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Weekend of world championships forges ahead in face of pandemic

I’m always amazed and, quite frankly, inspired by the passion that our sporting analysts bring to the table each weekend on Road to the Olympic Games. It’s the intimate knowledge and affection they exude which delivers the thrill of competition to so many viewers across the country. And in the face of the pandemic, winter sport around the world has found a way to not only survive, but to thrive in the pre-Olympic year. Perhaps it’s because sport means so much to so many people, in so many places, and the thought of a winter without it is a non-starter. So it is that in Holland, where they are obsessed with speed skating, the world championships push ahead in the Heerenveen bubble and the historic Thialf Arena. Similarly, the sleds continue to rumble in Altenberg, Germany, which is the acknowledged heartland of the sliding pursuits. In the Dolomites of Italy, the alpine world championships unfold as skiing takes centre stage against a spectacular backdrop. Further north, in Scandinavia, the ski cross and snowboard racers go head-to-head in Idre Fjäll, Sweden. In all, Road to the Olympic Games will have eight hours of world championship competition this Saturday and Sunday and the voices who describe the action so expertly have been there to experience the devotion to their respective sports first-hand. Winter sport passion They understand that as we Canadians wouldn’t dream of a season without hockey, or Americans would do anything to make the Super Bowl spectacle happen, Europeans will deliver winter sport world championships — come hell or high water. “Even without fans in the stands, the rich lore and history of the Netherlands’ love for skating is visceral and every skater seems to find that sixth gear regardless of circumstances,” says two-time Olympian Anastasia Bucsis, CBC’s speed skating analyst. “My career’s fondest memories stem from competing in the Netherlands around Remembrance Day. The Dutch fans would come up to us in grocery stores or on the street and thank us not only for racing and providing sporting entertainment but also for Canada’s history of liberating Holland in World War Two.” WATCH | Canadian speed skating coach Shannon Rempel chats with Anastasia Bucsis: Brian Stemmle is a four-time Olympian and raced around Europe on alpine’s World Cup for more than a decade. He knows the lure the “White Circus” has over people. “Being a ski racing fan in Europe is like eating wiener schnitzel in Austria — it’s bred into the culture,” Stemmle says. “Driving from race to race, throughout Europe we’d sometimes stop for lunch at an Autogrill or walk into a pizzeria in Italy. Often, huddled around a small television, watching an afternoon ski race would be a group of grizzled, ski-racing fans drinking espresso and smoking Marlboro’s. “The gentlemen were having a social connection through a sport that they had a passion for. Those die-hards made me realize that people I didn’t even know, halfway around the world, cared about the same thing that I loved and that inspired me to try even harder to be a winner.” ‘Sport brings people together’ Bobsleigh is king in Germany and the 2021 world championships have moved there from Lake Placid, N.Y., the original host, because of the pandemic. They’ve reverted to fertile ground for a beloved and thrilling athletic endeavour. “Sport brings people together and there are certain places, for certain sports, where the energy is palpable. For bobsleigh that place is Germany,” says Helen Upperton, CBC’s bobsleigh analyst and an Olympic silver medallist. “They love the sport, they love the rivalries, the danger, the power and precision and they express their love for all the athletes, not just the home team. Sport is so much more than just the race or the match or the game. It’s the undertow that pulls people in the same direction, toward the common bond; a flag, a team, or an athlete. If you somehow managed to win in Germany, you were never forgotten.” These vivid descriptions of what goes on in exotic places far away are proof that these commentators have travelled the planet to experience the complex, often elusive, attractiveness of sport and can speak to it in the first person. It’s an altogether intangible power which allows sport to defy the universal threat we now face during the days of COVID-19. “I’ve never been made to feel like a rock star the way I was when competing in Holland,” Bucsis recalls. “It really touched my heart and reminded me how unifying and wonderful sport is.” The show must go on For Stemmle, the ability — even during a pandemic — to follow the action is sustenance for fans the world over. “Cheering for a sport you love makes you feel like a part of the team,” he reckons. “Like me cheering for the Toronto Maple Leafs, deep down it makes me believe I’m making a difference in the outcome.” “There is something magical about racing in a country that loves a sport as much as you do,” Upperton concludes. “Perhaps this passion for human excellence brings out the best in all of us, athletes and fans alike.” And although it’s a cliché, it amounts to the truth. In uncertain times the wide world of sport will continue to spin on its axis and the show will most definitely go on.

