Going for 2036

Inas Mazhar , Tuesday 27 Sep 2022

Egypt’s dream of hosting the Olympic Games received some traction after the IOC president’s visit, reports Inas Mazhar

Thomas Bach and Al-Sisi

It was Egyptian Minister of Youth and Sports Ashraf Sobhi who announced to the world that President Abdel-Fattah Al-Sisi had approved that Egypt apply to host the world’s most prestigious sports event, the Olympic Games, in 2036.

Paris will host the next Olympic Games in 2024, Los Angeles in 2028 and Brisbane in Australia in 2032.

The announcement was made by the minister at a reception held on Saturday at the Egyptian National Olympic Committee headquarters in Cairo, following International Olympic Committee (IOC) President Thomas Bach’s meeting with Al-Sisi. Sobhi said the Egyptian state and political leadership under Al-Sisi are paying unprecedented attention to Egyptian sports.

The reception was also attended by the President of the Association of National Olympic Committees of Africa (ANOCA) Mustapha Berraf, President of the International Handball Federation (IHF) Hassan Mustafa and President of the Egyptian National Olympic Committee (ENOC) Hisham Hattab, as well as presidents of national sports federations and Olympic athletes.

Bach’s visit to Egypt concluded his Middle East tour which saw him visiting Jordan, Palestine, Israel and Egypt. The visit was closely followed by Egyptian media and sports fans eager to know the main reason for the visit and whether Egypt would show interest in hosting the Games.

Bach’s visit was just 24 hours but busy. From the airport he headed directly to Giza for dinner at the foot of the Pyramids before attending a match at the Egypt Open Squash Championship which was held in the same location.

The following day, he met Al-Sisi in the morning, along with Sobhi. The presidents of ANOCA, IHF and ENOC also attended the meeting which was marked by a discussion on prospects of cooperation between the IOC and ENOC.

Al-Sisi stressed the important role of the IOC in promoting interest in sport at the international level. He highlighted Egypt’s efforts to develop and modernise its sports infrastructure nationwide and the construction of the Egyptian Olympic City in the New Administrative Capital, in addition to improving Egyptian airports, international networks and the transport and communication network. New sports infrastructure, he said, allows Egypt to host major events.

Bach said he was honoured to meet the Egyptian president, emphasising the historic role of Egypt as one of the leading African and Arab countries in various sports. He also expressed his great admiration for the boosting of sports infrastructure in Egypt, enabling it to host many recent international sporting events, including the 2021 World Handball Championship, despite the challenges of the coronavirus pandemic.

After the official meeting with the president, Bach and his delegation, accompanied by Sobhi and the ENOC officials, headed for the Egyptian Olympic City in the New Administrative Capital where the delegation first saw a documentary on the construction of the International City for Olympic Games, including stadiums and sports and administrative facilities, before visiting the sites, starting with the straggling complex, which is set to include a 93,440-seater football stadium, which will be the second largest in Africa after FNB Stadium in Johannesburg, as well as an Olympic-size swimming pool, two sports halls, squash and tennis courts and other facilities.

Following the tour, Bach returned to the ENOC headquarters for a quick press conference where the media waited to hear the outcome of the meeting with the president and whether Egypt stands a chance to host the 2036 Olympics. The answer came from Sobhi who declared that the Egyptian president “has given the green light to the country’s sports authorities to present the candidacy for the organisation of the 2036 Olympic Games”.

“It’s a great pleasure being here in Egypt and witnessing the great progress in sports which we have seen during the recent years,” Bach told the press conference. “I think that there is hardly a national Olympic committee in the world that managed to double the number of medals that have been achieved between Rio 2016 and Tokyo 2020. So therefore, I would like to extend my congratulations to the Olympic Committee and of course to all national federation presidents for making this great success possible.

“Indeed the relation between the IOC and Egypt are dating back a very long time. Maybe one of the most significant signals of this you can see here: it’s the Olympic flag flying in front of us at the headquarters of the Egyptian NOC. This Olympic flag has been displayed for the first time here in Egypt on 5 April, 1914 in Alexandria, and in the meantime, it is being flying across the entire globe.

“There, you can see that we have a close and longtime friendship together and you can be rest assured that we will keep being by your side, supporting sports in Egypt and we know that we can rely, as we have been in the past, on the great support and services of our friend Dr Hassan Mustafa, who helped very much to establish the sports law in 2017 from which all of you, the Olympic movement are greatly benefiting to have the full compliance with the Olympic charter. And, you have also, I think the great support of the ANOCA president Mr Beraff who is here with me and very grateful for the two of them to be here with me.

“I would also like to extend my thanks to the minister of sports for the hospitality he is offering but most of all would like to extend my thanks to the athletes who have been here with me since my arrival, being led by Aya Medani, with such a great position of sports in Egypt, the NOC and in the IOC, where she is holding an important position being a member in the Athletes Commission and being part of all the decisions we are taking in the IOC, so we are looking forward for more continuation and cooperation between sports in Egypt and the IOC,” he added.

Regarding the Olympic Games, Bach welcomed the Egyptian announcement, according to the IOC website, particularly with the recent success of Egyptian athletes at the Olympic Games, doubling their medal haul, with the successful staging of a number of world championships and other international events, and with the recent sports infrastructure-building programme underway in the country.

“It would be a fantastic thing if Egypt hosted the 2036 Olympics. I would support Egypt,” Bach said, adding, “It’s great to witness all the progress in Egypt and the development of Egyptian sport. I have full confidence in Egypt’s ability to host major events,” noting that the Egyptian International Olympic City in the New Administrative Capital is one of the most important sports arenas in the Middle East, with its stadiums and covered rooms equipped for various individual and collective competitions, in addition to service, medical and hotel facilities”.

Egypt has hosted several international sports events in recent years, including the 2019 Africa Cup of Nations in football, the World Handball Championship in 2021 during the COVID-19 pandemic, and world championships in fencing, gymnastics and the modern pentathlon. The spectacular success of these events in terms of organisation allows Egypt to apply for hosting the Games to thus become the first African country to host an Olympics.

Secretary-General of ENOC Sherif Al-Erian said Bach’s visit to Egypt was fruitful. “Mr. Bach’s visit was a successful one and I am happy to have been part of it and extremely proud of all our Olympic athletes who joined this historic moment,” he said.

*A version of this article appears in print in the 29 September, 2022 edition of Al-Ahram Weekly.

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