Friday, December 23, 2011
2011 Arab Games
This month Doha hosted the Arab Games, and events similar to the Commonwealth games but for Arab countries (in this case 22 countries ranging from Mauritania to Iraq). The Games end today.
Because of the business trips I was on I missed more than half of the games which was unfortunate because I really enjoyed attending the Asian Games back in 2006. That left me this week to catch whatever I could after work. I went to three events:
Monday night I went to the Hamad Aquatic Center in the Aspire Zone to watch some of the swimming.
I got there earlier than expected but soon the place filled up, which surprised me as I was not expecting a big crowd. Turns out that a lot of people in North Africa are fans of swimming.
First here are a couple of pictures of the start of a men’s and ladies’ race. Do you notice anything different?
Modest swimwear! Typically men wear Speedos in swimming competitions but here they're wearing much less revealing swimwear. Given that every competitor was wearing the same thing I'm pretty sure this was mandated by the Arab Games as the competition was being shown on television. How do I know? Because I had arrived a bit earlier and saw the warm-up – and most of the men wore Speedos during the warm-up, then changed to the other swimsuits for the competition.
One swimmer was very popular with the crowd, a Tunisian by the name Oussama Mellouli, and there were huge cheers whenever his name was mentioned. In fact a large group of Tunisians were jumping, singing and banging drums during races. I found out later that Mellouli is an Olympic gold medalist, one of only two that Tunisia has ever had, so I could see why he was popular.
So how did his first race go?
Mellouli didn't disappoint the crowd -- Gold for Tunisia!
So back into the pool for another event, and . . .
another Gold for Tunisia!
Over the course of the Arab Games Mr. Mellouli won, ready for this? 15 gold and 1 silver! Yes, fifteen. The silver was in the team event so suffice to say he won every time he was in the pool for an individual event. Unreal.
Overall people loved the swimming and would mob to take photos of medalists.
Next I went to see Karate at the Qatar Sports Club. It had a mixture of bouts, both men and ladies. Surprisingly I found the ladies bouts more aggressive and entertaining.
Despite the right hook to the face the lady with the headscarf went on to win the bout and claim Gold.
Finally I went to see the handball final between Qatar and Egypt, in the Aspire Zone.
I was out of luck as I'd arrived too late, the venue was full and the police weren't letting anyone else in (no I didn't have a ticket there were no tickets being sold. Events were free to enter, so first come-first serve).
Unfortunately that was all I got to see. I wish more of the events had been in the evening since I couldn't see many of them because I was working.
In the end Egypt easily had the most medals. Tunisia, helped significantly by Mellouli, was second. Morocco was third and Qatar was fourth. I think Qatar did very well given that such a small country, the training school at the Aspire Zone is starting to pay off.