Athenee De Beyrouth Construction Finally Finished

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When I joined L’Athenee De Beyrouth in the early 90s, the school consisted of two old buildings in Rabieh surrounded by forests. It was a cool place but a temporary one until we move to the new location in Bsalim. Unfortunately, the school’s owner died and we had to move to an unfinished school as construction works were put on hold.

Luckily though, a new management took over the school a year ago and finished in 15 months what has been pending for 15 years or more. I have fond memories of this school and I hope they will keep on improving it.

Congrats to the Athenee students and teachers and specially to the school’s principal Mr.Hayek who kept the school going through rough times and was loved and highly respected by all students.

There’s a committe being formed for “Les Anciens de l’athénée”; you can register for it on the school’s website [Here].

PS: I know this post may seem irrelevant to many readers, but anyone who’s been to Athenee can relate to what I am saying.

FIFA World Cup 2022 could be taken away from Qatar

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FIFA President Sepp Blatter asked for findings as to how the tournament was awarded

I was surprised when Qatar won the rights to host the World Cup in 2022 3 years ago even though I was sure they had the necessary means to organize a great tournament. However, there’s more to it than just money.

In fact, the decision taken three years ago is being reconsidered as FIFA’s President Sepp Blatter said and I quote : ‘There was definitely direct political influence. European leaders recommended to voting members to opt for Qatar, because of major economic interests in the country.’

Of course it’s normal for politicians to lobby in favor of a country, but the the Qatari state influence in the 2022 process was ‘unprecedented’ according to the same report, and holding the World Cup in Qatar might disrupt leagues worldwide as it needs to be held in winter to avoid temperatures of up to 50ºC (Air Conditioned stadiums, if feasible, did not convince FIFA’s chief medical officer). The high temperatures are as bad for the players as they are for the fans who would want to go out and not just hang out at malls and in the hotel.

Opponents of the move, including the Premier League, have argued that it will cause untold disruption not only to the 2021/22 campaign but to a season either side. To comply with Fifa rules, the football season will have to be suspended for up to eight weeks in either January and February or November and December of that year.

They argue there will be huge disruption to broadcasting partners, players’ contracts, sponsors and other sports that will be hard to resolve. Losing bidders for the 2022 tournament, including the US and Australia, are also unhappy at the prospect of the goalposts being moved.

Fox, which paid $1bn for the rights to show the World Cup in the US, is understood to be concerned about any possible clash with the NFL season while Frank Lowy, who led the Australia bid, has already called for compensation if the tournament is moved.

But Fifa, which is likely to ratify the decision to move to the winter in principle at a meeting of its executive committee on 3-4 October in Zurich, has insisted that the wording of its bidding documents gave it the right to shift the tournament and has insisted no compensation will be paid.


There’s also another issue which is related to the abuse of migrant workers in Qatar. In fact, it is reported that there will be at least one death per day till all the stadiums, hotels and road are built for the 2022 World Cup.

Personally speaking, the South Africa and Korea World Cups were major disappointments and I would rather have European countries host the World Cup, but I am curious and excited to see how Qatar will be able to pull out a World Cup, of course as long as they do so without causing the death of half a million workers. It’s an immense challenge and a first for Arab countries so let’s make the best out of it.

All being well, the 2022 tournament will be held in the winter. Just one niggling question remains: how many lives will be lost so that the Fifa World Cup™ can live up to its boast that it is the most successful festival of sport on the planet. “More workers will die building World Cup infrastructure than players will take to the field,” predicts Sharan Burrow, general secretary of the International Trade Union Confederation. Even if the teams in Qatar use all their substitutes, she is likely to be right.

Qatar’s absolute monarchy, run by the fabulously rich and extraordinarily secretive Al Thani clan, no more keeps health and safety statistics than it allows free elections. The Trade Union Confederation has had to count the corpses the hard way. It found that 83 Indians have died so far this year. The Gulf statelet was also the graveyard for 119 Nepalese construction workers. With 202 migrants from other countries dying over the same nine months, Ms Burrow is able to say with confidence there is at least one death for every day of the year. The body count can only rise now that Qatar has announced that it will take on 500,000 more migrants, mainly from the Indian subcontinent, to build the stadiums, hotels and roads for 2022.

