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Sports As Diplomacy: Gulf Countries See Big Time Sports As Ticket To Global Influence

Offering instant citizenship and huge salaries to star athletes, maneuvering for major sporting events are a way for small Gulf nations to aim big on world stage.

Qatar's Hamad bin Khalifa Al Thani
Qatar's Hamad bin Khalifa Al Thani
Mustapha Kessous

QATAR - Pride is visible in the windows at the Souk Al Waqif. The shop fronts in this touristy area are covered with posters of the Emir of Qatar and his son raising the World Cup in triumph. Plaster replicas of the golden sculpture can be bought at the souvenir stand for a cool $27.

This desert kingdom will host the 2022 Soccer World Cup. The decision by the International Football Federation (FIFA) to grant Qatar the world's most watched sporting event came as the crowning of a policy of "sports diplomacy" initiated nearly two decades ago.

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Work In Progress

Work → In Progress: The Ripples Of Ukraine War On The World Of Work

Jobs for Ukrainian refugees, too busy to quit in Hong Kong, the rise of 'asynchronous' work....and more

Since Russia’s invasion of Ukraine in February, the working world — still recovering from the global pandemic, no less — was dealt a sizeable blow, from ripple effects of unemployment to supply chain disruptions to office campaigns to support the victims of the war.

Of course, the most immediate impact of the war is inside Ukraine itself, which UN News estimates has lost 4.8 million jobs. The immediate impact has also been felt across the global economy, as energy embargoes and grain blockades have undermined the most basic elements of life. Meanwhile, the influx of refugees has put newfound pressure on labor markets in certain countries.

But as the war unfolds before us on our screens, business in Western countries have also felt compelled to get involved, often with spontaneous initiatives to offer help. In the UK, for example, several companies have put pressure on the government to make it easier on refugees, and have offered jobs themselves to Ukrainian refugees. Some are going even further by offering relocation and other assistance.

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Central to the tragic absurdity of this war is the question of language. Vladimir Putin has repeated that protecting ethnic Russians and the Russian-speaking populations of Ukraine was a driving motivation for his invasion.

Yet one month on, a quick look at the map shows that many of the worst-hit cities are those where Russian is the predominant language: Kharkiv, Odesa, Kherson.

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