Saturday,22 September, 2018
Current issue | Issue 1210, (21 - 27 August 2014)
Saturday,22 September, 2018
Issue 1210, (21 - 27 August 2014)

Ahram Weekly

The show is on

The 2nd Summer Youth Olympic Games enters its fifth day of competition today as Egypt partakes in 20 out of 28 scheduled sports. Inas Mazhar reports from Nanjing, China

Al-Ahram Weekly

Egypt is participating in the 2nd Summer Youth Olympic Games (YOG) — the most prestigious youth sporting event in the world — with a 140-member strong delegation. The two-week affair, launched on 16 August and running until the 28th of August, has been sent an Egyptian delegation comprising 83 male and female athletes, in addition to team officials and administrators.

According to the African continent’s YOG qualifications, the Egyptians are therefore taking part in 20 sports events, of the overall 28 sports scheduled in the YOG programme. Since each delegation is allowed to take part in only one team sport, Egypt is competing in handball. The four team sports at the YOG are football, handball, hockey and rugby. The 19 individual sports are swimming, athletics, fencing, wrestling, weightlifting, table-tennis, diving, tennis, basketball, badminton, basketball, tennis, gymnastics, rowing, taekwondo, modern pentathlon, sailing and triathlon.

In contrast with the Olympic Games and the World Championships, basketball is surprisingly considered both a team and individual sport at the YOG. Egypt is participating in the individual 3x3 (three on three) part, where a team consists of four players — three players on the court and one substitute. The game is played on a half court, on one basket, in one period of 10 minutes playing time. Most of the International Basketball Federation (FIBA) basketball rules regarding scoring and fouling are valid. The first team to score 21 points (or more), or the team that is leading the game after the regular playing time, is the winner. The scoring rules allow one or two points for a successful shot. One point is awarded for shots from the free throw line and for shots from all positions inside the arc (within the 6.75 metres line). Shots behind the arc (beyond the 6.75 metres line) are awarded two points. The team must attempt a shot for a field goal within 12 seconds.

Under the motto “Share the Games, Share our Dreams,” the 2nd YOG launched. The sports programme is based on that of the Olympic Games, with 28 sports featured on the summer programme and seven on the winter programme. In addition, the programme also includes exciting new disciplines and formats, such as 3-on-3 basketball, ice hockey skills challenge and mixed gender and mixed National Olympic Committee (NOC) events.

The Youth Olympic Games aim to bring together talented young athletes aged from 15 to 18 from around the world. The Summer Youth Olympic Games feature over 3,500 athletes and are held over a 12-day period, while the Winter Youth Olympic Games feature over 1,100 athletes and last 10 days.

Just like the Olympic Games, the Youth Olympic Games are held every four years. The first summer edition was held in Singapore from 14 to 26 August 2010 and the first winter edition was held in Innsbruck, Austria, from 13 to 22 January 2012. Egypt only took part in the first summer edition of YOG in Singapore, where it achieved some impressive results. With an overall six medals — 2 gold, 2 silver and 2 bronze — Egypt was placed 25th in the final medals table standings from 205 participating nations.

The 2nd Youth Olympic Games, Nanjing 2014, are now almost halfway through after a dazzling Opening Ceremony in the Olympic Sports Centre Stadium. According to results until Monday night, Egypt was still medal free. However, two Egyptian athletes were close to winning at least a bronze each. Swimmer Ahmed Akram stunned the world at the games when he dominated the pool in the heats of the 400-metres freestyle race. He was first in the heats as he broke his own record and qualified first to the final of the race with a record of 3.52.02. Despite leading the final race in the first 300 metres, Akram failed to maintain the lead in the last 100 metres to lose the race and fall to fourth place, just a second less than the bronze medalist.

“Of course I wish I could have won a medal, but I still broke my own personal record. I am now looking forward to the 800 freestyle race today,” Akram said.

President of the Egyptian Swimming Federation Yasser Idris explained that Akram’s result was quite an achievement. “The 400 metres is not Akram’s race. So to set a new Egyptian record is a big success. He is used to the long distance and is specialised in the 800 meters and this is our target. We keep our fingers crossed,” Idris said.

Markswoman Afaf Al-Hodhod was placed fifth in the women’s 10-metre Air Pistol with a total of 137.4 shots, just a few shots from the bronze medalist.

Today, six teams continue their competition in swimming, athletics, badminton, basketball, gymnastics and rowing. Other teams had to bid the games an early farewell in the first round and the round of 16, such as fencing, badminton and rowing in the singles events.

Earlier this week, the Opening Ceremony, which was attended by a host of dignitaries, including Egypt’s Minister of Youth and Sports Khaled Abdel-Aziz, paid homage to China’s rich cultural history and its bright future, drawing on elements from the Bronze Age and the nation’s exquisite porcelain to the Silk Road and the epic sea journeys of Admiral ZHENG He, which had their origins in Nanjing. The abridged format of the flag procession kept the ceremony to just under two hours, at the request of the International Olympic Committee.

For the first time in the history of the Olympic Games, the traditional teams’ parade did not take place. Only one athlete representing the country carried the flag in a quick parade, while the athletes watched from the comfort of the stands.
Tennis player Sandra Samir represented Egypt and was the flag bearer, becoming the first girl to carry the flag in the history of Egypt’s participation in the Olympic Games. Her selection was based on the criteria of being the African champion, as well as on multi-lingual capabilities and style considerations.

“We had to cancel this part because we wanted to minimise the time. In the opening ceremony of the Olympic Games in Beijing 2008, the teams’ parade alone lasted four hours and we were limited to 90 minutes,” Opening Ceremony chief director, Chen Weiya, told Al-Ahram Weekly.

“The athletes are also very young and we did not want to exhaust them, so we prepared a special stand for them where they can watch and enjoy the performances better,” Weiya added.

The formalities were followed by an artistic performance overseen by Weiya and his creative team under the theme “Light Up The Future,” which had the audience cheering and gasping in turn. Weiya had earlier stressed that the young performers were the stars of the night, proclaiming them “the best I have ever worked with.” “Thanks to the Games, we have a wonderful stage where our dreams can come true — a stage at the centre of which are the young people,” he said.

The night’s best kept secret was the conclusion of the torch relay. The Olympic cauldron was lit with fireworks fired from the huge armillary sphere. A total of 1,600 fireworks announced the start of the games with a dazzling pyrotechnical display.

Abdel-Aziz had flown from Cairo to attend the opening ceremony as a guest of the Chinese Organising Committee. Before the ceremony took place, Abdel-Aziz visited the Egyptian delegation and athletes in the YOG village where he met with officials, athletes and Egyptian media representatives. He was keen to convey the greetings of President Abdel-Fatah Al-Sissi and Prime Minister Ibrahim Mehleb wishing them the best of luck. Abdel-Aziz promised the medal winners lucrative prize money. The minister, accompanied by National Olympic Committee (NOC) president, Khaled Zein, and Egypt’s Hassan Mustafa, president of the International Handball Federation (IHF), posed for pictures with the athletes.

In the presence of all three Egyptian officials — Abdel-Aziz, Zein and Mustafa — as well as presidents of several sports federations, media representatives found it the ideal time to bring to the table an important issue other than the YOG, which is Egypt’s new sports law and the regulation that limits the mandate of any federation or club official to eight years.

Contrasting views on the subject were put forth at a heated round-table discussion before dinner among proponents and opponents of the regulation. Abdel-Aziz cut the debate short by announcing that experts and consultants are working according to the Olympic charter. “Let me be clear and straight forward. Items that match the Olympic Charter will be included in the law and whatever disagrees with the Olympic Charter will be excluded,” he said.

In order for the Sports Law to be implemented, it must be approved and passed by the parliament. “The ministry will make sure the law is drafted before the elections so that it would be ready to be presented as soon as parliament is effectively in office. They are the ones who would vote for or against the eight-year stipulation,” Abdel-Aziz said.

However, Mustafa, the IOC representative in Egypt, confirmed that if parliament supported and voted for the eight-year item, it would be considered governmental intervention. “I can assure you that Egypt would be internationally suspended from all sports activities,” Mustafa revealed to the gathering.

During his short three-day visit to Nanjing, Abdel-Aziz gave full support to the athletes, encouraged them to do their best, listened to them and their technical staff and promised to provide them with all facilities and solve any problems. The minister hardly had time to sleep as he moved from one venue to another, attending the athletes’ performances and following their results.

Abdel-Aziz capitalised on the opportunity of being in China for conducting other business as well. “Before arriving here, we asked Egyptian Ambassador Magdi Amer to arrange for important appointments with a few highly-reputable construction companies, as we are planning on implementing new sports venues in Egypt,” Abdel-Aziz told the Weekly.

Facts and Figures

The Opening Ceremony of the 2nd Summer Youth Olympic Games had impressive facts and figures:
4,800 - Costumes used for the opening ceremony, including 300 suits of special colour-changing costumes, 520 protective helmets and 100 special masks
4,000 - Performers in the ceremony
3,800 - Young athletes from 204 countries to attend the opening ceremony
1,400 - Number of props featured, including 41 ZHENG HE treasure ships, 400 handled bronze shields, and 100 pairs of Wings of Peace of the five continents
600 - Hours spent to record the music
400 - People in the makeup team who are responsible for helping over 4,000 performers
300 - People involved in the making of a 100-minute video of the opening ceremony
240 - Minutes of music composed
58 - Types of costumes used in the ceremony
28 - Nanjing LELE mascots riding balance cars to represent the 28 sports featured in Nanjing 2014
9 - Composers who wrote music for the opening ceremony
8 - Flag bearers from the honour guard escorting the national flag of the People’s Republic of China
8 - Elite athletes carrying the Olympic flag
6 - Months of the rehearsal period
6 - Final torch relay participants

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