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Qatar wins IOC praise for promoting women’s sports – Gulf Times

The Qatar Olympic Committe’s (QOC’s) effort to raise the profile of women’s sport in the Middle East is praiseworthy, a senior member of the International Olympic Committee (IOC) said in London yesterday.In a major departure from past trends where only male athletes went to the Olympic Games, Qatar has sent four women athletes to the 2012 London Games. One of the four athletes – shooter Bahiya al-Hamad – will carry the Qatari flag at the London Games opening ceremony tomorrow.Irena Szewinska, an IOC member and retired Polish sprinter, said: “The Qatar Olympic Committee is going step by step and doing the right thing. It is helping women take to sport in a big way. They are promoting sport in a right way. Everybody has the right to play sport and I wish them (the Qatari women athletes) the very best.”When informed that al-Hamad would carry the flag at the Olympic Games opening ceremony, Szewinska added: “That’s very nice that a woman athlete is the flag-bearer. It is good to see that.”After attending a photo exhibition showcasing 50 young Arab athletes, Szewinska, now 66, noted that women’s sport in the Middle East was better than a decade ago.“I think one should go step by step. I can compare what the scene was like a few years ago. Now the scene is much better. This is exciting. This is encouraging the kind of support we see for women in the Muslim world. The athletes get to learn a lot with this help,” she said.Szewinska was one of the world’s foremost athletes for nearly two decades, in multiple programs. Between 1964 and 1980 she participated in five Olympic Games, winning seven medals, three of them gold. She also broke six world records and is the only athlete (male or female) to have held a world record in the 100m, 200m and 400m programs.She also won 13 medals in European Championships. Between 1965 and 1979 she gathered 26 titles of Champion of Poland in 100m sprint, 200m sprint, 400m sprint, 4x400m relay and long jump.Now she is the head of the Polish Federation of Athletics and a member of the IOC.Szewinska said the photo exhibition – set up by QOC and Qatar Museums Authority (QMA) – was a positive way to promote women’s sport.“I would like to say that these are amazing pictures. These shots are of high level, very beautiful. The theme is very interesting. Athletes can learn a lot from these pictures. IOC would like to see more and more people take part in sports. Step by step, we can go far,” she added.Peter Blewett, a judo instructor and an independent visitor, was just as impressed with the photo exhibition set up at Soothbey’s in London.Blewett said: “I have seen a picture of a judo athlete. I didn’t know they practised the sport in the Arab world. I am totally amazed with the quality of images here and the theme they portray. It seems Qatar is doing all it can to promote and back women’s sport. Through these pictures it shows that women’s sport is very popular in the Middle East.”He added: “This exhibition clearly sends out a new and fresh message. I am glad that I came here.”
A landmark Olympics for teenager
Qatari teenager Aya Majdi is determined the holy month of Ramadan will not derail a landmark Olympics where women athletes from Qatar are taking part for the first time. “If I am not tired I will fast, but if I have training or important games I can eat and drink. But I will fast again when I go back to Doha,” the 17-year-old table tennis player told the AFP news agency yesterday. “I don’t drink or eat anything until the sun sets. Here (in London) it is late, 10 o’clock when the sun sets. In Qatar it is six o’clock. So it is very different.” Majdi is one of four women in the Qatari squad in London along with shooter Bahiya al-Hamad, who will carry the country’s flag at the opening ceremony tomorrow, swimmer Nada Mohamed Wafa Arakji and sprinter Noor al-Malki. “I’m proud to be the first woman to represent Qatar. But in Brazil (the Rio 2016 Olympic Games) I will try to qualify by myself, not from the wild card,” said Majdi.

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