Palestine’s Olympic Triumph III – Woroud!

As one of the five Palestinian athletes competing at the Olympics here in London (plus two others in the Paralympics later this month), Woroud Sawalha said it all, after she competed in the 800-metre track event today. Although finishing last in her heat, she told Toronto’s Globe and Mail, “My target was to make a new record for myself and for Palestine. I got it!”

Woroud Sawalha runs in her women’s 800-metre, round one heat at the London 2012 Olympic Games at the Olympic Stadium on Wednesday, 8 August. Picture: Reuters.

A 20-year-old university student from Asira ash-Shamaliya, near Nablus, she has had to train in places like Egypt, Qatar and Jordan because of the lack of suitable facilities in Palestine. Undaunted, she says that her experience in London is just the beginning. “I hope I will do well in the future. The Olympic Games is a first step for me.”

With each of her fingernails decorated with a tiny Palestinian flag, she adds that “My dream is to do something for Palestine and to show the world that Palestine deserves to live and stand on the podium.”

Congratulations to Maher, Sabine, Ahmed and Baha, too, their coaches and officials who helped to put Palestine “on the map,” in one of the world’s most exciting, and inspiring, events!


© Pamela Ann Smith
This is a publication of and is protected by international copyright laws. This article is for the reader’s personal use only, but may be re-distributed electronically with a credit to


Palestine’s Olympic Triumph II

Here’s more pictures, following on from the story last week about the Palestinian Olympic team, below, which has gone round the world!

Members of Palestine’s Olympic team, including the two track athletes, Baha’a Al Farra (men’s 400m) and Woroud Sawalha (women’s 800m) as well as swimmer Sabine Hazboun, parade during the opening ceremony on Friday, 27 July. Photograph: Reuters

. . . And the team, coaches and officials being received at London City Hall by MP Jeremy Corbyn and supporters just prior to the opening of the Games. They were one of the few national teams to be scored such an honour.

The team being welcomed to the offices of London’s mayor and assembly, 26 July.

Coming up: The Paralympics, which start here in London on Wednesday, 29 August, where two athletes from Gaza, Khamis Zakout and Muhammad Fanouna, will be competing.

Here’s a picture of javelin thrower, Hussam Fares Azzam, who made history when he won Palestine’s first ever Olympic medal at the Paralympic Games in Sydney in 2000, and then followed this up by winning a silver medal in Athens in 2004!

Hussam Fares Azzam, training in Gaza. Photograph:

By the way, the theme picture above shows the first Gaza Marathon, held in 2011. (See Gaza Marathon, Archives, June, 2011. It was won earlier this year by runner Nader al-Masri, who carried the Palestinian flag in Athens. (See Editor’s Note, 4 July, below.)

Thanks for looking!


© Pamela Ann Smith

This is a publication of and is protected by international copyright laws. This article is for the reader’s personal use only, but may be re-distributed electronically with a credit to

Palestine’s Olympic Triumph

Even before the opening ceremony here in London tonight, Palestine’s Olympic team has triumphed. Not only does the team of five include the first-ever athlete, judoko Maher Abu Rmeilah, to pass the stringent qualification tests, the group of five, their coaches and Palestine Olympic Committee officials are winning hearts, and minds, in one of the world’s largest, and most sophisticated, cities. Over the next two weeks, as some 4 billion people around the world follow the Games, the team, whose first event starts Saturday, 28 July, can expect to score even more victories as they help to put Palestine “on the map.” (See the schedule, below.)

Palestinian judoka Maher Abu Rmeilah, who trains at the Al Quds sports club in East Jerusalem. Photograph: Gail Tibbon, The Guardian

Not long after their arrival in the capital, the group was met by a huge crowd in the west London borough of Hounslow, as it hosted the Olympic torch relay, on the final days of its tour around 95 per cent of Great Britain. Hounslow is twinned with Palestine’s administrative capital, Ramallah, and both the borough’s mayor, Councillor Pritam Grewal, and its residents seemed eager to combine their moment in the UK’s spotlight with the team. Scores of pictures were taken as Palestine’s athletics coach, Majed Abu Marahil, officially presented the Mayor with a gift on behalf of all Palestinians. On Friday, the Olympians were received by about 60 enthusiasts at no less a centre of attention than London City Hall itself.

Palestinian Olympic athletes and officials joined the Mayor of Hounslow, Councillor Pritam Grewal, on Tuesday, 24 July, to welcome the Olympic torch to the London borough. Credit: Hounslow Ramallah Twinning Association.

The team consists of Abu Rmeilah, and four others who have been invited by the International Olympic Committee: Baha Al-Farra, a 400-metre runner; Woroud Sawalha, an 800-metre runner; Sabine Hazboun, a 50-metre freestyle swimmer and Ahmed Jibril (Ahmed Gebril, in Egyptian), who is also competing in the 50-metre freestyle swimming. Like all of his teammates, Al-Farra, who lives in Gaza, has had to train despite the lack of proper facilities and financial resources, as well as Israel’s restrictions on movement in East Jerusalem and the occupied territories, a situation that means many cannot reach their full potential. But he is happy to be representing his nation.

Sabine Hazboun and Ahmed Jibril, both competing in the 50-meter freestyle swimming. Picture courtesy of

“It’s a beautiful feeling, both as an athlete and a Palestinian,” he told The Guardian in London. “I will be taking a message from the Palestinians to the greatest games on earth: that Palestine exists despite our difficult circumstances.” Continue reading