Thursday,19 July, 2018
Current issue | Issue 1280, (28 January - 3 February 2016)
Thursday,19 July, 2018
Issue 1280, (28 January - 3 February 2016)

Ahram Weekly

Colours and cultures

The spectacular opening ceremony of the 22nd Africa Handball Cup of Nations and the superb organisation of the event have had delegates singing its praises, Inas Mazhar reports

Al-Ahram Weekly

Everyone was taken by the opening ceremony of the Africa Handball Cup of Nations that took place before the opening match between the host nation Egypt and Algeria amidst a high spectator turnout at the main hall of Cairo Stadium’s indoor complex. The opening ceremony was attended by top officials of state including Egypt’s Prime Minister Sherif Ismail, Youth and Sports Minister Khaled Abdel-Aziz and president of the International Handball Federation Hassan Mustafa, in addition to public and sports dignitaries.

The 90-minute ceremony was a wonderful mixture of art: dancing, singing and folklore reflecting Africa’s colours and cultures in the four corners of the continent. The ceremony was produced by famed director Magdi Al-Hawari.

What was most impressive at the opening ceremony was the song ‘Support Your Team’ which comprised a group of male and female singers from Nigeria, Tunisia, Libya and Egypt. The singers performed in Arabic, English and French. Drums, fireworks and lights all added to the glamour of the evening, driving the audience to cheers and applause to the music.

Mustafa told Al-Ahram Weekly that the organisation of the event so far was that of a world championship, not just an African tournament. “The organisers have excelled in this championship. Everyone agrees that this is the best edition of all the African championships. As hosts of the 2021 edition of the World Championships, I believe the Egyptians are capable of organising a world-class event.”

President of the African Handball Confederation (CAHB) Mansouro Aremou said that Egypt is an experienced country in terms of organising major events. “Egypt is known and is used to hosting major events and has the professional calibre, the know-how and experience in organisation. We are happy with all the facilities the organisers have provided to make this event a successful one in order to allow all participants to have a pleasant stay, especially the players who are going through tough matches in the arena which was fully renovated,” Aremou said.

“I believe this is an exceptional event because Egypt has exerted great effort in organising this event. Having this event being held under the auspices of his excellency the president of Egypt has made it even more important, allowing all sectors to work together. In the end handball is the winner,” Aremou said.

He added that what makes this event special is that it is a qualifying tournament to the world’s two biggest handball competitions: the Olympic Games and the World Championships. “I think all teams dream of qualifying for the Olympic Games from this edition. This tournament offers three tickets to the World Championships in France 2017 and one ticket to the Olympic Games and of course the Olympic ticket is the most important and has priority.”

Aremou also said he believed African handball was making good progress but that the environment was not yet fully open for everyone towards development. “It’s only a matter of time,” he said. Advancing African handball is one of Aremou’s major tasks. “In order to develop African handball, we have to work on some important factors.  We need good managers, coaches and referees. We must also focus on partnership and sponsorship issues and improve the quality of the various facilities of the sport.”

Aremou added that the selection of Egypt to host the 2021 World Championships was an honour for the entire African continent which plans to benefit from that edition. “It gives us great pride and honour to host the World Championships on African soil and we hope we can continue in the right direction. I work closely with the president of the Egyptian Handball Federation Dr Khaled Hammouda. We work together to guarantee a huge success to this event and to prove to the whole world that Africa is capable of hosting the world’s men’s event.”

Presidents of both the Russian and French federations had their say. President of the French Handball Federation Joel Delplangue said that he gladly accepted the invitation and was keen to attend despite the participation of his national team in the European Championship which is currently taking place in Poland. He said he was sad to leave but had to in order to join his team in the European qualifications.

“I was also happy to see many French coaches in the tribune who are here to watch the performance of their club players or to watch other promising players who could join their clubs.”

Delplangue said he admired the “superb organisation of the tournament and the stunning and elegant opening ceremony.

“It is the third time that I attend the Africa Cup of Nations and every time I find improvement in the quality of the organisation but I have never seen anything like this edition. I would like to take the opportunity of this reunion to thank [Egyptian Handball Federation president] Dr Hammouda and Egyptian authorities for this high-quality event.” He added that because it was sure of Egypt’s readiness to host world events, the executive committee had voted for Cairo instead of Sochi as host nation of the 2021 World Championships.

Sergey Shishkarev, president of the Russian Handball Federation, saw the opening game in which Egypt beat Algeria 22-18. Shishkarev thanked Egypt’s minister Abdel-Aziz, and the IHF and EHF presidents for inviting him to attend the opening ceremony. “I was keen to attend the opening ceremony though the Russian team is currently taking part at the European Championship in Poland. However, I am here now and I am really impressed by the magnificent opening ceremony. I have never seen such a beautiful opening ceremony in any handball tournament before.”

Shishkarev added that he felt comfortable at Cairo Stadium and admired how the Egyptian organisers were able to handle such a big event with such a high spectator turnout. “Thousands of spectators with the prime minister and about 10 other ministers attending the opening ceremony and everything went smoothly and incident-free. My message when I return home would be to hope to organise such a big event in Moscow like Cairo did.”  

President of the Egyptian Handball Federation and head of the Organising Committee of the Africa Cup of Nations Khaled Hammouda said he was happy with the effort of the Egyptians to bring out such a successful event. “I am so proud of my team with all the praises and positive comments I have received. It is a huge success for us. Delegates from other teams told me that they would have a problem in future editions to organise a similar event as we have made it difficult to them.”

Hammouda added that this edition of the Africa Cup of Nations was unique in terms of accommodation, technology and ticketing. He said that for the first time the participating teams were staying in five-star hotels and that every team had its own bus with its name. The busses are decorated with the logo and slogan of the tournament Egypt 2016.

He said that for the first time in the history of the tournament tickets were sold online weeks in advance. “Fans purchasing their tickets had to use their national ID card to buy their tickets which had a new design with all the information available for the fans: ID, gate and seat numbers which really made life easier.”

“The main hall was completely renovated. The venue is equipped with all of technology like wireless Internet services. Another new method was applied in Egypt 2016 which is the match statistics programme. Before, we used to import the system from other countries and that used to cost a lot, but now we have our own system and programme which was created by an Egyptian.”

“What we can say here is that this new experience is really successful and we are proud to be the first in the continent to apply these new methods. Social media like Facebook, Twitter and Instagram have also helped us promote the event. It is also a test for us as we prepare to host the biggest handball event in the world, the World Championships in 2016,” Hammouda said.

He added that the federation invited international handball dignitaries to Egypt 2016 to witness the opening ceremony and the organisation of the event. “We are showing them that Egypt and the Egyptian Handball Federation are both capable of holding the World Championships in 2021 as we did in 1999. There are even Russia referees to assist in the games as well as international coordinators and observers from the IHF.”

Hammouda said the Egyptian team has ambitions to win the title. “The players are determined to win this event amid the home crowd and qualify for the Olympic Games and the World Championships. The team has been prepared for months in order to go through the competition and claim the title.”

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