the rio 2016 olympics had its grand opening yesterday, or as the joke goes, it was similar to your average lebanese wedding. Critics hail the celebration of Brazilian history without shying away from the parts that are usually hidden, like slavery, and thirsty people drool over the flag-bearer of Tonga, a country of 169 Polynesian islands.
as usual, lebanon has a collection of athletes, nine, who represent the country in river. those athletes are:
- ray bassil – shot,
- mariana sahakian – table tennis,
- ahmad hazer – athletics,
- chirine njem – athletics,
- anthony barbar – swimming,
- gabriella doueihy – swimming,
- elias nassif – judo,
- mona sheaito – fencing,
- richard mourjan – canoe slalom.
- 1952 (helsinki olympics): zakaria chehab (silver medalist in men’s wrestling); khalil taha (men’s wrestling bronze medal)
- 1972 (Olympics in Munich): Mohamed Traboulsi (silver medalist in weightlifting),
- 1980 (moscow olympics): hassan bechara (bronze medal in wrestling).
chirine njem will be the first woman to represent lebanon in a marathon race. richard mourjan will also be the first time we will participate in a canoe slalom.
Of the nine athletes mentioned above, Ray Bassil and Mona Sheaito participated in the London 2012 Olympic Games.
the last time lebanon won a medal at the olympics dates back to 1980, at the moscow olympics, where hassan bechara won bronze in greco-roman wrestling.
in total, our country has a total of 4 medals to its name, two silver and two bronze, distributed as follows:
The country has never had an athlete win a gold medal. I guess this isn’t exactly shocking given how little investment our governments put into sports in general and nurturing the many athletic talents our country has. even sending athletes to the Olympics has proven, time and time again, to be “difficult” for our government. those who went to london in 2012 reportedly had to finance a large part of their participation.
so it’s in that context that it seems unbelievable that lebanon could have their first shot at a gold medal. As reported by CNN, since her disappointing start in London in 2012, Lebanese Ray Bassil has been working very hard, despite obstacles imposed by her own country, to improve at what she does. Since then, she has racked up medal after medal, rising to become the No. 1 Cheat Shooter in the world.
ray will compete on Sunday, August 7 (morning) at 3 p.m. m., beirut time.
the lebanon athletes schedule is as follows, as sent to me by a friend:
Saturday, August 6 * Mariana Sahakian – table tennis.
Sunday August 7th: * ray bassil: filming. * gabriella doueihy: swimming (women’s 400m freestyle). * richard merjan: canoe slalom men’s single canoe
Tuesday, August 9: * elias nassif: judo – 81 kg elimination round of 32
Wednesday, August 10: * mona sheaito: fencing,
Thursday, August 11: * Anthony Barbar: Swim (Men’s 50m Freestyle).
Sunday August 14: * chirine njem: women’s marathon.
Tuesday, August 16: * ahmad hazer: men’s 110m steeplechase.
Of course, it wouldn’t be Lebanese if our participation was drama-free. luckily for us, the drama started on day zero with the Lebanese and Israeli delegations almost fighting over being assigned the same bus to be transported to the opening ceremony.
The Israeli Times were the first to report on the issue (link), before the Lebanese media picked up on the news. the Israelis were horrified, gasped, and found the precedence “dangerous.” meanwhile, in lebanon, the news is getting more humorous responses.
There really isn’t much to read, and the only entity guilty of assigning the same bus for the Lebanese and Israeli delegations is the organizing committee that thought of putting up two enemy countries that recently commemorated the 10th anniversary of their last war. together in the same transportation vehicle was a good idea.
The Israelis can go on and on saying that being blocked by the Lebanese delegation from accessing the bus is “unsportsmanlike” behavior. and we as Lebanese will have different opinions on this depending on where we fall on the political spectrum. But the fact is and always will be: It is not unsportsmanlike to protest Israel’s violations of our land, our people, and the land of the people who have forcibly become refugees in our country. the olympics have never been devoid of political tone, and this is just another manifestation of it.
The Lebanese athletes sharing the bus with the Israeli delegation would have also had repercussions in Lebanon, as it is illegal for us to have any kind of interaction with the Israelis. Or have we forgotten about the international selfie scandal?
in summary: we have nine athletes we are proud of, one of them could make history in lebanon and we have already fought with israel. just another typical day in lebanon.