Taekwondo in a royal palace

Abeer Anwar , Tuesday 25 Jun 2024

At the Paris 2024 Olympic Games, set to begin in just 30 days, Mohamed Shaaban will make history as the first Arab and African to serve as a technical delegate in taekwondo, reports Abeer Anwar

Taekwondo in a royal palace

 

In addition to his latest post Mohamed Shaaban is president of the Games and Technical Committees at the World Taekwondo Federation.

Speaking to Al-Ahram Weekly, Shaaban said his new post “was a great honour and a great responsibility at the same time”.

He said that since taekwondo was introduced to the Olympics in Sydney 2000, the role of technical delegate had been held by three South Koreans and one Frenchman. The 2000, 2004, and 2008 Games were presided over by South Koreans, the native country of taekwondo, and the 2012, 2016, and 2020 Games overseen by Frenchman Philippe Bouedo, the former president of the Games Committee at the World Federation. Shaaban acknowledged the significant responsibility of following in the footsteps of these experienced individuals, emphasising the trust placed in him by the World Federation and its president Chungwon Choue.

Shaaban said he believed the Paris 2024 Olympics will be unlike any other. “Paris aims to amaze the world,” he notes, describing unprecedented preparations and a goal to host the largest number of spectators while ensuring stringent security measures. The Games, taking place in the heart of Europe, come after the Tokyo Olympics, which were held under strict Covid-19 measures and without spectators.

Save Beijing 2008, Shaaban has attended every Olympic Games since Sydney 2000. For the Paris Games, he explains, “I am assuming full responsibility. I am closely monitoring all the details with the organising committee. I have been working on this project for two years, more than 150 hours, with several visits to Paris. Despite the significant responsibility and the difficulty of the work, I enjoy every detail.” Shaaban praised his team in the Organising Committee and the World Taekwondo Federation as excellent, highlighting the ease of working with close colleagues.

On what sets taekwondo at Paris 2024 apart is that the event, from 7-10 August at the Grand Palais, is being held in a historical royal palace built in 1900, located in the heart of Paris. This iconic site, also hosting fencing events, provides a luxurious and majestic backdrop. “Royal stairs, giant eight-metre high doors, and a steel and glass nave will help us create an extraordinary setup for the competition,” he said. Additionally, the competition will be more dynamic under the new “best of 3” system where the winner must win two of the three sets.

Shaaban, known for his revolutionary ideas, revealed further innovations for taekwondo in Paris. “We have leveraged the grandeur of the competition site, the Grand Palais, to create a fabulous setup,” he explains. The bleachers, made of steel and standing 50 metres high, will surround the elevated tatami on a podium, creating an arena-like atmosphere. The hall’s design, with steeply inclined seating and a central bleacher, will resemble venues for MMA competitions or gladiator arenas, enhancing the spectator experience. The colour scheme will feature shades of purple and blue, with blue as the primary colour.

Shaaban is optimistic about the chances of African, Arab, and Egyptian athletes at the Paris Olympics, saying the landscape of taekwondo evolves with each Olympic edition, with new countries emerging and achieving podium finishes. African and Arab taekwondo have seen significant success in recent years, with several nations having strong prospects in Paris, including Côte d’Ivoire, Niger, Morocco, Tunisia, Jordan, Saudi Arabia, Palestine, and Egypt.

Tokyo Olympic bronze medallist Seif Eissa from Egypt has a good chance of winning a medal in the -80 kg category. Teammates Ahmed Wael and Aya Shehata, who will be competing in their first Olympic Games, also have the potential for strong performances.


* A version of this article appears in print in the 27 June, 2024 edition of Al-Ahram Weekly

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