African Gymnastics Federation President Ali Zaatar recently attended the opening of the 14th African Championships in rhythmic and trampoline gymnastics, which was hosted by Egypt from 26-28 April at Cairo International Stadium.
The president of the African Gymnastics Federation said he is keen to support Egypt in the tournament and said the technical and financial support to the Egyptian Gymnastics Federation should not be underestimated.
Daily News Egypt sat down for an interview Zaatar, the transcript of which is below, slightly edited for clarity.
How do you asses the organisation of the African championships?
The President of the Egyptian Gymnastics Federation Ehab Amin succeeded with overwhelming success in organising the tournament. This was clear from the preparations before the start of the championships and the amazing opening ceremony that astonished all those present. That ceremony was appropriate to open a world championship and not just an African championship.
What was the reaction of the International Gymnastics Federation president during the tournament?
President of the International Gymnastics Federation Morinari Watanabe was very happy when he saw this success and promised to give Egypt the privilege of hosting the 2019 Gymnastics World Cup, which is an annual tournament different from the World Gymnastics Championships.
Have you been in contact with the president of the international federation about Egypt hosting the Gymnastics World Cup?
The president of the international federation was impressed with Egypt and the opening ceremony, as well as the pyramids. He decided to have Egypt host the Gymnastics World Cup before he left Cairo to Japan. When he returned he affirmed that Egypt will organise the global event.
When will the Gymnastics World Cup be held?
The executive office of the International Gymnastics Federation will hold a meeting early next month to determine the date of the tournament, which will be enlisted in the annual agenda of the federation.
How do you see the presence of the minister of sports at the opening of the tournament?
Khalid Abdel Aziz, the minister of youth and sports, is one of the figures celebrated for his efficiency. His presence as a representative of the state at the opening ceremony drew eyes and attention to the tournament, amid a global media presence.
What do you think of the standards of gymnastics in Egypt?
Egypt is one of the leading countries in the field of gymnastics on the African continent, along with South Africa, Namibia, Morocco, Algeria, and Tunisia. It has always competed at all levels and different branches in African championships.
When will Egypt win an Olympic medal in gymnastics?
The level of players in Egypt is constantly improving. If this trend continues, Egypt will soon win an Olympic medal in the Youth Olympics and the Olympic Games.
Algeria had a big role in Egypt winning the honour of organising the tournament. Why?
Egypt and Algeria are Arab brothers who have strong relations at all official and informal levels. The brothers always support each other. Egypt was voted to host the African Championships last season. Egypt enjoys sports facilities, infrastructure, hotels, and training grounds.
During the vote, Algeria was keen to support the Egyptian bid, which won the vote. Egypt is the beating heart of Africa which shows the capabilities of the continent.
Why did the tournament miss Egypt for nine years?
Everyone knows the political events that Egypt experienced during that period. After the situation eased following the 30 June revolution, Egypt became capable of hosting the tournament and other international and continental sports events. This helped attract the world’s eyes and boost confidence in the country.
Is there cooperation between the African federation and intentional federation?
The president of the international federation is a friend. We are always talking to discuss the newest developments at the continental and global levels. The man is very understanding. My discussions with him contributed to his visit to Cairo to attend the tournament. He enjoyed his stay here and was amazed by the view of the pyramids.
What kind of cooperation is there between the African federation and the Egyptian federation?
The President of the Egyptian Gymnastics Federation Ehab Amin is the deputy of the African Federation. We are always working together at the continental level. I always want to hear his opinions on the future of the game in Egypt and Africa, whether in Cairo, Algeria, or on calls.
Do you expect Egyptian players to reach the Youth Olympics via the African Championships in Namibia?
Ali Abul-Qasim may arrive at the Youth Olympics in Argentina next October during his participating in the African Championships hosted by Namibia amid a fierce competition with Morocco, Algeria, Tunisia, South Africa and Namibia.
Will you run for president of the International Gymnastics Federation?
That is premature, and I do not want to talk about it at the moment.
Is there a plan to expand the base of gymnastics in Africa?
The African Gymnastics Federation is working with all the heads of civil associations to spread the game and expand the practice base. We have some difficulties in Africa, but things are going well.
What is your view on the future of gymnastics on the continent?
I hope that gymnastics on the continent will reach an international level and win world championships and medals, either in the World Cup, the World Championships, or the Youth and main Olympics. The continent will host major world championships soon and the start will be in Egypt in 2019.