As you all (should) know, the Rotaract Mediterranean gathers all the different Rotaract Districts connected, in a way or another, with the Mediterranean Sea, with the main purpose to foster cultural exchange and to develop international relationships.
The Rotaract Mediterranean and its members weren’t the first ones to have this purpose, however. And they weren’t the first one either that wanted to try it on the Mediterranean area. Some of you may already know, in fact, of the Mediterranean Games, which have similar ideals to the one of the Rotaract Mediterranean, stemming from the Olympic Games.
Let’s start from the beginning, from the Olympic Games. The first edition of the modern Olympic Games was held in Athens, Greece, in 1896. The main promoter of the Olympics was a French Baron, Pierre de Coubertin. He had two goals in mind when he proposed the revival of the ancient Olympic Games to the Union of French Athletic Sports Societies (whose symbol, two interlaced rings, would later influence the Olympics symbol, five interlaced rings): Coubertin wanted to bring countries closer to each other, and wanted (for) people to compete in a peaceful way, rather than wars. Do these ideals sound familiar?
Almost fifty years later, in 1948, Muhammed Taher Pasha, Chairman of the Egyptian Olympic Committee, together with the Greek Ioannis Ketseas, proposed to the International Olympic Committee the idea to have Games that shared the ideals and rules of the Olympic ones, limited, however, to the nations around or very close to the Mediterranean Sea.
The Mediterranean Games were inaugurated in 1951 and the first edition was held in Alexandria, Egypt, in honour of Muhammed Taher Pasha. It involved 13 different sports and 734 athletes from 10 countries (Egypt, France, Greece, Jugoslavia, Italy, Lebanon, Malta, Syria, Spain and Turkey); the International Committee for the Mediterranean Games was, however, only founded in 1961. During the first editions, women weren’t allowed to participate. The first edition who saw the participation of women athletes was the one held in 1967 in Tunisi.
The symbol of the Mediterranean Games, which are also referred as the “Meditterranean Olympics”, is composed of three interlaced rings, which represent the three continents competing in the Games: Europe, Asia and Africa.
Currently, there are 26 countries competing in the Mediterranean Games: 5 from Africa (Algeria, Egypt, Libya and Tunisia), 2 from Asia (Lebanon and Syria) and 19 from Europe (Albania, Andorra, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Croatia, Cyprus, France, Greece, Italy, Kosovo, Malta, Monaco, Montenegro, Macedonia, Portugal, San Marino, Serbia, Slovenia, Spain and Turkey). The last countries to be admitted to the Mediterranean Games were Portugal and Kosovo in 2018.
As of 2018, a total number of 37 sports were involved in 18 editions of the Mediterranean Games. Only 8 of them have been always present since the first edition: athletics, football, wrestling, swimming, basketball, water polo, boxing and artistic gymnastic. The sports that debuted in the last edition of the Games were 3×3 basketball (a variant of regular basketball, played by three-men teams on a one-half court) and triathlon. The Mediterranean Games also featured sports that aren’t considered olympics, such as rugby and karate. The number of sports featured in each edition changed over the years; the Games held in Tarragona in 2018, for example, involved 31 sports. Some sports have been also featured a small number of times in the Mediterranean Games, like field hockey, which has been present in the 1955, 1963 and 1979 editions.
Italy is one of the most decorated country of the Mediterranean Games, and, together with Spain, it’s the only country that hosted them in three separated occasions: Napoli in 1963, Bari in 1997 and Pescara in 2009. Taranto will also host the 2026 edition of the Mediterranean Games. Spain hosted the Games in 1955 (Barcelona), 2005 (Almería) and 2018 (Tarragona). Tunisia and Turkey both hosted two editions of the game: Tunisi was the host city in 1967 and 2001, while the Turkish cities of Smirne and Mersin hosted the Games, respectively, in 1971 and 2013.
Algeria will also be the next nation to host the Mediterranean Games in two different occasions, as Algiers was the host city in 1975 and Oran will be the host city in 2022.
BY Andrea SERRANI