Al-Ahram Weekly Online   30 March - 5 April 2006
Issue No. 788
Published in Cairo by AL-AHRAM established in 1875

Habit forming

After a close race, Egypt won the right to host the 2007 Pan-Arab Games, Inas Mazhar reports

Egypt's organisation of the recently held Africa Cup of Nations has given the hosts a reputation as successful organisers of world class events. Thus it was no surprise when Egypt collected 12 votes as opposed to 10 for Lebanon to win the right to host the 2007 Arab Games.

The vote was taken last week during an Arab sports youth and sports ministers meeting at Arab League headquarters in Cairo.

For the first time in the history of the Arab League, the vote was taken by secret ballot. Egypt, Lebanon and Syria were initially in the running. Negotiations by Prince Sultan Bin Fahd and his deputy Prince Nawaf Bin Faisal resulted in the Syrians pulling out, leaving the Egyptians and the Lebanese.

Prince Nawaf also succeeded in obtaining the auspices of the International Olympic Committee to the Pan-Arab Games. The prince met with IOC President Jacques Rogges at the headquarters of the IOC in Lausanne, briefed him on the outcome of the meetings and Egypt winning the Arab Games and urged him to recognise the Arab Games as a great regional event.

It will be the first time since the inaugural of the Pan-Arab Games in 1946 that the IOC will recognise the Games. According to Prince Nawaf, it shows that the IOC president and its members have recognised the efforts of Arab sports officials in the region towards promoting and supporting sports and athletes in the region by applying the rules and ethics of the International Olympic Committee.

The IOC only recognises bodies and organisations that represent an entire continent and not a region. As such, Prince Nawaf said he saw the recognition as a big success for Arab sports.

The Syrians were hosts to the Games in 1992 and the Lebanese hosted the 1997 edition. Egypt hosted the event twice, the last being in the seventies.

Since the post of youth and sports minister was abolished in Egypt last year, Moufid Shehab, minister of parliamentary and legal affairs, headed the meetings of the Arab and sports ministers since the president was Egypt. National Olympic Committee President Mounir Sabet was head of the Egyptian delegation with both Hassan Sakr, head of the National Sports Council and Mohamed Kharboush, head of the National Youth Council, as members.

Following the winning vote, Shehab told reporters that it showed the confidence shown in the Egyptians as successful organisers. He thanked all those who voted for and supported Egypt and promised that the country will prove that it really deserves to be the organiser.

The Games will be held in October next year, thus avoiding the All-Africa Games in Algeria in July and the All- Asian Games in August. September was also ruled out because of Ramadan. A joint meeting between the National Sports Council (NSC) and the Egyptian Olympic Committee (NOC) was scheduled for Monday in which they will liaise the organisation and set rules and regulations for the tournament.

"We want it to be as successful as all the Games we held before, like the All-African Games in 1991 and recently the African Nations Cup," Sabet said.

Sakr is expected to head the Supreme Organising Committee of the Pan- Arab Games. The local organising committee head, the tournament director and other members of the organising committee will be decided after a meeting with Prime Minister Ahmed Nazif.

NOC Secretary-General Khaled Zein said Arab youth and sports ministers praised the Egyptian bid and presentation, adding they admired the mascot and the logo of the Games. Zein said Egypt was ready to host more than 6,000 athletes who will compete in 27 sports, including sports for the disabled and three non-Olympic sports.

The budget of the Games is expected to reach LE25 million.

All the events will take place in Cairo except for water sports to be held in Ismailia.

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