Arab pride wins big at the 2012 London Olympics

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Arab pride wins big at the 2012 London Olympics
By Ray Hanania
Saudi Gazette Sunday August 12, 2012

This year marks the 100th year of Arab participation in the International Olympics competition, started in 1912 with Egypt and growing this year to the participation of 17 Arab countries.

The Arab athletes didn’t do too bad, either, winning 10 medals, one Gold, three Silver and six Bronze. Algeria’s Taoufik Makhloufi took the Gold Medal in the 1,500 Meter race. The first medal, Bronze, was won by Nasser al-Attiya of Qatar in Men’s Skeet Shooting.

And the first two female athletes from Saudi Arabia made their entrance to the Olympics, with one running in a track competition. Wojdan Shahrkhani and Sarah Attar represented the Kingdom in the +78kg. judo and 800m events respectively. Although neither of them won a medal, both of them are heroes in my mind for their persistence and Arab pride. Attar, who holds both American and Saudi passports, wore a Hijab and clothing that covered her entire body save her face and hands. That alone had to be a handicap for any track runner in London’s sweltering heat. And it might explain why she came in last.

But Attar and Shahrkhani are heroes and they remain first in my mind for persistence and Arab pride, despite the shackles of conservative cultural practices.

The 100th Anniversary of Arab World participation in the Olympics deserved more than it received both in the Arab World, which in 1912 was still in formation by the conquering Western Allies during that decade.

The Arabs also deserved a little more respect from London which seemed to have a problem printing banners with Arabic words correctly: the “Welcome to London” banner was printed in Arabic, backwards, as were signs at London train stations warning commuters to not leave bags unattended; and banners at the giant Westfield Stratford City Complex at the main entrance to the Olympic Park were also messed up.

As of this writing, the score card for the Arabs at the Olympics stands as follows: Algeria, 1 Gold Medal; Egypt 2 Silver Medals; Tunisia 1 Silver and 1 Bronze Medal; Qatar 2 Bronze Medals; Kuwait 1 Bronze Medal. Morocco 1 Bronze Medal. And Saudi Arabia, 1 Bronze Medal.

Medals were not won (as of this writing) by American-occupied Iraq, Jordan, Bahrain, Lebanon, Libya, Yemen, the UAE, Oman, Palestine or Syria.

But then, the Israelis didn’t fare much better, winning nothing for all the hoopla and controversy they tried to create.

First, the Israelis sought to hijack the Olympics by insisting that the Olympics hold a 1 minute long moment of silence to recognize the 11 Israeli athletes who were murdered by Palestinian guerrillas in 1972, at the height of the Palestine-Israel wars. The war that saw the Egyptian army push its way back into the occupied Sinai Desert took place a year later in Sept. 1973.

Fortunately, the International Olympic Committee refused the Israeli demands, although pro-Israel writers in the United States denounced the decision as the result of European anti-Semitism. Isn’t everything critical of Israel anti-Semitic? Not! In reality, any commemoration should also have recognized the thousands of Palestinians who have lost their homes, lands, villages and lives at the hands of Israeli terrorism.

Maybe out of revenge for not getting their way – it’s a cultural thing for Israelis to lash out and smear anyone who challenges their self-defined importance – Israel leaked false reports that Arab terrorists and al-Qaeda were plotting to kill their athletes.

So vicious of the Israelis, but not so unusual for them.

And they spent millions lobbying the media covering the Olympics to force them to identify Occupied Jerusalem as the capital of Israel. It’s not.

Israelis just don’t know what to do when they can’t portray themselves as victims, because in reality, Israel is the oppressor of human rights in Palestine.

Which reminds me, that had the Olympics been held in the United States, they would have been renamed in honor of some Israeli claim to Jerusalem, disparaging the Arab World and might have included an Israeli-driven competition to “disarm the Arab terrorist” track race, which would have been rigged to allow the Israelis to win the Gold, the Silver and the Bronze medal.

Enough about them.

Since the 1912 Olympics in Stockholm through the Beijing Olympic games in 2008, the Arab World won 79 medals including: 21 Gold Medals, 21 Silver Medals and 37 Bronze Medals. If the total medals in the 2012 Olympics do not exceed the 10 won so far, that will bring the total number of Arab Medals at Olympic Games to 89.

There are many in the Arab World who do not recognize the power of perception in changing power balance in the world. Humans, regardless of race, ethnicity, religion or nationality, are influenced by perception.

The Chinese recognize the power of perception: The Chinese have been leading the United States not only in total Olympic Medals but also total Gold Medals and that has given the Chinese a PR perception edge over the Americans.

The Olympic Games reflect endurance and stamina. That is the ability to not give up. Not give up in demanding freedom in Syria. Not give up in demanding freedom for Palestine. Not give up in demanding the end to the demonization of the Arab World by the West.

People of the West: The Crusades have been over for more than 800 years. You’d think the West would let it go. Saladin won. Get over it.

People in the Arab World: Perception is often reality. Why don’t we fight a little harder to win the positive perceptions of the rest of the world? It’s in our power to do so. The Olympics can be a great place to begin.

(Ray Hanania is an award winning Palestinian American columnist and radio talk show host.

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This post has already been read 1927 times!

Ray Hanania

Ray Hanania

Ray Hanania is an award winning political columnist and author. He covered Chicago Politics and Chicago City Hall from 1976 through 1992. Hanania began writing in 1975 when he published The Middle Eastern Voice newspaper in Chicago (1975-1977). He later published “The National Arab American Times” newspaper which was distributed through 12,500 Middle East food stores in 48 American States (2004-2007).

Hanania writes weekly columns on Middle East and American Arab issues for the Arab News in Saudi Arabia at, and at, and at He has also published weekly columns in the Jerusalem Post newspaper,, Newsday Newspaper in New York, the Orlando Sentinel Newspapers, and the Arlington Heights Daily Herald.

Palestinian, American Arab and Christian, Hanania’s parents originate from Jerusalem and Bethlehem.

Hanania is the recipient of four (4) Chicago Headline Club “Peter Lisagor Awards” for Column writing. In November 2006, he was named “Best Ethnic American Columnist” by the New American Media. In 2009, Hanania received the prestigious Sigma Delta Chi Award for Writing from the Society of Professional Journalists. He is the recipient of the MT Mehdi Courage in Journalism Award. He was honored for his writing skills with two (2) Chicago Stick-o-Type awards from the Chicago Newspaper Guild. In 1990, Hanania was nominated by the Chicago Sun-Times editors for a Pulitzer Prize for his four-part series on the Palestinian Intifada.

His writings have also been honored by two national Awards from ADC for his writing, and from the National Arab American Journalists Association.

The managing editor of Suburban Chicagoland Online News website, Hanania's columns also appear in the Southwest News Newspaper Group of 8 newspapers.

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Ray Hanania