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Arab through and through
Published in Al-Ahram Weekly on 08 - 11 - 2007

The world's attention will be focussed on Cairo on Sunday as the 11th pan-Arab Games begin, writes Inas Mazhar
Two days after the African Champions League football final, Cairo International Stadium will host the opening ceremony of the 11th pan-Arab Games. The ceremony is being supervised by the Egyptian Armed Forces.
More than 7,000 athletes representing 22 Arab nations will compete in more than 30 different sports in the Egyptian cities of Cairo, Alexandria, Ismailia, Port Said, Arish, Assiut and Aswan.
Egyptians are determined to maintain their supremacy and top the medals table, just as they did four months ago when they placed first at the more difficult All- Africa Games which was held in Algeria and saw 52 nations taking part.
The pan-Arab Games are a regional multi-sport event held between nations from the Arab world. The first Games were held in 1953 in Alexandria, Egypt. Intended to be held every four years, political turmoil as well as financial difficulties has made the event an unstable one. Women were first allowed to compete in 1985.
The Games are held under the supervision of the Arab League.
The organisers have been working hard to bring about a successful event. Delegates have started arriving in Cairo to get ready for the competition. Volleyball started days before the official kick-off in time for some teams to travel to Japan for the Volleyball World Cup.
Some Arab teams have been training in Cairo for weeks such as the modern pentathlon Iraqi team.
According to the Games director Hosni Ghandar, Egypt is ready to host its Arab brothers "in such a unique festival of true and fair competition."
Egypt will take part in almost all sports included in the programme and the federations' officials are promising Egypt a host of medals.
The Games program includes football, handball, basketball, volleyball, cycling, athletics, swimming, equestrianship, judo, wrestling, badminton, tennis, table-tennis, chess, squash, weightlifting, fencing, handicapped sports, taekwondo, boxing, bowling, archery, shooting, camel racing, karate, modern pentathlon and gymnastics.
The only unsolved problem so far, and nobody knows its future, is football. First there were 13 national teams taking part. The organisers asked that all countries to participate with their first teams to help in the success of the Games since football is the most popular sport in the world, and to bring the tournament more credibility. However, some teams withdrew and the number dropped to eight, then six and now it might drop to just five.
Two additional incidents have further marred the football competition. The world football governing body has suspended the Kuwaiti federation for failing to elect a board of directors. Accordingly, FIFA warned the organisers not to accept the participation of the Kuwaiti national team, however, reports say the ban could be lifted. Meanwhile, the African federation insisted that all African nations who have qualified for the Africa Cup of Nations in Ghana 2008 should not participate in any competition with their first team before the Nations Cup in January. An excpetion was made for Egypt while Sudan will play in the Arab Games with its Olympic team.
Egypt's organisation of the 2006 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 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.
Following the winning vote, Mufid Shehab, minister at the People's Assembly and Shura Council, 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.
Prince Nawaf also succeeded in obtaining the auspices of the International Olympic Committee in 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 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 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 first in 1953 in Alexandria and the fourth in Cairo in 1965. Egypt has participated in the pan-Arab Games seven times in the past 10 editions. Egypt did not participate in the 2nd, 5th & 6th editions in Beirut 1957, Damascus 1976 and Casablanca 1985.
The all-time medals table shows Egypt in first place with an overall total of 985 medals; 504 of which are gold. Morocco is next with 589 medals; 222 are gold. Syria is third with 692, including 213 gold medals.
The budget of the Games is expected to reach LE25 million.

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