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The Qatar experience and lessons for India

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The world is changing. Sport is a strong vehicle of change. And one of the best examples of this phenomenon is Qatar, which is on the fast track of modernisation and transformation ever since it clinched the right to host the 2022 FIFA World Cup. This is the first time that a mega sporting event of this proportion is being hosted in this part of the world.

Qatar has been at it for a long time. Finally, its protracted struggle bore fruit. Any sportsperson would vouch for this; nothing succeeds like success. Qatar has suddenly catapulted itself in the world of sports as a shining star. All the reservations like the regressive labour laws, poor human rights record, curbs on free speech and lack of integrated sports culture — all of these factors, individually and collectively — were sufficient to defeat Qatar’s claim to host the World Cup.

There’s also a raging controversy about how Qatar secured the bid. But Qatar won the bid in spite of all these hurdles. That Qatar won the bid, in my view, is simply historic.

The whole country is in a transformation mode, like a snake that sheds its old skin and emerges with a new one. I was in Qatar earlier this year and the change — and the pace of that change — is both bewildering and inspiring.

It’s estimated that more than $250 billion will be spent to prepare for the World Cup. New stadia and arenas are coming up, civic infrastructure is being upgraded manifold; hotels, railways, airports and freeways are fast transforming the country. One cannot escape the feeling that these changes are symbolic of the ambitions of a small country to make it big in the comity of nations.

Development and social justice via sports is the vision of Prime Minister Narendra Modi as well. India has much to learn from the Qatar experience. Just to give you an idea, there will be seven host cities — Al-Daayen, Al-Khor, Al-Rayyan, Al-Shamal, Al-Wakrah, Doha and Umm Slal — where 12 new state-of-art stadia will come up with capacities of at least 43,000 each. And the unique aspect is that part of these stadia could be dismantled after the event and transported to other less-developed countries to help set up the infrastructure for sports and encourage people at large to play.

Qatar, while creating a real estate marvel, will remain conscious of environmental consequences. Most of the sporting infrastructure being built is zero-carbon emitting and climate controlled.

Qatar’s success is not confined to just winning the bid to host the World Cup, but its commitment to modernising and upgrading its economy. An event of this magnitude is not just about creating the necessary sporting infrastructure in a stipulated time frame, but the emphasis is also on developing and internalising an enduring sporting culture in the two-and-a-half-million Qataris. To be able to do that, Qatar is already hosting almost 100 events every year in various sporting disciplines. The World Cup is not the end, but a means to an end.

Last month, Qatar Financial Centre (QFC) Chief Executive Yousuf Mohamed al-Jaida, speaking in London, elucidated the National Vision 2030 where the investment in sports would be an integral part of a multi-faceted strategy to ensure that economic development is diverse and sustainable. There have been wide-ranging labour reforms to make Qatar an enviable destination for foreign investment. There’s a move to end the Kafala system that falls foul of international labour laws by binding an employee to an employer in an almost “slave-like” manner. The Qatari government has also expressed its willingness to introduce a law on minimum wages.

Under the young and dynamic leadership of Hassan Al Thawadi, Secretary General of the Supreme Committee for Delivery & Legacy of Qatar, sports is the catalyst in the region’s social and economic development. In a recent address to the UN, Thawadi said: “Events of this stature (the World Cup) can bring billions of people together from every corner of the world. They can serve to accelerate and inspire…in a manner and at a pace that few other initiatives can match. Sport is uniquely equipped to play a significant role in attaining these goals. We are aiming for the stars, our feet are firmly on the ground.”

India should not just be committed to ensuring “ease of doing business” in the country, but also “ease of all segments of society to play”. Qatar’s experience has an encouraging message for India.

(Siddhartha Upadhyay is member of the Governing Body of the Sports Authority of India and Founder of STAIRS, an organisation dedicated to the uplift of sports. The views expressed at personal. He can be contacted at [email protected])

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Wall Street collapses, S&P 500 ends at lowest since April

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Wall Street

New York, Dec 15: US stocks fell sharply on Friday as investors grew concerns over a possible slowdown of the global economy and a slew of corporate news.

The Dow Jones Industrial Average was down 496.87 points, or 2.02 percent, to 24,100.51. The S&P 500 decreased 50.59 points, or 1.91 percent, to 2,599.95. The Nasdaq Composite Index fell 159.67 points, or 2.26 percent, to 6,910.66, Xinhua news agency reported.

The Dow slumped more than 550 points at its low during the session and dived to its lowest close since May.

The S&P 500 dipped to its lowest closing level since April. All the 11 primary S&P 500 sectors closed lower, with health and technology down 3.37 percent and 2.48 percent, respectively, leading the laggards.

After Friday’s steep sell-off, the tech-heavy Nasdaq is now just up 0.11 percent for the year.

The Cboe Volatility index, widely considered the best fear gauge in the stock market, rose 4.75 percent to 21.63 on Friday.

Global markets were in risk-off mode with investors simply trying to limit performance damage rather than reach for outperformance, according to some analysts.

“Traders are again selling shares of profitable trades before the closing of the year. There isn’t a great deal of volume in stock trading today, so that means there is less resistance against the pressure from sellers today,” John Monaco, a trader at Wellington Shields & Co. LLC, told Xinhua.

Meanwhile, a strong U.S. dollar also complicated the situation. The U.S. dollar rose in late trading on Friday.

The dollar index, which measures the greenback against six major peers, rose 0.39 percent to 97.4441 at 3:00 p.m. (2000 GMT).

“Today’s lower market index seems to be derived from another day of strong U.S. currency. The U.S. dollar’s strength must be monitored closely as too much strength in the dollar hurts global corporate profits,” said John.

Wall Street also digested a slew of corporate news.

Shares of Johnson & Johnson, a Dow member, plunged more than 10 percent on Friday after Reuters reported the company knew about asbestos in its baby powder for decades.

Apple stock slid 3.2 percent after top analysts from TF International Securities cut iPhone shipment estimates by 20 percent.

On the economic front, U.S. retail sales increased 0.2 percent last month, led by online stores, the Commerce Department said on Friday. The reading beat market expectations.

Meanwhile, U.S. industrial production rose 0.6 percent in November, topping market forecasts as gains in mining and utilities offset declines in manufacturing, according to the Federal Reserve.

IANS

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94 MLAs with criminal cases, 187 multi-millionaires in new MP Assembly

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Bhopal, Dec 14 : As many as 94 MLAs have declared criminal cases while a whopping 187 of the 230 MLAs are multi-millionaires in the newly-elected Madhya Pradesh Assembly, a report by the Association for Democratic Reforms (ADR) revealed on Friday.

The Congress, which won the Assembly polls, leads the list with 56 MLAs having criminal antecedents, followed by the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) with 34 while the Bahujan Samaj Party has two such lawmakers.

Of the 94 MLAs with criminal cases, 47 face serious charges with six of them facing charges of attempt to murder, three facing charges of crime against women and one for murder.

On the financial front, 187 of the lawmakers are multi-millionaires with the BJP leading the pack with 109 such MLAs followed by the Congress with 90.

BJP’s Sanjay Satyendra Pathak from Vijayragahvgarh constituency in Katni district is the richest MLA with assets in excess of Rs 226 crore. Fellow party lawmaker Chetanya Kasyap from Ratlam City is next with properties in excess of Rs 204 crore.

The average assets of the MLAs in the current Assembly is above Rs 10 crore which is just double that of the 2013 Assembly.

As many as 86 of the MLAs were re-elected and their average assets in the last five years have grown by nearly Rs 7 crore — a rise of 80 per cent.

There are only 21 female members in the new Assembly.

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Sensex ends flat on weak global cues, RBI board meet

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Sensex equity Nifty

Mumbai, Dec 14: The key Indian equity indices closed flat after trading in a narrow range on Friday tracking weakness in Asian and European markets over concerns of slowdown in global growth.

Caution in the domestic markets also prevailed as the outcome of Reserve Bank of India (RBI) board meeting was awaited till the closing bell.

Although with meagre gains, domestic indices logged their fourth session of advances led by Telecom, oil and gas and power stocks. However, finance counters remained subdued.

The Sensex settled 33.29 points higher at 35,962.93 points, touching an intra-day high of 36,019.02 and a low of 35,813.85.

The Nifty50 gained 11.85 points or 0.11 per cent to close at 10,803.40.

Bharti Airtel gained the most of the 30-stock Sensex. The shares of telecom major gained over 5 per cent after Telecom Disputes Settlement and Appellate Tribunal (TDSAT) scrapped rules on predatory pricing.

It was followed by Yes Bank which advanced by 3.23 per cent. Oil and energy stocks like ONGC, NTPC and Power Grid gained in the range of 1 to 2.5 per cent.

In contrast, HDFC and Wipro were the major losers followed by L&T, Sun Pharma and Adani Ports.

IANS

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