Zee's Notes: One of the most memorable stories of the GJG held in Nairobi in June 2008 was the sheer diversity of the Ismaili Community gathered in one place to commemorate this historic event. An even more compelling story was the athletes and supporters from Syria. Even though there were well over 25 countries represented no country showed the spirit that the Syrians displayed in the week that was The Games. If I said the Syrians were the life and spirit of the games I would be understating their contributions to make the games what they were - a true celebration. On the buses which transported athletes around the venues, at the volleyball courts where they displayed their skill and athleticism or at the Games Village the Syrians were the life of the games - they sang and they danced - but moreso in my view they united the 1200 plus athletes and the Ismaili Community gathered in Nairobi who got caught up in their infectious enthusiasm and spirit. In looking at the video of the Syria Deedar I couldn't help but remember the one common chant of the games - GO SYRIA GO.
The young man in the picture above is Marcel who played on the Syria basketball team. I took this picture at Kasarani Stadium after his baskeball game. He was, in essence, the soul of the Syria group. His claim to fame was an instrument - the oud - he carried throughout the games and he delighted crowds with his impromptu performances and he was indeed loved by all in Nairobi.
My telling moment on Marcel is as follows: On one of the last days of the games the GJG organizing committee held a presentation for Prince Hussein and Princess Khaliya at the Nairobi Serena hotel in one of the ballrooms situated off the lobby - I just happened to be there that afternoon by chance - and I saw Marcel waiting outside - he had been invited to perform at the presentation. About an hour later I happened to see Marcel again in the lobby and this time he was being consoled by someone as tears came pouring out of his eyes and you could feel the joy Marcel was feeling within - it was surreal as that moment captured for me the essence of what the games were all about - and Syria's Marcel was indeed the soul of the games. Here is what Altaf Jina, member for Communications and Publications for Kenya Council, wrote about him on the Ismaili.org:
"One particular Syrian I spoke to on several occasions was a young man by the name of Marcel. When he played the oud (a traditional Arabic stringed instrument) it was as though he escaped to a magical world, overwhelming all those around him with the intensity of his emotion and his devotion to his music. When asked how long he could play before he got tired, Marcel passionately responded, “for hours — the instrument is a part of me, if I stopped playing, it would be like not breathing.” Marcel took part on the Syrian basketball team. He remarked that while their team had lost, the experience of interacting with other Ismailis from around the world, and exchanging thoughts and ideas with them was far more of a victory than just the sporting result. "
All I can say is - "GO SYRIA GO".
If you want to see how the Syrians worked their magic in Nairobi here's a snippet (though fuzzy) and if you want to see more of the GJG highlights this gentleman from Pakistan (there's that Diversity thing again) has captured a lot more here on his YouTube page: