There are some things that can only happen at the Olympics.
Olympic medalists before, after all that is part of my job description, but
never did I imagine that I’d bump into one in the Tube (subway for you
Westerners), and from Qatar no less.
It was early Monday evening and I
was making my way to the Guildhall for the official memorial ceremony to
commemorate the 40th anniversary of the terrorist attack at the 1972 Munich
Olympics and the tragic murder of 11 Israelis.
Into the cramped and
claustrophobic cabin I walk and find myself within touching distance of two men
in official Qatar tracksuits with Olympic accreditations dangling from their
I enter midway through a conversation between one of the Qatari’s,
a healthy looking middle- aged man, and an English family of three, a young
father and mother and a blond child around four years old.
15 minutes were the most fascinating I have ever experienced on the
The talkative Qatari, with faultless English, did not just turn out
to be an Olympic medalist, but he soon revealed that competing in the sporting
world’s biggest stage is actually a side job for him.
aged 41, hailing from Doha in Qatar (learned that from Wikipedia), claimed a
bronze medal last Tuesday in the Skeet (a shooting competition where contestants
fire at flying clay disks with a shotgun) in what were his fifth
Apparently, al-Attiyah and his colleague (who never uttered a
word) were on their way to the Qatar House for a special presentation (you would
have thought that being a wealthy Gulf state with just 12 athletes at London
2012, al- Attiyah and co. wouldn’t need to travel on the Tube).
the friendly al-Attiyah, who put a smile on the blonde child’s face by gifting
him a Qatar hat, explained that he only got into shooting to assist him with his
real career as a rally driver.
That’s right, al-Attiyah wins Olympic
medals during his summer vacation from racing specially modified cars up sand
dunes and through rain forests.
And al-Attiyah is not just your average
rally driver (if such a thing exists).
Al-Attiyah won the prestigious
Dakar Rally in 2011, a year after finishing in second.
He said that he
took up shooting to help improve his concentration skills for his rally career
and ended up being so good that he became one of the world’s best at
At this stage, it was time for me to alight (who knows what other
captivating stories I would have been exposed to had I been able to stick around
for a few more minutes).
Every Olympian has a story to tell, but
al-Attiyah’s was far more captivating than most.
I have been on the
lookout for roaming Olympians in every Tube ride since, sadly I have yet to
But hey, there are still three more days until the
closing ceremony and clearly anything can happen at the Olympics, after all I
have already stumbled upon a rally driver from Qatar who had just happened to
medal in shooting days earlier.