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Athletes of the Spring
Published in Al-Ahram Weekly on 08 - 12 - 2011

In the midst of unprecedented regional uprisings, the Arab Games begin in Qatar, reports Ghada Abdel-Kader
The world's attention will be focused on the most prestigious sports event in the Arab world, the pan-Arab Games, being staged in Qatar, not least because this will be the first time the quadrennial multi-sport event is to be held in a Gulf state. The Arab Spring of revolts sweeping the region has also placed this particular Arab Games in the spotlight.
The 12th 2011 Pan-Arab Games starts tomorrow Friday 9 December to 23 December..
Participating are Algeria, Egypt, Lebanon, Oman, Somalia, the United Arab of Emirates, Bahrain, Iraq, Libya, Palestine, Sudan, Yemen, Comoros, Jordan, Mauritania, Qatar, Syria, Djibouti, Kuwait, Morocco, Saudi Arabia and Tunisia. Syria announced its team will not participate in protest over the Arab League's suspension of the country's membership. More than 8,000 athletes will compete in more than 30 events. For the first time at an Arab Games, swimming was approved by the International Swimming Federation (FINA) as an official qualifier for the London 2012 Olympic Games.
The Egyptian delegation is 512-strong, and includes 369 athletes (246 men and 123 women) plus 143 administrators and physicians. It is the biggest delegation in the history of the Arab Games. Egyptians are in swimming, archery, athletics, basketball, bodybuilding, bowling, boxing, chess, cycling, equestrian, fencing, goal ball, golf, gymnastics artistic, gymnastics trampoline, handball, judo, karate, sailing, shooting, squash, table tennis, taekwondo, tennis, volleyball-beach, volleyball, weightlifting and wrestling.
Many of Egypt's medals will come from wrestling which has 14 players. Olympic 2004 gold medalist Karam Gaber will be in Qatar after a more than a two-year lay-off. Gaber will wrestle in the 84kg category instead of his previous 96kg.
Egyptian World champion Mohamed Abdel-Fattah, better known as Bogi Abdel-Fattah, represented Egypt at the 2000 and 2004 Summer Olympics and won his division at the 2006 FILA Wrestling World Championships in Guangzhou, China (84kg class), beating 2004 Olympic gold medalist Alexei Mishin from Russia in the quarter-finals, and Nazmi Avluca from Turkey in the final. In the 2011 World Championship, Abdel-Fattah ranked fifth in the 96kg class to qualify to the 2012 Olympic Games.
The weightlifting team consisted of nine athletes (seven men and two women) the most prominent being Abeer Abdel-Rahman and Nahla Ramadan.
Fencing includes 29 players among them Ayman Alaaeddin. Judo has seven players -- Mohamed Sobhi (weight 66kg), Shadi El-Dawi (weight 73kg), Hatem Abdel-Akher (81kg), Ali Darwish (weight 90kg) and Mohamed Abbas (weight 100kg) and Mohamed Youssef (weight above 100kg) and Mohamed Muttee (open weight).
In boxing 10 players include Rami Helmi 49kg, Hisham Yehia 52, Mohamed Ramadan and Mohamed Heikal 75.
The tennis squad consists of Sherif Sabi, Mohamed Safwat, Karim Maamoun and Omar Hedayet accompanied by their technical director Tamer El-Sawi. Four women players are Magi Aziz, Ola Abou-Zekri, Menna El-Nagdi and Yasmine Ebada accompanied by technical director Nael Zaki.
In volleyball, three teams are participating -- men and women teams and beach volleyball men.
Shooting includes 20 players the most prominent being Ahmed Zaher, Mona El-Hawari, Karim Mustafa, Nourhan Amer and Mahmoud Taha.
The equestrian team consisted of five knights: Sameh El-Dahan, Karim El-Zoghbi, Abdel-Kader Said, Nayal Nassar and Ahmed Tolaba.
Sailing has 10 players. Optimist sailors are Sherif El-Zayat, Mohamed Ramadan, Kholoud Mustafa and Monaai Mustafa. Laser 4.7 sailors are Marwan Mansi and Mohamed Morsi. Laser radial sailors are Adam El-Shayeb and Sherif El-Shayeb.
The Arab Games are a regional multi-sport event, held between nations from the Arab countries every four years. Organised by the Union of Arab National Olympic Committees, the first Games took place in 1953 in Alexandria, Egypt. Women were first allowed to compete in 1985.
Egypt has traditionally dominated the Games and has participated eight times; it did not go to the 2nd, 5th and 6th editions in Beirut 1957, Damascus 1976 and Casablanca 1985.
In the first Pan Arab Games in Alexandria in 1953 Egypt came topped the medal list with 67 gold, 34 silver and 21 bronze. A total number of 650 athletes from eight countries participated in 10 sports.
In the 3rd Pan Arab Games in Casablanca, Morocco, 1961, Egypt again took first place with 52 gold 37 silver and 19 bronze. More than 1,100 athletes from nine countries participated in 11 sports.
Egypt finished first with 70 gold, 37 silver and 30 bronze at the 4th Games in Cairo in 1965. A total number of 1,500 athletes from 14 countries participated in 12 sports.
In the 7th Pan Arab Games in Damascus 1992, Egypt finished in second place in the medal list with 36 gold, 30 silver and 30 bronze. More than 2,600 athletes from 18 countries participated in 14 sports.
The Games were greatly affected by the 1991 Gulf war and several players along with Iraq refused to participate. In the 8th Pan Arab Games in Beirut 1997, Egypt came in first place with 93 gold, 56 silver and 38 bronze. In Lebanon 3,253 athletes from 18 countries participated in 22 sports. Over 50,000 people gathered in the Sports City in Beirut for the opening ceremony for it was the first time for Lebanon to host such an event in 40 years.
In the 9th Pan Arab Games in Amman, Jordan, in 1999, Egypt took first with 107 gold, 79 silver and 78 bronze. Over 5,504 athletes from 21 countries participated in events in 26 sports
In the 10th Pan Arab Games in Algiers, 2004, Egypt took another top spot with 79 gold, 46 silver and 46 bronze. Algiers witnessed the participation of all Arab League members for the first time �ê" 22 countries participated in 26 sports. The event was originally scheduled for 2003, but was postponed for a year due to the damage caused by the 203 Boumerd��s earthquake.
In the Pan Arab Games in Cairo in 2007, it was no surprise that the hosts came first with 148 gold, 100 silver and 89 bronze. A total of 22 countries participated in 32 events. It was the largest event in the Games' history. Seven new events were introduced and 2,000 more athletes participated, making them 8,000 Arab athletes. It also was the first time that some Arab football federations participated with their first string teams.
This year's championship will act a good dry run for Qatar whch hosts the 2022 World Cup.


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