’s World Cup Final highlights (ITTF)
|GLOBAL SPORTS AGENDA|
The FIFA Matchdays will conclude. The UEFA Nations League has been particularly interesting, with Cristiano Ronaldo (POR) now having played 100 international games for Portugal and having scored 102 goals, just seven short of Ali Daei’s (IRN) 107, as Portugal defeated Andorra 7-0. It has also seen underdogs North Macedonia, Scotland and Finland qualify to the UEFA Euro 2020 (2021), after Finland shocked World Champions, France, 3-0.
Darts will have its Grand Slam with the top players from the PDC and BDC, right as Michael Smith (ENG) won two of five Winter Series Match Nights. One was also picked by Gerwyn Price (WAL), who won the World Cup the previous week.
The SCORE Desert World Series will have its flagship event, the Baja 1000, the second event out of two in this year’s series.
The ATP Finals has seen great matches, especially the game where Dominic Thiem (AUT) defeated Rafael Nadal (ESP). The Spaniard is still alive, as he had beaten Andrey Rublev (RUS). The Singles and Doubles Champions will be known this weekend.
Asian baseball has its biggest weeks coming, with the start of the Korean Series and the Nippon Series. Also in Asia but in Horse Racing, Singapore will have the Singapore Gold Cup, a Triple Crown leg.
Bobsled and Skeleton will see their competitive season get underway in Sigulda, which will be the main headquarters of this season.
FIS Women’s World Cup (Finland)
NFL Regular Season
FIFA International Matchdays
Vertical World Cup Harukas Skyrun (Virtual)
Formula DRIFT (Irwindale, California x2)
SCORE World Desert Championship (Baja 1000, México)
USAC NOS Energy Drink National Midget Series (Bakersfield Speedway, Merced Speedway x2)
Nippon League – Nippon Series
KBO – Korea Series
WPSBA World Snooker Tour – Northern Ireland Open
Bobsleigh & Skeleton:
BMW IBSF World Cup Latvia
interim World Boxing Association World Female Super Bantam Title – Nazarena Romero (ARG) vs TBA)
Champions Chess Tour – Skilling Open starts
Speed Chess Championship Main Event Round of 8
T20i Australia vs Afghanistan
PDC Tour – BoyleSports Grand Slam of Darts
Arena of Valor (King Pro League Fall 2020)
Quake Pro League Season 2: Stage 1
ISU Grand Prix – Russia
PGA Tour – RSM Classic (Georgia, USA)
Ladies European Tour – Saudi Ladies Team International
LPGA Tour – Florida, USA
Gran Premio Selección de Potrancas, Gran Premio Joaquín V. González, Gran Premio Dardo Rocha, Gran Premio Enrique Acebal (Argentina)
Railway S. (Australia)
Clásico Alberto Solari Magnasco (Chile)
Mile Championship (Japan)
XX Clásico Diamante, LXXIV Derby Mexicano, XXI Hándicap de las Estrellas, LXXV Hándicap de las Américas (México)
Singapore Gold Cup (Singapore)
Mixed Martial Arts:
Bellator Featherweight World Grand Prix Semi-Final – Darrion Caldwell (USA) vs A.J. McKee (USA)
UFC Flyweight Championship – Deiveson Figueiredo (BRA) vs Alex Perez (USA)
UFC Women’s Flyweight Championship – Valentina Shevchenko (KYR/PER) vs Jennifer Maia (BRA)
Online World Cup Series Live Final
Autumn Nations Cup
Tri Nations Series
Clipper Round the World Yacht Race Leg 9
F1 Esports Virtual Grand Prix Series (x3)
rFactor2 GT Pro Series
FIS World Cup (Poland)
2020 ITTF Finals
Nitto ATP Finals
*This agenda is based on official information at time of publication. All events are subject to change and/or cancellation.
Sport’s best values
|Gratitude: Tottenham and Ray Clemence|
QUOTE OF THE WEEK
“When I was younger I didn’t have anybody in the sport that looked like me so it was easy to think that’s not possible to get there because nobody of your colour has ever been there, you don’t see any Black people in F1 … But hopefully this sends a message to the kids that are watching … that it doesn’t matter where you come from, whatever your background, it is so important to you to dream big … You can create your own path and that is what I have been able to do, and it has been so tough. Tough doesn’t even describe how hard it has been.”
Lewis Hamilton (ENG, Mercedes-Benz)
After winning his seventh Formula 1 Drivers’ World Championship, tying Michael Schumacher’s (GER) record.