Moroccan Olympic Legends Make Appearance at Medal Ceremony

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Retired Moroccan athlete Hicham El Guerrouj speaks to students at the Aspire Academy in Doha April 22, 2007. REUTERS/Fadi Al-Assaad (QATAR)

In today’s medal ceremony, a bit of history was made as legendary Moroccan athlete Hisham El Guerrouj—who won the gold medal in the Men’s 1500m event in Athens in 2004—presented Algerian gold medal winner Taoufik Makhloufi with his medal in the same event.

As @__Hisham points out on Twitter (below), this is a momentous occasion in that the two countries have been frozen in a sort of “cold war” for years over the issue of the Western Sahara. The border between the two countries has been closed since 1994, except for a brief period in early 2009 when it opened to allow a convoy carrying aid to Gaza to pass.

El Guerrouj, who is a member of the International Olympic Committee (IOC), was joined by another Moroccan legend, hurdler Nawal El Moutawakel, who became the first female Muslim born on the African continent to become an Olympic champion when she won gold in the 1984 Games in the Women’s 400m Hurdles. El Moutawakel was also the first Moroccan to ever win a gold medal and is also a member of the IOC.

The presence of both legends has been celebrated at the Games. El Guerrouj was spotted greeting Olympic legend Roger Bannister and quoted as saying “He’s my hero. He’s our spiritual father in the 1,500 and the mile.” In an IOC press release, he was also noted as having expressed delight at the London facilities.

On Twitter, fans of the legendary athletes paid their respects: