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Electronic flash replaces real fireworks at Asian Games opening ceremony

The opening ceremony of the Asian Games on Saturday in China offered all the staples of a major international sports event.

Dignitaries greeted General Secretary Xi Jinping, fans packed the 80,000-seat Olympic Sports Center Stadium in Hangzhou to capacity, and many of the 12,417 participants from 45 nations and territories paraded to officially open the two-week show.

By comparison, next year’s Paris Olympics will field about 10,500 competitors.

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One big thing, however, was missing: real fireworks, the exploding kind that smell of power and burnt fuses. Instead, the high-tech games — billed of course as “green games” — offered electronic flash, three-D animations, and a virtual torchbearer.
Xi was greeted by wild cheers when he appeared, and fans were handed LED star lights, adding sparkle to the stands when the lights dimmed and eight well-polished soldiers arrived carrying the national flag above their heads.
The loudest cheers were for the Chinese delegation, but Taiwan, North Korea and Hong Kong were also welcomed warmly. There were no audible jeers for any delegation.

Delayed for a year by the pandemic, the Asian Games are China’s largest sports event since the country scrapped its zero-COVID policy early in the year.

Among the dignitaries on hand were Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, International Olympic Committee President Thomas Bach, and King Norodom Sihamoni of Cambodia.

Bach is in a political tussle over the governance of the Olympic Council of Asia and is also believed to be lobbying Xi against supporting any breakaway multi-sport games sought by Russian President Vladimir Putin with Russia likely being banned next year in Paris.

The 2022 Beijing Winter Olympics were held in a COVID-19 bubble. The 2008 Summer Olympics marked China’s rise as a world power. These games serve as a promotional event for Hangzhou, the eastern metropolis of 8 million that seeks a larger stage, partly lost in the shadow on nearby Shanghai.

“Through the window of Hangzhou Asian Games, people around the world will see a trustable, loveable, and respectable China in its new era,” Xinhua, the official news agency, said in an editorial, echoing Xi’s call to tell China’s story.

The sluggish economy and high youth unemployment have some residents grumbling that the money could be better spent, prompting city officials to reassure the public that it would be a “frugal” event.

Revenues from donations and the private sector were estimated to reach hundreds of millions of dollars by March, while the expenditures were estimated to have exceeded $30 billion as the city built 56 sports facilities, 30 training sites, five villages for athletes as well as major infrastructure investments.

However, the city’s residents also are aware that the infrastructure upgrades were only possible because of the games and, along with the city government, have welcomed the games to justify the spending.
The giant numbers are due to the staggering array of events with many regional specialties, sports, and games you won’t see at the Olympics. And there’s also cricket, which appears headed to the Olympics as soon as 2028 in Los Angeles, and certainly for 2032 in Brisbane, Australia.

The regional fare includes dragon boat racing sepaktakraw — sometimes called “kick volleyball” — wushu, a Chinese martial art, and kabaddi, a popular contact sport on the Indian subcontinent.

Add to this a long list of what organizers call “mind sports” from bridge to chess to xiangqi (Chinese chess) to esports. Esports figure to be a giant hit after being a demonstration sport in 2018.

Of course, there are the old standbys seen in every Olympics like track and field, swimming, or volleyball. Nine sports will offer qualification spots for the Olympics — archery, artistic swimming, boxing, breaking, hockey, modern pentathlon, sailing, tennis, and water polo.

Many of the 481 events offer a chance for smaller delegations to win medals, which is often impossible at the Olympics. China won almost 300 medals in the Asian Games five years ago and is sure to dominate again followed by Japan and South Korea.
North Korea is on hand, so are female athletes representing Afghanistan, and Taiwan — the democratic island claimed by China as a breakaway province — always fields a strong team.
The Afghan team arrived, including women, and marching under the non-Taliban flag.

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Almarai signs an MoU with the Authority of People with Disabilities to train and employ them.

Almarai Company signed a memorandum of understanding with the Authority of People with
Disabilities to train, qualify and employ persons with disabilities. This came on the sidelines of
the First International Labor Market Conference, organized by the Ministry of Human Resources
and Social Development on December 13 – 14, 2023, at the King Abdulaziz Convention Center
in Riyadh.

The memorandum was signed by the Chief Human Resources Officer of Almarai Company,
Fahad Mohammed Aldrees, and the CEO of the Authority of People with Disabilities, Dr.
Hisham bin Muhammad Al-Haidari.

“This agreement comes within the framework of the company’s social responsibility program, as
Almarai employs more than 500 people with disabilities, which is one of the most suitable work
environments for them.” Fahad Aldrees said. Pointing out that Almarai has the “Silent Line”,
which is one of its production lines that is designated for people with hearing disabilities.

It is worth mentioning that Almarai supports over 300 charity organizations annually across the
kingdom that operate in the field of community development.

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Central Phuket Shopping Center Prepared Surprises This Christmas & New Year 2024

Central Phuket Shopping Center, the luxury lifestyle landmark o Phuket, invites everyone to celebrate Christmas and New Year 2024 in The Great Celebration 2024 Campaign. Joining hands with global partner ‘The Pokémon Company’, Central Phuket bring over Pokémon, the super cute character popular around the world, for all locals and international fans. The special campaign launch presents a procession of cute ‘Pikachu’ alongside with the giant Christmas tree for the first time in Thailand.
This December, Central Phuket prepared many activities for shoppers when visiting Phuket! Experience the “Surprise of the Day” with free Cotton Candy for our little ones, a sweet and fluffy treat, a special gift from Central Phuket. Bring your kids to enjoy this sweet treat every Saturday and Sunday throughout the month of December. Don’t miss the Christmas Carol that
everyone loves, little Santas spread freshness by singing together in the Christmas Carol activity. Plus, Christmas Live Music, the festival of joy is back! Celebrate Christmas in a luxurious and classy atmosphere, enjoying the music that will bring us joy. Also, there will be Christmas Troop, Santa Claus is coming to town! The Santa troop will spread happiness throughout Central Phuket. Lastly, Cake Workshop, workshop activity with Chef Sebastien’s IRON CHEF Thailand teaching how to make Christmas Vanilla Cake. A special activity for the Christmas season. Moreover, Central Phuket provides special promotion exclusively for international tourists throughout December 23 – January 24 including:

1) Get Free! Tourist welcome discount package valued up to THB 10,000.
2) Receive THB 100 Gift voucher when spending up to THB 2,500 per receipt.
3) Get to buy ‘Happy Holiday Collections’ special price: Pokémon 2-in-1 pillow blanket, tumbler, travel bag set, and keychain. Visit redemption counter for the price.
4) Exclusive for Grab Users get discount code up to 25% off* when traveling to participating Central Shopping Centers.
5) Receive famous Elephant Pants when spending over THB 5,000 in shopping center.
6) Get Free! H&M THB 100 gift voucher when booking any accommodations in Phuket with Agoda. Terms and conditions apply.

Central Phuket is a home of global luxury brands such as Alexander McQueen, Balenciaga, Ermenegildo Zegna, Gucci, Hermès, Louis Vuitton, and Saint Laurent. Exclusive for this season, Louis Vuitton launches a pop-up store located at Central Phuket. The design is inspired by the story of Damier or Checkerboard, the brand’s signature pattern. This classic pattern was created by Louis
Vuitton and his son Georges Vuitton in 1888 and has always been part of the design of Maison’s iconic items and concepts. Find clothes, shoes, bags, and accessories for men at the Pop-up Store from Louis Vuitton at Central Phuket, 1st floor, from today until 31 March 2024. And with over 500 renowned fashion brands and lifestyle shops ranging from local to international
well-known brands covering all categories, international shoppers will be able to find what they are looking for in Central Phuket.
Central Phuket is located in the heart of one of the world’s most famous beach cities, Phuket and await to welcome both locals and international visitors this holiday. Also, don’t miss one of the most joyful New Year Count Down events in Phuket city at Central Phuket Shopping Center on December 31, 2023.

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Saudi Fund for Development Provides $100 Million Development Loan for the Rogun Hydropower Project

The Saudi Fund for Development (SFD) Chief Executive Officer, H.E. Sultan Al-Marshad, signed a new development loan agreement with the Minister of Finance of the Republic of Tajikistan, H.E. Kahhorzoda Fayziddin Sattor, through which SFD is contributing $100 million USD to fund the Rogun Hydropower Project, a landmark initiative that will enhance energy,
food, and water security, and foster sustainable development in the country. The signing was attended by the Ambassador of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia to the Republic of Tajikistan, H.E. Waleed Al-Reshiadan, and the Ambassador of Tajikistan to Saudi Arabia, H.E. Akram Karimi, alongside other officials from both sides. SFD’s development loan will help contribute towards a more sustainable and equitable food and water future for Tajikistan, while driving the country’s energy transition and climate resilience. The project aims to contribute to the national energy security and will help advance sustainable
development in the Republic of Tajikistan, by providing the renewable electricity supply to meet local demand and expand electricity production domestically and regionally, producing 3600 MW of energy. The loan agreement will also finance the construction of a 335-meter-tall dam, which will enhance irrigation capabilities and bolster agricultural activities across the country. Additionally, the project will improve flood protection through the construction of four hydraulic
tunnels for diversion and drainage. It will also provide clean and drinkable water to people through desalination, and help advance socio-economic development, by creating both direct and indirect jobs.
Importantly, this project also supports the realization of the UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs); specifically, SDG 2, Zero Hunger, SDG 6, Clean Water and Sanitation, and SDG 7, Affordable and Clean Energy.
On this occasion, the CEO of SFD, H.E. Sultan Al-Marshad, said: “Today’s signing marks a major milestone in our shared journey towards a more sustainable future. With this landmark development loan, SFD is not just supporting Tajikistan’s energy future, but also its sustainable development and the well-being of its people. The Rogun Hydropower Project is a beacon of
hope for a bright future that is powered by clean, renewable energy. It will propel Tajikistan towards environmental stewardship and prosperity.”

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