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Bolt edges Powell in Oslo thriller

Usain Bolt made it three out of three on his European tour of 100m outings with a thrilling victory over Jamaican teammate Asafa Powell in the Diamond League meeting in Oslo on Thursday.

Bolt edges Powell in Oslo thriller
Photo: Heiko Junge/Scanpix

Other stand-out performances came from Australian world champion Sally Pearson over the women's 100m hurdles and Kenyan Milcah Chemos, who ran the fourth fastest time ever in the 3000m steeplechase.

After a sun-kissed opening two hours of competition, the temperatures dropped for the Bolt v Powell duel, but the Jamaicans did not let the capacity crowd at the Bislett Stadium down.

Teeth gritted and long legs pumping, Bolt screamed through the finish line in 9.79 seconds, Powell notching up his 77th sub-10sec 100m in 9.85sec.

The 25-year-old reigning double Olympic sprint champion left it late in the race to reel in Powell, the former world record holder who was left wondering what he has to do to improve on his 11-1 losing record against Bolt.

"I really enjoyed it!" beamed Bolt. "My execution was alright. I'm going home now to top things up.

"I'll look to go fast and look forward to the trials."

Powell added: "It was an awesome race. I was there until 85 metres then my legs tired.

"Usain is a lot stronger at the end so that was it. But it's good to go to the trials with such a fast time. It brings me confidence."

In the 100m hurdles, Pearson equalled her own world leading time of 12.49sec, overcoming a false start by British heptathlete Jessica Ennis to power home 0.07sec ahead of American Kristi Castlin, with US-born Briton Tiffany Porter taking third (12.70).

"I travelled 29 hours to get here, I'm a bit jet-lagged but I'm doing well," the 25-year-old Pearson said.

"I like being chased, it keeps me hungry. I'm not feeling the pressure because I'm feeling confident."

Ethiopian Kenenisa Bekele, the reigning Olympic 5,000 and 10,000m champion who is battling to rediscover his world-beating form after injury, sat back in the field of the 5,000m until the bell rang for the last lap.

But he had left himself far too much to do, finishing fifth, with compatriot Dejen Gebremeskel taking the honours in 12:58.92, with 10 Ethiopians in the first 12.

World champion Dai Greene was also upset in the 400m hurdles, Puerto Rico's Javier Culson winning in a world lead of 47.92sec. Greene, a week after pulling out of Rome with a stomach virus, came in fourth in 48.98sec.

"That was not a good race for me," said Greene. "I pushed hard in the first 250 metres and had nothing left."

Botswana's world 400m champion Amantle Montsho made no mistake in her race, coming home in 49.68sec to send out a warning to world leader Sanya Richards-Ross of the United States.

Milkah Chemos smashed more than 6sec off her own season leading time in the 3,000m steeplechase, timing a fourth fastest time ever of 9:07.14, a new African record.

"When I improve my technique over the barriers I definitely think I can go close to the world record," the 26-year-old said.

"But first up is the Kenyan trials."

Chemos' teammate Asbel Kiprop, the Olympic 1,500m champion, clinched the Dream Mile in 3:49.22 ahead of compatriot Caleb Ndiku and world indoor bronze medallist Mekonnen Gebremedhin of Ethiopia.

There was also no drama for in-form Frenchman Renaud Lavillenie, who won the pole vault with a best of 5.82m, 20cm higher than German rival Malte Mohr.

Home favourite Andreas Thorkildsen finished in a disappointing third place in the javelin, behind winner Vitezalav Veselyof of the Czech Republic and runner-up Fatih Avan from Turkey.

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Could Scandinavian countries lead the way in taking stand against Qatar World Cup?

Vehemently opposed to Qatar's hosting of the 2022 World Cup, football federations in the Nordic countries are putting pressure on Doha and FIFA to improve conditions for migrant workers in the emirate.