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Britain in talks with 6 firms about building gigafactories for EV batteries



Britain is in talks with six companies about building gigafactories to produce batteries for electric vehicles (EV), the Financial Times reported on Wednesday, citing people briefed on the discussions.

Car makers Ford Motor Co and Nissan Motor Co Ltd, conglomerates LG Corp and Samsung, and start-ups Britishvolt and InoBat Auto are in talks with the British government or local authorities about locations for potential factories and financial support, the report added .


(Reporting by Kanishka Singh in Bengaluru; Editing by Himani Sarkar)

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EBay to sell South Korean unit for about $3.6 billion to Shinsegae, Naver



EBay will sell its South Korean business to retailer Shinsegae Group and e-commerce firm Naver for about 4 trillion won ($3.6 billion), local newspapers reported on Wednesday.

EBay Korea is the country’s third-largest e-commerce firm with market share of about 12.8% in 2020, according to Euromonitor. It operates the platforms Gmarket, Auction and G9.

Shinsegae, Naver and eBay Korea declined to comment.

Lotte Shopping had also been in the running, the Korea Economic Daily and other newspapers said, citing unnamed investment banking sources.

South Korea represents the world’s fourth largest e-commerce market. Driven by the coronavirus pandemic, e-commerce has soared to account for 35.8% of the retail market in 2020 compared with 28.6% in 2019, according to Euromonitor data.

Shinsegae and Naver formed a retail and e-commerce partnership in March by taking stakes worth 250 billion won in each other’s affiliates.

($1 = 1,117.7000 won)


(Reporting by Joyce Lee; Editing by Edwina Gibbs)

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Canada launches long-awaited auction of 5G spectrum



Canada is set to begin a hotly anticipated auction of the mobile telecommunications bandwidth necessary for 5G rollout, one that was delayed more than a year by the pandemic.

The 3,500 MHz is a spectrum companies need to provide 5G, which requires more bandwidth to expand internet capabilities.The auction, initially scheduled for June 2020, is expected to take several weeks with Canadian government selling off 1,504 licenses in 172 service areas.

Smaller operators are going into the auction complaining that recent regulatory rulings have further tilted the scales in the favour of the country’s three biggest telecoms companies – BCE, Telus and Rogers Communications Inc – which together control around 90% of the market as a share of revenue.

Canadian mobile and internet consumers, meanwhile, have complained for years that their bills are among the world’s steepest. Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s Liberal government has threatened to take action if the providers did not cut bills by 25%.

The last auction of the 600 MHz spectrum raised C$3.5 billion ($2.87 billion) for the government.

The companies have defended themselves, saying the prices they charge are falling.

Some 23 bidders including regional players such as Cogeco and Quebec’s Videotron are participating in the process. Shaw Communications did not apply to participate due to a $16 billion takeover bid from Rogers. Lawmakers and analysts have warned that market concentration will intensify if that acquisition proceeds.

In May, after Canada‘s telecoms regulator issued a ruling largely in favour of the big three on pricing for smaller companies’ access to broadband networks, internet service provider TekSavvy Inc withdrew from the auction, citing the decision.

Some experts say the government has been trying to level the playing field with its decision to set aside a proportion of spectrum in certain areas for smaller companies.

Gregory Taylor, a spectrum expert and associate professor at the University of Calgary, said he was pleased the government was auctioning off smaller geographic areas of coverage.

In previous auctions where the license covered whole provinces, “small providers could not participate because they could not hope to cover the range that was required in the license,” Taylor said.

Smaller geographic areas mean they have a better chance of fulfilling the requirements for the license, such as providing service to 90% of the population within five years of the issuance date.

The auction has no scheduled end date, although the federal ministry in charge of the spectrum auction has said winners would be announced within five days of bidding completion.

($1 = 1.2181 Canadian dollars)


(Reporting by Moira Warburton in Vancouver; Editing by David Gregorio)

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