For a region that prides itself on being the emerging centre of sports in this part of the world, the Beijing Olympics provided a reality check of sorts. There were 83 athletes representing the eight Gulf states in Beijing and just one of them returned home with a medal. He wasn't even born in this region. Rashid Ramzi was the Gulf's only success story in Beijing, winning Bahrain's first-ever gold in the 1,500m. In fact, the Morocco-born Ramzi, who took Bahraini citizenship in 2002, was the only Arab to stand at the top of the podium in China.
The Arab world, straddling two continents and spanning 24 countries with a combined population of 325 million had just five nations on the list of 87 countries that won medals. Closer to home, though, there will be few memories to cherish from the Games, save Sheikha Maitha bint Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum proudly carrying the UAE flag at the opening ceremony. The UAE sent eight competitors to the games. The great hope, Sheikh Ahmed Mohammed bin Hashar Al Maktoum, winner of the double-trap gold at 2004 Athens, failed to reach the final round of both his events. Sheikha Maitha went out to the opening round of the 67kg taekwondo competition.
The results certainly don't make an impressive read, but they don't really reflect the efforts that had gone into reaching Beijing. The problem was a lack of experience. Sheikha Latifa said: "You have to be at the Games to know and it takes time to get used to it. Just qualifying for the Olympics is an achievement in itself." And that is true. Around 10,500 athletes took part in Beijing, competing in 302 events and just 958 returned home with medals. For the rest, the pride of being a participant was an honour and a moment to cherish.
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