Saudi Arabia on Sunday celebrated the 20th anniversary of Hadi Souan winning the country’s inaugural Olympic medal; bringing to a close a week of events to mark Saudi National Day.
During the Olympic Games Sydney 2000, Souan secured the silver medal in the 400m hurdles; writing himself into Saudi Arabian sporting history and quickly becoming a national hero.
Falling in the same week as the Kingdom celebrates Saudi National Day; Souan’s achievements have played a central role in the Saudi Arabian Olympic Committee’s (SAOC) National Day celebrations.
Souan also worked tirelessly to inspire new generations of children to participate in sport. By embracing and championing the positive impact sport and Olympic values can have on societies; Souan increased activity levels throughout Saudi Arabia.
Since Souan’s Olympic heroics, Saudi Arabian sport grew rapidly, with participation levels at an all-time high. Inspired by Souan; the Ministry of Sport and SAOC implemented a series of initiatives. This is to ensure sport becomes central to life in the Kingdom.
Female empowerment through sport is a key pillar of Saudi’s Vision 2030 for a new, diverse and vibrant society. The country saw Wojdan Shaherkan become the first female to represent Saudi Arabia at a Summer Olympic Games at London 2012 and Dalma Malhas become the first female medal winner during the inaugural Singapore 2010 Youth Olympic Games.
The recent establishment of a Saudi women’s football league also aims to ensure that the rise of female participation in sport continues.
Whole nation success
Souan, Saudi Arabia’s first Olympic medalist said, “It has been fantastic to celebrate both Saudi National Day; and the 20th anniversary of my Olympic success. However, it was not my success alone but a success for the whole nation.
Souan added, “Upon retiring, I wanted to give back and help my teammates and younger generations; and that’s why I became involved in the Athletics Federation and the Sports Ministry. It has been fantastic to see the progress that sport in Saudi Arabia made over the last 20 years.”
Prince Abdulaziz Bin Turki Al-Faisal, president of SAOC, meanwhile in celebration of the event said, “Today we celebrate Souan’s achievement; which inspired a generation of Saudi athletes and was a catalyst for the development of sport in the Kingdom. It gives me great pleasure to see sport thriving in Saudi Arabia. “
He added, “We are committed to ensuring that this trend continues and that the Kingdom’s next generation enjoys the benefits of participating in sport; both here in Saudi Arabia and at major global sporting events.”