Workers during construction of the Lusail 2022 World Cup stadium in December 2019. Football federations in Nordic countries led by Denmark have spoken out against Qatar's hosting of the event.
Workers during construction of the Lusail 2022 World Cup stadium in December 2019. Football federations in Nordic countries led by Denmark have spoken out against Qatar's hosting of the event. Photo: Kai Pfaffenbach/Reuters/Ritzau Scanpix

Together with rights organisation Amnesty International, the federations of Sweden, Norway, Denmark, Finland and Iceland have ratcheted up the pressure in recent months, raising their concerns and presenting recommendations in letters, meetings with officials and pre-game protests.

“We are against holding the World Cup in Qatar, we thought it was a bad decision,” the head of the Danish federation DBU, Jakob Jensen, told AFP.

“It is wrong in many ways. Because of the human rights situation, the environment, building new stadiums in a country with very little stadium capacity,” he said.

Denmark is the only Nordic country to have qualified for the tournament so far. Sweden face a playoff next year to secure a place and Norway, Finland and Iceland have been eliminated.

Leading the charge, the Danish federation regularly publishes the Nordic countries’ letters sent to FIFA and holds talks with Qatari officials, including an October meeting with Qatar head organiser Hassan Al-Thawadi.

The main concern is migrant workers’ rights.

Qatar has faced criticism for its treatment of migrant workers, many of whom are involved in the construction of the World Cup stadiums and infrastructure.

Campaigners accuse employers of exploitation and forcing labourers to work in dangerous conditions.

Qatari authorities meanwhile insist they have done more than any country in the region to improve worker welfare, and reject international media reports about thousands of workers’ deaths.

The Nordics have also raised other concerns with al-Thawadi, Jensen said.

“Will homosexuals be allowed to attend the World Cup? Will men and women be able to attend the matches together? Will the press have free access to all sorts of issues to do investigations in the country?”

“And all the answers we received were ‘yes’. So of course we’re going to hold him responsible for that,” Jensen said.

The Danish federation said its World Cup participation would focus on the games played on the pitch, and it will not do anything to promote the event for organisers.

It will limit the number of trips it makes to Qatar, the team’s commercial partners will not take part in official activities there, and its two jersey sponsors will allow training kit to carry critical messages.

In Norway, whose qualification bid fell apart when its best player Erling Braut Haaland missed games through injury, the issue culminated in June when its federation held a vote on whether to boycott the World Cup.

READ ALSO: Norway’s economic police call for boycott of Qatar World Cup

Delegates ultimately voted against the idea, but an expert committee recommended 26 measures, including the creation of a resource centre for migrant workers and an alert system to detect human rights violations and inform the international community.

Like other teams, Norway’s squad also protested before each match by wearing jerseys or holding banners like the one unfurled during a recent match against Turkey, reading “Fair play for migrant workers”.

But the Nordic countries have not always acted in line with their own campaign.

Last month at a Copenhagen stadium, a Danish fan was ordered to take down his banner criticising the World Cup in Qatar, as FIFA rules prohibit political statements.

And Sweden’s federation recently scratched plans to hold its winter training camp in the emirate as it has done the past two years.

Sweden’s professional clubs had protested against the hypocrisy of holding the camp there while at the same the federation was leading the protests with Nordic counterparts.

The professional clubs wanted to send a “signal”, the chairman of Swedish Professional Football Leagues, Jens Andersson, told AFP.

Individual players have also spoken out. 

Finland’s captain Tim Sparv last week issued a joint appeal with Amnesty demanding that “FIFA must ensure that human rights are respected”, adding: “We are in debt to those people who have worked for years in poor conditions.”

So far, none of FIFA’s 200 other member federations have joined the Nordic campaign.

“Hopefully all these Nordic neighbours of ours and us taking these steps will have an impact on other countries,” Mats Enquist, secretary general of the Swedish Professional Football League, told AFP.

“We need to ensure that all the aspects of football, not just the richest, are really taken care of when we come to a place.”

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