Working with these committees around the world is a key part of our work and offers both them and us the opportunity to gain from each other’s experience. Morocco has contributed massively to the sport over the past 20 years and the day’s meetings with officials and coaching teams showed that we have fallen someway behind in this area.
However, it was their enthusiasm which was really inspiring. Athletics is the national sport there and it is track and field athletes who are the big stars instead of footballers.
That was clear as I met another good friend, the double Olympic gold medal winner and four times World Champion Hicham Al Gourouj. As well as being a national star he chairs Morocco’s Athletic Commission and acts as a sporting deputy to the Prime Minister, really focussing on youth sport.
With Nawal (left) and Hicham (right):
I travelled with Hicham and Nawal to the Athletics Institute which is home to around 140 members of Morocco’s best male and female sporting talent. I met some of their young athletes and was then proudly shown to room number 113 where Hicham spent the best part of 14 years coming up through the ranks to Olympic stardom.
Just as Napoli retired the number 10 shirt of Diego Maradona and my own team Chelsea stood down Gianfranco Zola’s number 25 when he left the club, the Institute decided to leave room 113 almost like a museum – untouched and exactly as it was. Even his training kit and the same bed are still there!
It was a fascinating insight into the passion for track and field in Morocco and it is this kind of enthusiasm for Olympic sport that we want to see here as champions of our own emerge on the track and we here at London 2012 continue to build our organisation to deliver a magnificent Olympic Games and Paralympic Games in just over 30 months time.