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Virtual Pétanque: COVID Forces French National Pastime To Go Online
Emma Flacard

There's croissants and cheese, bérets and BrigitteBardot — and then there's pétanque.

On the list of the Frenchest things, this national pastime ranks pretty high, conjuring up scenes of convivial apéros where old and young gather together, a boule in one hand and a glass of pastis or rosé in the other.

What shock it must have been then to pétanque players upon learning that this highly communal sport — akin to Italy's bocce or Britain's lawn bowling — was to be moved online because of the pandemic ... With large gatherings still banned in France, local daily Ouest France reports that a number of pétanque pros have decided to give the game a COVID-compliant virtual twist by competing through a Facebook group, starting on May 8.

While pétanque fans are already used to watching the sports on television, with channel L'Equipe TV regularly broadcasting competitions, this time players will also be interacting from a safe distance. Launched by world-renowned pétanque stars Philippe Quintais and Jean-Luc Robert, the Club Maboule initiative aims to keep the spirit and rules of the game: Players score points by throwing their heavy metal boules as close as possible to the smaller, target boule — a.k.a. the cochonnet.

But this virtual version will see pairs of players compete by filming their throws, with referees then checking and comparing the footage behind their screens. The online competition is open to all — pétanque beginners will just have to make sure they don't place their computers too close ...

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Geopolitics

Patronage Or Politics? What's Driving Qatar And Egypt Grand Rapprochement

For Cairo, Qatar had been part of an “axis of evil,” with anger directed at Al Jazeera, the main Qatari outlet, and others critical of Egypt after the Muslim Brotherhood ouster. But the vitriol is now gone, with the first ever visit by Egyptian President al-Sisi to Doha.

Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi met with the Emir of Qatar in June 2022 in Cairo

Beesan Kassab, Daniel O'Connell, Ehsan Salah, Hazem Tharwat and Najih Dawoud

For the first time since coming to power in 2014, President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi traveled to Doha last month on an official visit, a capstone in a steadily building rapprochement between the two countries in the last year.

Not long ago, however, the photo-op capturing the two heads of state smiling at one another in Doha would have seemed impossible. In the wake of the Armed Forces’ ouster of the Muslim Brotherhood government in 2013, Qatar and Egypt traded barbs.

In the lexicon of the intelligence-controlled Egyptian press landscape, Qatar had been part of an “axis of evil” working to undermine Egypt’s stability. Al Jazeera, the main Qatari outlet, was banned from Egypt, but, from its social media accounts and television broadcast, it regularly published salacious and insulting details about the Egyptian administration.

But all of that vitriol is now gone.

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