Preview: Egypt's shooter Talaat starts Olympic campaign after Saudi flag controversy

Ahram Online , Sunday 7 Aug 2016

Hamada Talaat
Screenshot of Egypt's athlete Hamada Talaat during the Rio Olympic Games opening ceremony

Normally, a little known Egyptian shooter starting his Olympic campaign would not garner much attention. However, the controversy that engulfed Hamada Talaat during the Rio Games opening ceremony will ensure this will not be the case on Monday.

Talaat, who sparked a social media storm when he raised both the Egyptian and Saudi flags during the Parade of Nations on Friday, features in the men's 10m air rifle qualifying round at 14:00 Cairo time (12:00 GMT).    

Critics sharpened their knives for the 35-year-old.

Many Facebook and Twitter users called for Talaat to be expelled from the Egyptian delegation, although he insisted his action had nothing to do with politics.

Some have alluded to the recent controversy surrounding an Egyptian-Saudi deal which if ratified will see Egypt hand over two Red Sea islands to the Gulf kingdom.

Some have supported the state's narrative that the islands belong to Saudi Arabia and that Egypt was only protecting them for decades while others took to the streets to voice opposition to the deal in April.

Talaat was quoted by local media as saying that he simply picked the flag up because it was lying on the floor.

"He said he lifted the flag because it's inscribed with the Allah word," said the head of Egypt's National Olympic Committee Hesham Hatab, referring to the Arabic sentence that reads "There is no God but Allah, and Muhammad is his messenger", which is known in Islam as the Shahada.

Egypt's handball team also plays its first match on Monday, opening its campaign against Slovenia in Group B.

Judoka Mohamed Mohi faces Mongolia's Odbayar Ganbaatar in the men's 73 kg round of 32 and Ahmed Saad starts Egypt's weightlifting campaign in the preliminary round of the men's 62 kg event.

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