Al-Ahram Weekly Online   19 - 25 August 2004
Issue No. 704
Published in Cairo by AL-AHRAM established in 1875

Half - time: My gold

I grew up in a sports-loving home. As a young girl in the 1970s, I used to see my father, grandfather and uncles sit in front of the TV watching football matches and yelling with every skilful pass or a goal.

"It's football," my mother used to answer when I asked what were they doing or watching. "Sports", she would say.

I suppose then it makes sense that as the years passed I developed an interest in sports. And as Egypt's national teams started to be increasingly broadcast live -- more national and international sports, more games and not just football -- my penchant for "sports" grew.

I started reading until I knew all about sports, games and competitions. And then I took the next logical step, which was to put that theory into practice. So I took on swimming, tennis and handball. I used to rotate my athletic participation because I used to accompany my father abroad and would have to stop playing for some time until we returned to Egypt, and so I would miss one sporting season in one country, and have to enter a different one in another. And so on.

It was during these years of travel (when my passion was high and enthusiasm to learn was burning), that I used to hear stories about the Olympic Games, and about Olympic champions. I would sit for hours enraptured not only by the tales told by my coaches, but more so by those of my father -- who I will always remember with much fondness as being the greatest storyteller I knew.

The first Olympic Games I can remember watching and following were the Games of 1984 in Los Angeles. I was 15 years old then, but I can still remember every competition like it was yesterday. I carefully arranged my schedule to centre around the broadcasts of my favourite events. And for those coming weeks that comprised the Games (and indeed even in the countdown to the Games) my life was nothing but a haze of sports. I envisioned myself as every one of those athletes, competing, striving, and taking home gold.

But surprisingly, when the Games at last came to an end, my love of sports took on a new form. I opted to leave competition on the sidelines -- it seemed too complicated after that summer to decide on the sport I would focus on. I knew I wanted to have a foot in it all -- a bite out of every slice of that sports arena pie.

That was 20 years ago. Here I am today, a veteran sports journalist who has written about almost every sport on the globe. In that sense, a lot has changed since that day 20 years ago when the Olympics of LA began. On that day my desire had been to compete, to win, to reach global fame. Today, I still just as eagerly await the Games out of a desire to witness superior sports play, to witness human beings push themselves to limits, to witness the making of history.

The Olympic Games in Barcelona in 1992 were my first Olympic Games as a journalist. My relationship with the Olympic Games back then was different. I was engaged, and I was involved, I jumped and screamed and cheered. This year -- like in the Games past -- I watch with a different eye, as a critic and sometimes as an analyst as well.

On one level the satisfaction is great -- my accomplishment in the field and my knowledge and expertise. But while I have indeed accomplished my desire to be a sports journalist, and I have as well attained my goal of being involved in the global arena of sports, there is one thing I still have not done.

For every athlete, the lifetime dream is that of competing in the Games, and ultimately of winning a gold. For every sports journalist the desire is not to compete of course, but to cover the Games from the venue itself.

For me, the opportunity to go to the Games and write home about them is what I consider my Olympic gold. And like every athlete who trains, and perseveres and works hard year after year, I too am committed to my goal in a similar way. It didn't come in 1992, 1996 or 2000, and again I missed it in 2004. But now, 2008 is my target. We all have dreams, and we all have desires, and as minor as they may seem to others, we should focus on them as if they are Olympic golds.

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