Thursday,23 May, 2019
Current issue | Issue 1311, (8 - 21 September 2016)
Thursday,23 May, 2019
Issue 1311, (8 - 21 September 2016)

Ahram Weekly

Day of accountability

Two weeks after the Summer Games, the Egyptian Olympic Committee defended its performance in Rio, reports Inas Mazhar

Al-Ahram Weekly

Egypt took part in the Olympic Games with 120 male and female athletes in 20 sports, from which they won three bronze medals, two in weightlifting and one in taekwondo. Fifteen other athletes finished in the top eight.

Egypt finished in 75th place in the medals table out of 207 nations. Only 89 countries won medals.

Though officials of the Egyptian Olympic Committee (EOC) saw it as an achievement, a big section of the media and the public were not impressed, calling the results modest.

In response, the EOC held a press conference to present the facts, answer questions and reveal plans for the Tokyo 2020 Summer Games.

The press conference witnessed a high media turn-out. President of the EOC Hisham Hatab spoke first, thanking the media who had supported the EOC and appreciated the achievements of the athletes and the efforts of those who did not win medals but did their best.

“It was not a failure as some people and media described it. Winning three Olympic medals is an achievement. We were placed 75th in the medals table. There were 207 nations participating at the Games and only 89 of them won medals, so what about the rest who didn’t win any medals? If you accuse us of being failures after winning three medals and had other remarkable results, what would you call the others?” Hatab asked.

He said the responsibility to train the athletes for world championships and Olympic Games usually laid with the boards of sports federations. “They are the ones who are responsible technically for drawing up the plans. We only approve the plans and programmes they submit and do not interfere. Our duty is to resolve problems and provide them financially, through the government, with the money they need to carry out their programmes.”

Besides the three third-place finishes of weightlifters Mohamed Ihab and Sara Samir and taekwondo’s Hedaya Malak, there was one fourth-place finish by weightlifter Shaimaa Haridi in the 62kg weight category. Six athletes secured a fifth place finish, including two weightlifters, Ahmed Saad (62kg) and Ragab Abdel-Hay (94kg), Enas Khorsheid (free wresting), Hossam Bakr (boxing) and Ahmed Qamar and Afaf Al-Hodhod (shooting).

Three athletes and two teams took seventh place: judo’s Ramadan Darwish (100kg), taekwondo’s Gofran Zaki (68kg) and weightlifter Israa Ahmed (63kg), and the men’s foil and synchronized swimming.

“We are now looking forward to the Tokyo Olympic Games and will start immediately. The plan is to focus on some sports where the Egyptians are best at like weightlifting, shooting, taekwondo, swimming, boxing, judo and athletics,” Hatab added.

As a start, the EOC has named 10 athletes for 2020: Ahmed Akram and Farida Osman in swimming, Sara Samir and Israa Ahmed in weightlifting, Hedaya Malak  in taekwondo, Maha Abdel-Salam in diving, Afaf Al-Hodhod, Ahmed Qamar and Azmi Mehelba in shooting and Haidi Adel in the modern pentathlon.

Journalists were then given a detailed 45-minute presentation on the participation of the Egyptian delegation at the Olympic Games, compiled and presented by Sharif Al-Erian, president of the Egyptian Modern Pentathlon Federation and deputy of the EOC delegation in Rio. It included the expenses for 28 Olympic sports from 2013 to 2016, which were then cut to 20 sports whose athletes qualified to the Olympic Games. According to the report, the expenditures reached LE117 million which, compared to top sporting countries, is not a figure that can net a large number of medals.

Egypt’s Minister of Youth and Sports Khaled Abdel-Aziz said the Olympic Games is the world’s biggest sports event “and every country wants to win as many medals as possible. We got three, which is not bad. We never said all 120 players would win medals. What we actually said is that according to world rankings and the athletes’ records, seven or eight were eligible to win medals. But from them we can expect only 50 per cent to win. This is sports, a win-loss game. Things happen when someone is supposed to win but then against all the odds he loses and someone else who was not even a nominee, goes on to win.

“As an official in the government, I can say we spent all what the sports federations and EOC asked for. Everything. We have done our part. Everyone has the right to make his own judgement. We believe we have done the right thing and took the right decisions. Some people might agree and some might not and we respect that. We respect different opinions and criticisms. We believe that we have done our utmost.

“It is true that we started our preparations for the Games very late, only two years before the Games. But let us not forget that since 2011, Egyptian sports have gone through hard times considering the political and economic situation of the country. That is why we decided to start right now for Tokyo 2020. Actually, the participation of some athletes in Rio 2016 is sort of preparation for the coming Games. Hedaya Malak herself took part in the 2012 London Games and didn’t achieve any position, but four years later she won a bronze and after four more years we hope to see her playing for the gold.

“For those who call for the return of the Olympic Champion project, I frankly say that I do not support this idea,” Abdel-Aziz said. “To collect some players from different sports from an early age to create an Olympic champion is something I don’t support. This is the job of each federation to pick their promising athletes and work on nurturing them properly. Each federation should work separately.

“I know that there have been calls from the media to send only the players expected to win medals or top positions to save money and avoid embarrassment. But I made it clear from the beginning that every athlete who qualifies for the Olympics has the right to take part. I can’t deny him or her that opportunity. How can someone suggest that an African champion has no right to take part in the Olympics because he will not be able to win a medal? How can anyone know or make such a prediction? This is sport. Didn’t it happen before, to us and other countries, when unseeded athletes knocked out Olympic and world champions to win medals?

“I will continue to believe in the right of every athlete who has exerted the effort to book a place at the Olympics as long as I am in my position. This will be my opinion,” Abdel-Aziz said.

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