Among the 135 competiting recurve and compound archers are previous World Cup Final winners Braden GELLENTHIEN (USA), Peter ELZINGA (NED) and Jamie VAN NATTA (USA). Other notable names in Marrakesh include French superstars PJ DELOCHE and JC VALLADONT, World Outdoor Champion Mike SCHLOESSER (NED) and European Indoor and Outdoor Champion Rick VAN DER VEN.
Meriam EL MAHIRI, president of the local organising committee, has been preparing for this weekend ever since a World Archery delegation awarded Marrakesh Indoor World Cup status after leaving last year's tournament impressed. Meriam has had the tremendous job of getting everything ready and - with the 2013 event about to start - she is still busy with last-minute preparations. We found Meriam at a quiet moment and picked her brains with some questions.
Your first tournament's motto was 'archery without borders' and in 2013 it is 'arrow of friendship'. Why is it important to bring archers from different nations together?
When the tournament of Marrakesh started, it was called “Archery without borders” because we wanted to gather everyone here. It's a city loved by everyone, I guess. Then the “arrow of friendship” calls all lovers of archery. It’s a family, and we make friends with every new archer from Europe, the USA, Africa... archers from everywhere in the world. They are all gathered at the same time and in the same place for a common passion. This tournament in Morocco is a home for all of our friends in archery.
How has organising an Indoor World Cup stage affected archery in Morocco?
Morocco is an African country and many archers from this continent have a strong desire to compete. On the other hand, due to the weather here in our country, we don’t have many indoor competitions. Most of our tournaments take place outdoors, and the two disciplines are very different. So an Indoor World Cup stage is a great opportunity for Africans to compete at least once a year in indoor conditions.
Archery is not yet strongly developed in Africa so we thought bringing an indoor competition to African archers in Marrakech would be a good step. Archers from most African countries don’t have the opportunity to travel to Europe or any other country to compete indoors.
What impact will holding an Indoor World Cup stage have on Morocco's archery development compared to other African nations?
Our tournament has taken place for three years now and was an international tournament before being a World Cup stage. We encountered a lot of problems raising funds and gathering support for our event. This year, it has been a bit different. Representatives of the city of Marrakesh and our Ministry of Sports have been behind it. Our Sports Minister talked about the event at the Moroccan Parliament for the first time.
This is such a great advantage for us and our sport! Now I can say that we did it, we succeeded in bringing archery to the attention of our Ministry and hopefully this will result in more support. The other good thing is that we have more and more archers from Africa competing. Three years ago, Algeria was the only other African country competing here. Now we have Algeria, Iraq, Sudan, Ivory Coast, Lybia and many others. It is such an achievement!
What challenges did you face as the first World Cup organiser in Africa, and who helped you overcome them? Was it difficult to get sponsors and support as Archery is not yet big in Morocco?
I still think of the start of the tournament in Marrakesh: it was a hope, it was a dream. Not only my dream but shared by many archers and friends around me. We got a lot of help from France in making this tournament the success it is now. We kept pushing ourselves to work hard, to help each other in achieving this event. Year after year, archers coming to Morocco encouraged me and this is always really helpful.
I struggled to get the support of the authorities in Morocco during the past three years. This year, I received strong support from the city of Marrakesh. The venue we are using is fully sponsored by the city: it’s a private racing circuit and we are using a big part of it for free! We don’t have many indoor venues in our city big enough to welcome such an event. Having such great sponsors to help is truly not common given the fact that archery is not a popular sport in our country. It’s another great achievement!
What is the difference between hosting a normal tournament and an Indoor World Cup as an organiser?Go Back
There is a big difference. I am not an expert in transportation, in catering nor in the technical parts. I keep calling experts in these areas for their advice. Volunteers managed all these areas at our first event. We want this tournament to be a success and to keep hosting it in Marrakesh, and we will do everything necessary to make that happen. In my experience, it is always tough to communicate with the experts; some of them do not talk Arabic so it is always hard to get exactly what we want. I have put some hard work in, along with my helpful friends.
How has organising the Marrakesh tournament changed your life?
It has changed everything. This year, I have learnt a lot from experts, from people at World Archery, from the results team and so on. I missed some things during the past years but I would say that Marrakesh can be compared to a small “Nimes” (laughs). It helped me to think about new projects: why not make an archery festival in Marrakech? I really hope so. In Nimes, we saw lots of archery booths. We are really in need of archery equipment in Africa and my next project will be building a small archery festival. This year, the President of the World Archery Festival in Las Vegas, Bruce Cull, is visiting and giving us advice in how to achieve such a project. I do hope for change next year.
What needs to develop for Marrakesh to host an outdoor World Cup or World Championships?
We could! Why not? We have everything to do it but not for another three or four years. We still have to work hard before hosting this kind of event here. However, I truly believe that Marrakesh is a city made to host international events.
World Archery Communication