Arabeyes: The Olympics, Pride, Equality and Hope

Millions around the world were glued to their television screens watching their favourite athletes at this year's Beijing Olympics, which just closed. What did Arab bloggers have to say about the world's premier sporting event and their country teams? Following are a few reactions.


After watching the opening ceremony, Bahraini Mahmood Al Yousif praises China for ‘outdoing’ themselves.

There is no doubt in my mind at all that the Chinese have not only outdone themselves, but have successfully outdone every other country which so far hosted the Olympics. The opening ceremony was breathtaking.

For the Bahraini team, the blogger says:

I am sure that our athletes will exert themselves at the games to do the best they can, for that I wish them much luck. Just being there makes me proud of them. So onward and upwards ladies and gentlemen, you have already beaten the odds.

Unlike neighbouring Saudi Arabia, which doesn't allow women to compete in the Olympics, Asia's leading female sprinter Rouqayya Al-Ghasra led the Bahraini Olympic team at the opening ceremony of the games.

Commenting on the gesture, reader Lee Ann says:

I wonder what she was feeling as she walked along representing her country…a female heading a delegation from a known patriarchal society…must have felt dreamlike. I envy her and I proud of her…and Im not even Bahraini….go team go!


Writing at Open Democracy, Egyptian Tarek Osman says watching the Olympics held in China leaves Egyptians with a ‘sweet and sour’ taste in their mouths.

Now, on 8 August 2008, around 40 million Egyptians will watch the beginning of the Beijing Olympics. China's rise, to an Egyptian, has the taste of Cantonese sauce – sweet and sour. The ascendancy of a poor nation, an old civilisation is heartwarming. The comparison of where “Egypt vs China” is today is sour. True, Egypt is no China. It lacks the demographic weight, the political clout, the enormous economic potential, and the military might. But at the core of the comparison lie many similarities – the ancient heritage, the glamorous history, the deep traditions, the populous agricultural land, and the sense of an entitled civilisation. China's ascendancy (or India's growth for that matter) compels Egyptians to inwardly reflect on where they are and where they are going.

Osman continues:

I cannot but compare that all-approving, thumbs-up assessment with Egypt's failure to win the right to host football's World Cup in 2010, in which the country's bid received zero votes from the organising commission. Such bleak comparison is not masochism, but a reminder that success stories – especially those of whole nations – are fundamentally stories of people who aimed to succeed and had the will and discipline to follow through.


Anglo-Libyan wished there were more athletes from his country at the event. He adds:

I know it is too much to expect a medal but just taking part and participating in this major event is a reason to be proud of the 7 Libyan athletes, I wish there was more than just seven but that is how it is and inshaAllah [by the will of God] they make us proud by being decent and fair.

Saudi Arabia:

American Bedu, an American who lives in Saudi Arabia, watched the opening with excitement. The all-men Saudi team, however, opens Pandora's Box and a barrage of questions. She explains:

The all-male Saudi delegation entered looking very Royal and carrying the flag proudly and high. And yes, you read that right — all-male. Now come on…did anyone reading this post really expect that Saudi would have a female Olympic contender as part of their team…yet? Don’t forget, physical education is not even part of the regular program (if at all) for female students in the Kingdom.

Which does make one wonder….how many Saudi females would like to have the chance to compete as an Olympian? What kind of sports would they likely pursue that would still be viewed as acceptable in that a muslim woman can compete while maintaining her modesty?

So what about the rest of the Arab world competing in the Olympics? Did they have women on their teams? Yes; they did and usually had a woman athlete carrying the flag proudly as well. It was a pleasure seeing the Arab athletes from Kuwait, Libya, Qatar, Bahrain, Egypt and elsewhere. Iran also had women as part of its Olympic team as did even conservative Afghanistan!

So I’ll close this impromptu post in wishing the Saudi team well and hope that the lack of female contenders on the Saudi team will at least help open the eyes to initiating athletic programs for women in the school systems here…as a start.

And I ask for those especially who are Saudi and reading this post to share your views and thoughts about whether Saudi women should be given the opportunity to participate in future Olympics for the Kingdom.


For a complete round up of Arab participations in the Olympics, check out Ray Hananiya's article on Mideast Youth. He also shares his hopes for his national team:

As a Palestinian and an Arab I was extremely proud to see such a large contingent of athletes from the Arab World participating in this year’s Olympics… But seeing all the Arab countries participate is an enormous source of pride we should all share. I am especially excited that the Palestinian Athletic team continues to grow despite Israel’s oppressive occupation policies.


  • Samir

    Look like extreme Nationalism to me regardless of country.

  • Fatimah

    In regards to Saudi,
    I am a saudi women and I attend a multinational school in Riyadh in which we do have sporting activity such as physical education on a daily basis, and it even offers extra sporting activities such as athletics, court sports, netball etc. So its not that women can not do these because we can, and do so to the last comment about initiating them into the schooling most schools do already.
    Thank you

  • Samir

    It is good news to know that women do physical education at school, however women would never be allowed to compete for their country.
    Correct me if I am wrong.

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