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.
— Hisham Almiraat (@__Hisham) August 8, 2012
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:
Morocco have won one medal so far.. and its a bronze. Great (!) We need record-smashin middle-distance runner Hicham El Guerrouj back! Now!
— Lamiat Sabin (@lamiats) August 8, 2012
Hicham El Guerrouj presented the 1500m medals. That is so awesome. I love running and the Olympics.
— Ethan Healy (@Ethan_Healy) August 8, 2012
Arab track legends Nawal Al Moutawakel & Hicham El Guerrouj @ 1500m ceremony where 2 Arabs r on the podium, Makhloufi (ALG) & Iguider (MAR)
— Reem Abulleil (@ReemAbulleil) August 8, 2012
Just saw Hicham el Guerrouj in the 1500m presentation ceremony! What an athlete. All time legend! Superb!
— Venkat Ananth (@venkatananth) August 8, 2012