LOVELY LADIES IN KUWAIT
Well, I have been so lucky every time I came to Kuwait,
people, because I have met here some gorgeous and darn
interesting ladies. Last year, I had the immense privilege
to meet with
This year, I met
General Manager of the remarkable Great Big Events,
specialists in Sport Events, based in Australia, with an
office in London. But also with
from the UFE in Kuwait.
Let me introduce them to you....
THE SMILING LADY
time I arrived in Green Island this year, the place was
invaded with "Men and Ladies in Black".
They were always busy doing something or another, always
polite, efficient, and smiling. But one person in particular
attracted my attention. A blond lady, with a smile that
enlightens her face, with a charm and a warmth, that
immediately told me she was a person I could be friend with.
Plus, she liked the way I dress. Say no more....
In fact, that clever and greatly efficient lady is Jennie
General Manager of Great Big Events, in charge of making the
Kuwait Cup an unforgettable experience.
Originally a singer, she met GBE Managing Director Greg
Bowman - a former musician - 25 years ago, and has now been
working with him for 12 years.
"Sport is a theatre, and the audience wants to be
entertained, and sport should be presented in the best
possible light as possible", she explains.
"It's true both for the audience and the competitors. It's a
"Great Big Events' Sport Presentation philosophy is to
create the perfect environment for players and athletes to
perform and spectators to enjoy. It is what spectators see,
hear and feel that can build an exhilarating and
unforgettable atmosphere for spectators and athletes at
And how do they do that?
"Well, we achieve this by uniquely integrating all elements
of sport production from the moment spectators walk through
the turnstiles, to the athlete entries, the drama of sport
in action, to spectators making their way home."
I must say it's a different approach from anything I've seen
before. They also take in consideration the players
"For the players, already during the warm up, they must feel
We try and speak with the players, to make them comfortable
with our presence and directions. And no matter their
ranking, they must be felt they are part of a whole puzzle."
GREAT BIG EVENTS
and Creative Director, Greg Bowman coined the term Sport
Presentation for the Sydney 2000 Olympic Games, and this
model has since been adopted by the International Olympic and
Paralympic Committees and multiple National and International
Federations, covering more than 55 major international sporting
Great Big Events has managed Sport Presentation for the 2005 West
Asian Games, 2006 Asian Games, 2009 FINA World Series
Diving, 2010 IAAF World Indoor Athletics Championships
in Doha and the 2010 FINA World Swimming Championships in
This is Great Big
Events' second trip to the Nation of Kuwait, following the very
successful Kuwait Men's World Open Squash Championships in
the past several months we have been building the assets required to
stage a first class Sport Presentation and cultural ceremonies
program, including specially selected music; video packages; player
headshots; preparation of scripts; signage; entertainment; spectator
interactivity; graphics and animations; presentation formats, among
We have been working closely with the Higher Organising Committee
to complete our objective to provide a World Class squash tournament
in honour of His Highness Sheikh Saad Abdullah Al-Sabah, the
Patriarch Amir and celebrate the 50th anniversary of the
Constitution of Kuwait at spectacular Green Island.
And they also look at a "global approach" from a
presentation point of view.
"We work on the presentation, and we work with the photos of
the players, their bios, and sometimes, we meet them, and
just talk to them as if they were family, because it's like
we know them so well, just by studying them, and they look
at us, they don't know who we are!!
me last year, Jennie is in total admiration for HE
Sheikha Fadyah Al-Sabah.
"She is an amazing lady, she understands perfectly
the need for a sport to be given a profile. "She's got so
much respect for the players and the organisers.
"She is amazingly
smart and astute. She knows everything, sees everything,
knows exactly what's happening, she's got a finger on the
She is the reason we came back here after 2009, as
for a company, she gives us a great platform to get results
and achievements. We are given the best tools to do a great
job, and have the opportunity to do it well."
course, nothing could be achieve with the help and support
of the local team here in KW.
"They work so hard. We do work a lot, but
they are side by side with us the whole time, Ali, Ahmed,
all the them. It's a real pleasure to work with them. They
work beyond the call of duty.
And like HE the Sheikha, they
love the sport, they love the players, and they are so proud
of their country.
The Avenue, probably the Biggest
Shopping Mall in the World...
The French contingency in
in Frédérique's home
Greg, Mathieu, Frédérique &
some lovely French Expats
in the Avenues Mall
One of the biggest
Shopping Malls in the World
TOUCH IN KW...
"A French citizen is never alone abroad".
Like in a lot of other countries, there is a organisation in
Kuwait that help the French people upon their arrival in this
wonderful country, the UFE.
president in Kuwait, Frédérique Laffay-Asfar, whose been
living in KW for 36 years, is one of the warmest and most
helpful people that I've been given the chance to meet.
