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Morocco: Olympic Hopes

Categories: Middle East & North Africa, Morocco, Sport, Olympics

Global Voices Olympics [1]Morocco began competing in the Summer Olympic Games in 1960 and has competed in every Summer Games since (with the exception of the 1980 Games [2], which they boycotted along with the United States and its allies). Moroccan athletes have won a total of nineteen medals over the years, with Hicham el Guerrouj [3] and Saïd Aouita [4] both winning multiple medals in athletics.

Morocco sent 49 athletes to the 2008 Beijing Summer Olympic Games, 11 of whom were women, to compete in seven events: athletics, judo, boxing, fencing, taekwondo, archery, and swimming. As of today, no medals have been won, but bloggers are nonetheless keeping close track of the Games. The View From Fez takes the lead in Olympic reporting, first sharing news [5] of the appointment of Olympic gold medalist Nawal El Moutawakel (1984, 400 meter hurdles) to the IOC executive board.

Following the first few days of the Games, the blogger writes [6]:

In the past Morocco has won 19 Olympic medals but only in two sports, with 16 medals from athletics and three medals from boxing. Morocco's first gold was won by Nawal El Moutawakel in the women's 400m hurdles at the 1984 Los Angeles Games. Saïd Aouita, the overwhelming favourite for the 5000m in Los Angeles, won Morocco's second Olympic gold. He went undefeated over the distance for almost ten years but injury prevented him from defending his title in 1988, although he still managed to win a bronze medal.

Of Morocco's success (or lack thereof) thus far, the blogger adds:

In Beijing Morocco has not had a lot to smile about so far. In boxing (middleweight division) Kazakhstan's Bakhtiyar Artayev, who won gold in the welterweight division at Athens 2004 and bronze in the middleweight division at the 2007 World Championships, pocketed an 8-2 victory over Morocco's Said Rachidi.

In the next update [7] from The View From Fez, there's a bit of good news:

At last Morocco has something to cheer about. Mohmammed Arjoui won a comprehensive victory (11/6) against Brad Pitt. Pitt quit his job as a painter in order to train for the Sydney Olympics in 2000, but unfortunately he did not qualify for the games. After this blow he returned to work again as a painter only to quit again to focus his time on qualifying for the Commonwealth Games in Melbourne. For him Beijing lasted only a few minutes.

MidEast Youth
‘s Ray Hanania commented [8] on the aspirations of Moroccan athletes:

The Arab Athlete to watch: Hicham El Guerrouj of Morocco won the 1,500 metres and 5,000 metres at Athens 2004, becoming the first male athlete since Paavo Nurmi, 80 years earlier, to succeed in that double. Prior to Athens, El Guerrouj had won 84 of his 89 races at 1,500 metres or a mile since 1996, At Atlanta 1996, he tripped and fell in the final, finishing 12th. At Sydney 2000, he placed second to Kenya’s Noah Ngeny. The sports pros believe he has a shot at Gold and was named by Time Magazine as one of the top 50 athletes at the Beijing Olympics.

Moroccans, ever the good sports, are not only talking about their own athletes. Myrtus cheers [9] Michael Phelps’ Olympic wins with the simple statement “You are GOLD!” which renders the following comment:

Congratulations Michael, un vrai sportif, à lui seul il a plus de medailles que tout les pays de maghreb arabes en JO …

Congratulations Michael, a true sportsman, he alone has more medals than any countries in the Arab Maghreb in the Olympic Games …