Not all the fatalities are on construction sites. The combination of back-breaking work, nonexistent legal protections, intense heat and labour camps without air conditioning allows death to come in many guises. To give you a taste of its variety, the friends of Chirari Mahato went online to describe how he would work from 6am to 7pm. He would return to a hot, unventilated room he shared with 12 others. Because he died in his sleep, rather than on site, his employers would not accept that they had worked him to death.

BlogBaladi featured in the WashingtonPost

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Source: CNN

I was asked to comment on the Naval Yard Shooting in Washington that took place last week by the Washington Post Beirut correspondent and my remarks were featured in the below [article].

In Lebanon, news of the killings was overshadowed by the diplomatic push for Syria to relinquish its chemical weapons, which has eased concerns of a U.S. military strike on Damascus and the possible ramifications of such a strike for its smaller neighbor.

Najib Mitri, a prominent Lebanese blogger, said there was relief among Arabs that the shooter did not have a connection to the Middle East.

“What is happening in the area here is enough to tarnish our reputations already — the violence, the massacres. It’s a relief that this is not another opportunity to label us this way,” he said.

While Lebanon is no stranger to gun violence, plagued by corruption and groups that have not disarmed since the Lebanese civil war, the fact that a country like the United States was unable to prevent a gunman from breaching security at a naval base was unsettling, Mitri he said. He predicted a bolstered sense of national unity in the aftermath of the killings — something he said happened in Lebanon after recent bombings in southern Beirut and the northern city of Tripoli.

“The more you have weapons, the more you have crime,” Mitri said. “When something like this happens in your country, you stop looking at the political picture, and all that matters is that it needs to be stopped.”

While there are no clear studies that prove a correlation between Gun Control and Less Violent Crime, I will never understand why people are so eager to buy a gun and carry it around. Even in Lebanon where the security situation is bad, I can understand keeping a gun or any fatal weapon at home in case of a robbery but I would never put a gun in my car or carry it around for protection.

Personally speaking, I don’t even know how to fire a gun and I don’t have any weapon at home, because I am honestly not ready to have blood on my hands. If I ever consider keeping a weapon at home, I would join a Shooting Club, learn how to shoot and aim properly and only then buy a small handgun for emergencies.

Lebanese “Surfing For Peace”

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Location: Canal Saint-Martin, Paris

A dozen of surfers, including a Lebanese, participated in the “Surfing for Peace” day on the Saint-Martin canal in Paris to celebrate “International Peace Day”.

Read about it [Here].

Surfing 4 Peace is a person 2 person and cross-border cooperation initiative that aims to bridge cultural and political barriers between surfers in the Middle East.

In Numbers: How Syria’s Conflict is affecting Lebanon

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Children pose for a picture in the Za’atari refugee camp in Jordan. PHOTO BY: Jeff J Mitchell

According to a World Bank report, Syria’s conflict will cost Lebanon $7.5 billion in cumulative economic losses by the end of next year. This number comes as no surprise as businesses are suffering, restaurants and hotels are closing down, tourists are not coming while refugees are flooding the country and unemployment is on the rise.

In terms of numbers, the war in Syria and the resulting wave of refugees:
– Will cut real GDP growth in Lebanon by 2.85 percent a year between 2012 to 2014.
– Widen the deeply indebted nation’s deficit by $2.6 billion.
– Caused an economic loss of more than $1.1 billion in 2012, will cost nearly $2.5 billion this year and up to $3.9 billion next year.

As far as Syrian Refugees are concerned:
– The UN says we have 755,00 refugees while the World Bank estimates their number at 914,000 (Excluding the Syrians who were in Lebanon before the crisis).
– The number is expected to rise to 1.3 million by January and 1.6 million by end of 2014, forming almost 37% of the country’s population.
– 150,000 Syrian children will be expected to register in schools next year, a number that constitutes more than half the number of public school students in Lebanon.
– 40% of primary health care visits were for Syrian refugees last December.

As far as Lebanese and Tourism in Lebanon are concerned:
– Unemployment is expected to double and reach 20 percent.
– Another 170,000 Lebanese (Added to the 1 million Lebanese already classified as poor – living on less than $4 a day) will be pushed into poverty due to the crisis.
– Nbr of visitor arrivals dropped by 43% in the first seven months of 2013 when compared to the same period in 2010.
– Occupancy rates in most of the luxury hotels in Beirut is around 30%.

All numbers were taken from the [Reuters article] and [Executive-Magazine article].