Born in Vietnam, spent her youth between Tunisia, South Africa
and Belgium Congo, and only three years in France, she met her husband in Beirut and got married
in 1968. When the war started in Lebanon, they moved to Kuwait
Specialised in High Security IT, along with her husband, they
worked on several turn-key computer projects for several banks,
private companies and governmental organisation, such as
Ministry of Health, Planning Ministry, Port Authority, Customs
Having created their own company, Taranis, they've won with
Thomson CSF the Kuwait ID card project.
husband and her mother were in Kuwait City when Irak invaded
So worried for them when she heard the news, she called her
husband, finally got him on the phone, and asked her how things
where. "What things", he replied a bit surprised. "Well, the
Silence on the phone.
"Ah, I guess I understand now why my newspaper wasn't delivered
At the end of the war, they both worked closely with the French
Embassy and tried and support the French citizens here as much
Recognising the tremendous effort, generosity, heart and work
she's been doing along the numerous years she spent in this
country she absolutely adores, French President Jacques Chirac
awarded her the title of "Chevalier de l'Ordre du Mérite", one
of the highest decoration in France.
"I couldn't have done anything without the unconditional support
of my husband", she states. I haven't had the chance to meet him,
as the man was in Paris for a few days for a meeting with the
Louis Vuitton organisation.
For now 45 years, they form with Gérard a couple that you only
read about in fairy tales. He proposed 3 days after meeting her.
"I thought things through for 30sec" she smiles. "Then I told
myself, that man is so interesting that I know that in 30 years,
I'll still will have something to say to him. And I just said,
let's do it."
They have been really living happily ever after, and most part
between Kuwait, Paris, and the South of France. But Kuwait is a
second "Patrie", homeland, for her.
"I love this country so much, as it has given me the opportunity
to bloom, in my family and professional life." says Frédérique
with all the French passion that emanates from her.
"Kuwait offers a quality of life seldom seen in other countries.
The working environments are very challenging although very
"Kuwait has become for me, my second homeland, and I will be
very sad when the time comes to leave Kuwait and our Kuwaiti
She's been kind enough to take the French players to lunch and
dinner every time they've been coming for the tournament.
And today, she took us to the Avenue, one of the biggest
shopping mall in the world, then offered lunch in a French
Brasserie, la Brasserie de l'Etoile, along with some other
expats from different organisations, with whom we had a great
we had a little drive around the city, and it was nice to
actually come and SEE the country a tournament happens in,
instead of just having the time to see the airport, the hotel,
and the venue! That day of rest is just GREAT!!!!!
And as it often happens, Frédérique actually possesses a home
only 20km from my house in the South of France. "Le Hasard fait
bien les choses", "Luck does things well".
So I know I'm going to see her again, and that's the best news I
had for a looooooong time.
Merci ma belle.
Cup EN BREF #2
Everything you never knew you needed to know about the
You may wonder how we are working here in KW. Well, let's
start with the Qadsia Club shall we?
You come in, and you arrive in a hall, and to welcome you,
who'd better than the Twins, Khaled & Majed Juma, the pulse of
the Tournament, who, under the direction of HE Sheikha
Fadyah Al-Sabah, and Jahangir, run and help us all to work
in perfect conditions.
If you turn to the left, you'll find a corridor that takes
you first to the Referees' room, don't they look comfy, and
if you then turn to the right, you have the Central Court.
Back your step a bit, and turn left. Upstairs, the food -
lovely, thanks!, same company as last year, perfect to be
honest - and on the right, the Press Room, with plenty of
space and confort, as we are only three of us.
Back downstairs, back in the entrance hall, if you turn
right, you find another corridor - which I presented you
last year, as it's the Hall of Fame of the Kuwait
Tournaments - that gives on the two other courts.
We have like 25 matches happening at the same time - can't
wait for the quarters to be honest - and we should finish
here around 6, just in time to rush to the Green Island....
RELAXING IN KUWAIT
When I got a lovely email from former Scottish International
since 1982 Barry Sutherland, now head coach at the
prestigious Al Corniche for the past three years, I thought
oh yes, that's exactly what the doctor ordered!
And I went there upon my arrival to receive a bit of TLC.
And that I did get....
It was a bit of a different experience, I must say. You are
taken from room to the next, start with changing rooms, of
course, lovely bathrobe, then immense jacuzzi, with changing
stations, then zoom, a bit of steam to get rid of the toxins,
and then, the massage.
I know a bit about massages, OK? I got treatments in
virtually all the countries I worked in, and that's a lot.
But that Georgian lady? Just amazing hands. I was walking on
clouds as I finished...
Can't wait to go back and see the rest of the club....
"We have a fantastic team working away behind the scenes from all
over the world at the Al Corniche and is led by Gerard Oliver
(General Manager) and Garry Crowe (Ops Manager) also from the UK.
