Egyptians in Beijing
The Egyptian delegation to the Olympic Games is ready for the world's most prestigious sporting event
On Monday, the 177-member Egyptian delegation participating in next month's Beijing Olympics was received by the ambassador of China in Cairo at a reception in the embassy. The ambassador wished the athletes the best of luck in the Games which is scheduled from 11 to 23 August.
According to Mohamed Shahine, head of the Egyptian delegation in the Olympic Games, yesterday was the deadline for any of the sports federations to make changes by adding or excluding players.
This is the greatest Egyptian participation in the Olympic Games in terms of the number of participating athletes -- 99. The country's national Olympic committees are hopeful that Egypt can make an appearance in this year's medals table again.
Egypt will take part in swimming after the International Swimming Federation approved the records set by two swimmers at the pan-Arab Games in Egypt in November. The federation does not normally recognise records set at the pan-Arab games. Men's handball and field hockey, badminton, synchronised swimming, judo, taekwondu, athletics, equestrianship, fencing and modern pentathlon are the other sports Egypt has entered.
In the Olympic Games in Athens 2004, the Egyptians, against many odds, claimed five medals. Previously, the last Olympic medal for the Egyptians was in 1984 in Los Angeles, a silver in judo won by Mohamed Rashwan. You would have to go back to 1956 in London to find an Egyptian gold medal before Karam Gaber's Greco-Roman effort in Athens.
In Athens, Egypt claimed a gold, a silver and three bronze. Only two of these athletes have the chance of a repeat; Gaber in wrestling and Tamer Salah in taekwondo. The others are all boxers and have retired from the sport.
A very genuine chance for an Egyptian medal lies with Aya Madani, the world modern pentathlon champion. It is hoped she does not fizzle as did former world weightlifting champion Nahla Ramadan who got nothing in Athens.
For the final preparations, Shahine flew to Beijing on Tuesday in order to be there to receive the delegation. "I will be checking the accommodation, completing the registration of players and officials, and checking the technical equipment.
"The Egyptian delegation will arrive in Beijing by turn, each according to their competition schedule. Some athletes who are training abroad will travel directly from where they are to Beijing," Shahine said.
Judo, modern pentathlon and taekwondo players are training in Korea, wrestling in Japan, athletics in Sweden and riding in Holland.
"For the past several weeks we faced a problem in riding but we solved it. Karim El-Zoghbi's horse is of dual nationality, originally from Holland, and the international federation refused to let El-Zoghbi compete (the horse must be of the same nationality as the rider). But we proved that we bought it and gave the horse Egyptian nationality last July. After submitting all the documents, we received the approval of the horse's participation," Shahine added.
When the curtain finally rises for the long-awaited start of the Beijing Olympic Games, it will provide China and its historic capital with an unprecedented platform to reach into homes across the world. Media from all over the planet have put the spotlight on China and are covering it from all angles: history, culture, tourism, economics and the huge challenges the country has to overcome. No other event has such a global reach and saturation in terms of TV and Internet coverage.
Since opening up to the world two decades ago, China has seen a steady rise in the number of international visitors. In 2007, international arrivals increased by nearly 10 per cent, according to the World Tourism Organisation (UNWTO). China is currently the world's fourth most popular tourist destination, behind France, Spain and the USA. The United Nations agency forecasts that it will overtake them to become the top inbound destination by 2020, and the Olympic Games are seen as a major factor in achieving that. Recently, the International Olympic Committee (IOC) had given its assessment from the Chinese capital on how the organisers are faring.
At the close of a two-day meeting between the IOC and the Beijing Olympic Games Organising Committee (BOCOG), Hein Verbruggen, chairman of the IOC's coordination commission for Beijing 2008, heading up the visiting 12-person IOC delegation said, "Here in the Chinese capital you can now really sense the excitement and anticipation. The city feels ready; it looks ready, with the stunning venues all completed. The quality of preparation, the readiness of the venues and the attention to operational detail for these Games have set a gold standard for the future. What our hosts have achieved is exceptional.
"For the Games to be an overriding success -- and the IOC has an underlying confidence this will unquestionably be the case -- the organisers need now to deliver the services pledged for, and therefore expected by, the various stakeholders who have begun to arrive for the Games. A very small number of open issues remain, such as some matters with broadcasters and our need to see how temporary measures in the city will make an impact on air quality. But across the board, for the number of areas we went through this week with BOCOG, we are satisfied.
"When athletes, sports officials, spectators and media arrive in this city over the coming weeks, I have no doubt they will be impressed when they see things with their own eyes, and they will be touched by the warmth of the welcome the Chinese people will show them," Verbruggen said.