Saturday, August 04, 2012

Morocco's Olympics - The First Week

Despite the fact that Morocco has won more Olympic medals (21) in previous games than any other Arab nation, the 2012 games have had a very slow start. In addition two doping incidents have tarnished the country's reputation and, to make matters worse, a French judge has asked British police to arrest the head of Morocco’s Olympic committee in relation to the 1965 disappearance of Moroccan opposition leader Mehdi Ben Barka.

In this year's Olympics Morocco has 67 athletes participating in 12 sports.

Abdalaati Iguider, who won the 2011 World Indoor Championships over 1,500m is probably Morocco's best chance for a medal. In the men's athletics 1500m first round results, Iguider qualified in second place with a time of 3:41.08.

The 3000m steeplechase first round saw Moroccans Hamid Ezzine and Brahim Taleb qualify.

Hicham Sigueni failed to qualify.

The next round qualifiers in the 3000m steeplechase

1. Mahiedine Mekhissi-Benabbad (France) 8:16.23
2. Evan Jager (U.S.) 8:16.61
3. Abel Kiprop Mutai (Kenya) 8:17.70
4. Tarik Langat Akdag (Turkey) 8:17.85
5. Nahom Mesfin (Ethiopia) 8:18.16
6. Benjamin Kiplagat (Uganda) 8:18.44
7. Roba Gari (Ethiopia) 8:20.68
8. Ezekiel Kemboi (Kenya) 8:20.97
9. Hamid Ezzine (Morocco) 8:21.25
10. Donald Cabral (U.S.) 8:21.46
11. Ion Luchianov (Moldova) 8:22.09
18. Brimin Kiprop Kipruto (Kenya) 8:28.62
19. Yuri Floriani (Italy) 8:29.01
20. Brahim Taleb (Morocco) 8:29.02
21. Jukka Keskisalo (Finland) 8:29.13

Abdalaati Iguider

In soccer both Spain and Morocco are heading home after playing to a scoreless draw in the final game of Group D.

The score was not indicative of the frenetic pace that both teams put on display, but what people will remember most is that Spain left London with one point and no goals to its credit.

In order to move on, Morocco needed a win over the Spanish and for Japan to beat Honduras, but the other Group D match of the day also ended in a 0-0 tie.

Sara El Bekri qualified for the women's swimming 200m breaststroke semi-final where she came in a very credible 5th place.

In the light flyweight boxing, Thomas Essomba of Cameroon beat Abdelali Darra of Morocco 13-10 on Wednesday.

Good news in the boxing Morocco's Mohammed Arjaoui has advanced to the next round of the Olympic super heavyweight competition with victory over Cameroon's Blaise Yemou Mendouo.

Arjaoui took the upper hand in the first round, opening up a 6-2 lead over his opponent before extending it by four points after the second.

The Moroccan was not troubled as he sailed through 15-6.

Two Moroccans suspected of doping offences

Unfortunately, as Morocco World News, reported, Amine Laalou will miss the London Games after the IAAF alerted the International Olympic Committee (IOC) to a report he may have returned a positive dope test.

An informed source told AFP that Laalou had taken a “banned substance” at a meeting in Monaco on July 20, where he came in fourth in a time of 3:30.54.

“The Moroccan athlete has not been authorised to enter Great Britain – English police expelled him at the airport in London,” Moroccan sports radio MARS reported.

“Amine Laalou is suspected of doping – he will not line up for the 1500m,” a member of the Moroccan delegation at the Games said.

Moroccan Minister of Sport Mohamed Ouzine told AFP: “If this doping case is confirmed then it is a catastrophe.

“Should it prove to be true then it is unacceptable.”

Noting that Morocco has been waging a campaign to ensure sport is clean, Ouzine promised “a strong reaction.”

Laalou is the second Moroccan to be denied a place at the Games after 1500m racer Mariem Alaoui Selsouli tested positive for a diuretic in Paris last month.

Morocco's Medal History

In the 2008 Beijing Olympics Morocco came away with two medals; a silver to Jaouad Gharib in the men's marathon and and a bronze to Hasna Benhassi in the women's 800m.

Morocco had a better games in Athens in 2004 when they sent 55 competitors, 47 men and 8 women. They took part in 28 events in 9 sports. The star was runner Hicham El Guerrouj who won two gold medals. One was for the men's 1500 metres and the second for men's 5000 metres. Hasna Benhassi won silver in the women's 800 metres.

Hicham El Guerrouj in 2004 
"Its amazing to think that in Sydney I was crying tears of sadness and here I am crying tears of joy. I'm like a five year-old with a toy." ~ Hicham El Guerrouj, on winning the 1,500 meters gold medal in 2004

Sydney 2000 saw Morocco gather 5 medals; 4 bronze and a silver.

Atlanta in 1996 produced 2 bronze, both for Moroccan runners.

At the 1992 Olympics in Barcelona Morocco won 3 medals - a gold and silver in athletics and a bronze in the bantamweight boxing.

In the 1988 Summer Olympics in Seoul, Morocco came away with 3 medals. A gold in the men's 10,000 metres and 2 bronze - one in the men's 800 metres and one in the featherweight boxing.

Morocco competed at the 1984 Summer Olympics in Los Angeles. The nation returned to the Summer Games after participating in the American-led boycott of the 1980 Summer Olympics. The games produced 2 gold medals - the men's 5000 metres and the famous victory of Nawal El Moutawakel in the women's 400 metre hurdles. Nawal El Moutawakel who, in her own words, became "the first Muslim, Arab, African woman to win a gold medal at the Olympic Games".

Nawal El Moutawakel

Morocco competed in the Olympic Games for the first time at the 1960 Summer Olympics in Rome, with 47 competitors, all men, who took part in 45 events in 10 sports. They came away with their first ever Olympic medal, a silver to Rhadi Ben Abdesselam from Fez, in the the men's marathon.

Morocco's Olympic chief leaves London

French judge, Patrick Ramael, has asked British police to arrest Housni Benslimane, the head of Morocco’s Olympic committee, in relation to the 1965 disappearance of Moroccan opposition leader Mehdi Ben Barka. Judge Patrick Ramael has tried to have Housni Benslimane arrested since 2007.

The judge wants to question him, along with three other ex-soldiers, about the kidnapping of Mr Ben Barka in Paris. However, the Moroccan embassy in London says Mr Benslimane was in the city last week for the Olympics, but has now left.

Although Mr Ramael issued a warrant for his arrest five years ago, it is no longer in force, as neither French prosecutors nor Interpol have endorsed it, AFP news agency says.

Mr Benslimane is not known to have commented on the case.

Mr Ben Barka was an outspoken critic of Morocco’s late King Hassan II. The exact circumstances of his disappearance are not known and his body has never been found.

In 2001 former members of the Moroccan secret service alleged an ex-interior minister had been involved in a plan to assassinate him. Mr Benslimane, who is now 77, was an army captain in 1965.
He is also head of the Moroccan Football Federation.


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