I am always looking to assist as many players and officials whenever
they come to Kuwait to ensure they are looked after (pampered in
some cases!!!) and try my best to make their stay a more enjoyable
It always a pleasure to contribute any form of assistance towards
the well being of the participants to that great event, when you see
the magnificent work put in from HE Sheikha Fadiya and her team in
promoting prestigious tournaments in Kuwait
CROSSING, YES, BUT WHERE???
One of the specificity of Kuwait, like it is in
Qatar or in
Cairo, is a different organisation of the traffic. In
the European Cities,
we have a lot of roads, sprinkled with traffic lights
and crossroads everywhere.
Not the case here.
You have miles and miles of highways, with no stopping or
turn possibility. Which means that sometimes, you'll drive a
long way to the next turn to come back all the way if you
wish to get on the other side of the current traffic.
All very nice when you are in a car, of course, petrol costs
peanuts here. But when you walk???
I was coming back from the Al Corniche club, on the sea side,
about 5, 8 minutes drive from the Hotel. Taxi who dropped me
there told me "very easy to come back, you follow the
seaside, 5m walk, and cross the road".
It was my first day, only too happy to walk, end of day, the
night was starting to show its darkness, and off I go. And
I'm walking, and I'm walking. And I arrive after about 25m,
past the McDonald, but still no crossing. And I arrive in
front of the Costa del Sol, and still no crossing or subway.
And I pass the hotel, and no trace of traffic light or
I eventually stop a lady that, with a great smile, tells me
"If you go this way, 2 miles next crossing. The other way,
about 3 miles. Or you just cross".
Errrrrr, it's now complete darkness, I'm dressed in black,
it's a 3 lanes highway with cars doing some 100km/hour. Of
COURSE I'm going to cross...
So, I did what any lady would have done. I walked all the
way back to the Al Corniche Club, and ordered a taxi.
And as I stepped in the Hotel, Ahmed, bless his heart,
reminded me that we were, like last year, allocated a Press
Cup EN BREF #1
Everything you never knew you needed to know about the
FROM HK to KW....
Short turn around, that's for sure....
When I was informed by the Kuwait Tournament Office that
booked my ticket from Hong Kong to KW that the only two
flights were Emirates KW via Dubai at 00.35 or Qatar Airways
via Doha at 0.45, we thought it was going to be a bit of a
rush after the final....
Karim and Raneem were extremely thoughtful and kind
enough to lose gracefully 3/0 - thanks guys, owe you one -
which meant that we had a bit more time than originally
James had a car that took him back to the hotel (you
have to take the tunnel under the water to go back to Hong
Kong), and went then back to the airport - the tunnel again
plus about 45m drive), where he flew alongside Lee
Beachill, Thierry, Greg, and Laurent Cossa from SquashTV.
Karim and Raneem were on the other flight, the Qatar one,
same flight I was on. So Emily (the same lady that repaired
my glasses bless her) booked us a mini-van for 9.30, and we
all merrily went straight to the Airport, and flew to Qatar
alongside Nick and Joey.
Joey, well, stopped at Qatar, as he injured his ankle while
training with Chris Gordon in HK. Had to be rushed to
hospital, and was very worried for his foot. The injury
prevented him from attending as originally planned Kuwait
then the London Open.
From Qatar, he took a flight to London, while Raneem flew
back to Egypt.
Upon arrival in Kuwait,
Ahmed's team was waiting for Lee, Laurent and myself to
arrange for our visa - I did it on my own last year, and it
was not a bundle of joy, I tell you - while the players
already had theirs arranged.
The process took a little while, but our luggage were
waiting for us by the time we finished and we were zoomed to
the same lovely hotel as last year, Costa del Sol,
where the food is delicious, the rooms airy, vast and
comfortable and a little plus - free internet for all at all
levels of the 23 storey building! As we just paid a heavy
£200 bill in Hong Kong, that was a nice bonus.
Needless to say that we are all a bit shattered. Some of the
players are jetlagged from HK, we also have Alister and
Adrian flying from Pittsburgh - via Chicago, London, Bahrain
after the 100m final, and other players flying from Europe -
the young French Mat and Small Greg, English Boys Chris
Simpson and Robbie Temple, etc.
We are not in the fresher state. But after one day of rest,
a little visit to the Al Corniche club (more to
follow on that one soon), a little walk on the sea side, we
are starting to feel human again.
It's now 5am, we are starting the tournament in a few hours.
If I was on my own last year, I'm delighted to be joined
this year by Steve Cubs, and also Richard
Eaton - who kindly proposed to help us on our coverage.
Thanks for that young man.
Only prob. I'll have to share my driver with them two this
year. You can't have it all...
WHAT WE WOULDN'T DO...
You may remember the little article I did in my En Brefs
about the Hong Kong Football Club, and their amazing effort
to raise money for under privileged kids - Operation Santa
Well, they raised the bar a bit higher this year, and
collected the amazing amount of 1.1 million HK dollars
(as in roughly £110,000).
A big cheer for all those who participated, and don't you
think the pink suits Thierry to a T?...