The Tokyo 2020 Olympics kicked off last Friday, June 23, in the Japanese capital, Tokyo. With the participation of many athletes representing 206 countries who started competing in 33 sports. Libya is participating in this year’s session with four games: rowing, judo, swimming and athletics. The Olympic games is a chance for the world to be united around sports and fair competing. Watching athletics who have been training and competing for years to reach the Olympics is a different sense of euphoria.
Libya’s First Appearance in the Olympics
Libya’s participation in the Olympics goes way back to 1964 during the Kingdom era. According to Olympedia, Libya formed a National Olympic Committee (NOC) in 1962, and although it was recognized by the International Olympic Committee (IOC) on 17 October 1963 at the IOC session in Baden-Baden, Libya did not take part in the 1964 Olympic Games. It only participated in the opening ceremony but withdrew from competing. Libya’s participation was mainly in individual games and only participated in joint games through volleyball men’s team in 1980.
Libya’s first official appearance as a competing country was in 1968. After a second appearance in 1980, the country has attended all Olympic Games since 1988. Libya has not competed at the Olympic Winter Games and has not won an Olympic medal. A seventh place in the 2004 men’s flyweight taekwondo event by Ezedin Tlish is the best Libyan performance at the Olympics to date. However, the first Libyan delegation to participate in the 1964 Tokyo Olympics, according to the picture below, from left to right: Saleh Darawil, Suleiman Al-Faqih Hassan, the President of the Olympic Committee, Salem Sharmit. Then Najmuddin Kaabbar, Ali Yahya Al Mansouri and Omar Al-Aqoury.
Libya participated in competing in 1968 with only one athlete, Mohamed Assawi Khalifa, who competed in the 400 meters hurdles for men. Libya boycotted the 1976 Olympic Games along with some other countries. Also boycotted the 1984 Olympic Games. But participated in 1980 with a total of 29 athletes including the swimming sisters Nadia and Soad Fezzani. This number is marked the highest for Libya ever since.
After this huge participation without any medals won, Libya’s participation decreased drastically between 1988 to 2020 with 5 participating athletes on average. Which is considered very low in comparison with the rest of the participating countries. In the on going Olympics which were supposed to be held last year but with the outbreak of COVID-19, they were postponed to be held this year. Nonetheless, they are still titled Olympics 2020 Tokyo.
Libya in the On-going Olympics 2020
As mentioned above, Libya participates this year with four athletes in four different sports categories. One athlete in each of the four sports. Udai Hassouna is a 22 year old Libyan swimmer. He competed in the men’s 200 metre freestyle at the 2020 Summer Olympics. Alhussein Ghanbour is a rowing athlete who competed in Men’s single sculls. Also, Hadeel Aboud, the only female athlete from Libya, will be competing in women’s 100 meters. Finally, Ali Omar Alna’eli is a Libya Judo Athlete who is competing in +100 Kg men this Friday, June 30.
From the beginning of the games, Libyans participated in competitions in both rowing and swimming and sadly they made it last given the total time record they achieved individually. However, it is not the end yet. Athletes in both Judo and running, Ali Omar and Hadeel Aboud, will make their first competition this Friday.
Libyans Reaction On Social Media Olympics
Observing Libyan users reaction around social media only show the lack of knowledge and great sense of pessimism. Opinions vary between Libya losing the games in every participation in the Olympics and between those not wanting Libya to participate from the first place. Given the lack of support on all levels, from financial to logistic support. Also, the absence in providing proper training programs and all the small details linked to preparing the athletes for this huge event.
Some people see it as no longer enough that every year Libya participates but never brings any medals home. While others see the participation as an achievement given the status of the country since 2011. With the political turmoil that led the country into an endless loop of rivalry and conflict. Hoping that this year’s upcoming elections on December 24 will open a new chapter for Libya and Libyans.
Corruption and Weak Management Prevail, Until When?
I believe that making athletes win in Olympics is a collective work. If the state abandons its athletes then I don’t think us as citizens should add to the athlete’s struggles and overwhelming pressure. Libyans are not fully aware of the nature of training and the schedule of athletes. The overall understanding of Olympics is considered low in comparison to Football for instance. Adding to it the kind of circumstances athletes have gone through to still make it to the Olympics. Adding the impact of COVID-19 to the nature of training.
The fact that athletes made it to the Olympics is a huge achievement. It shows you the dedication and sacrifice they have put to make it happen. I am not coming up with excuses for them but I am stating facts and laying it down as it is. Unfortunately, we cannot turn a blind eye on the status of corruption that prevails the Libyan Olympics committee and individual sports unions.
weak management and ignorance kept the performance of Libyans low in every round of the Olympics. But the Olympics has given us the chance to question those in power and to demand answers. Whether on the selection process or the ongoing event and what truly happens under the table. Not forgetting the role of local media outlets in covering this huge event. In fact, having no media team by any media outlet sent to Tokyo to cover the Libyan participation and to keep Libyans informed. Moving to the role of businessmen in terms of support that could help and further make the participation positive.
Learnings From The Egyptian Experience
Awareness must be raised around the importance of individual sports in Libya. How we can raise a generation that grows in loving individual sports and dedicate them professionally to a certain sport. For example, I consider Egypt a leading example when it comes to sports. The dedication and organization are mind-blowing and it shows you how important sports are to the country.
The mentality of sports clubs that exist within the Egyptian community for years reflected positively in the Olympics. We can clearly see it through the performance of Egyptian athletes. With 134 athletes, Egypt has brought its biggest Olympic delegation to Tokyo. They will be representing Egypt in 24 sports, the largest number of sports that Egypt has ever participated in. It has accumulated a total of 32 medals since their first participation in the Olympics.
we must keep in mind the efforts put individually by the participating athletes and we should be proud of them regardless. They participated to make sure that Libya is not only known by conflict and war but there is more to it as a country and as citizens. They tried their best to keep Libya in the sports map and to improve their personal records. It is a chance for them to improve and hopefully, we will see them and many others in the next round of Olympics.