Morroccan Nawal Al-Moutawakel already has the distinctions of being the first Muslim to win an Olympic gold medal, as well as the first Morocccan, Arab, African, and Muslim woman to do the same. She achieved this by winning the 400 meter hurdles at the 1984 Los Angeles Olympiad. Post-athletics, she has since ascended to the position of vice-president of the International Olympic Committee. The current president of the IOC, Jacques Rogge, has announced his plans to step down later this year.
The 50-year-old mother of two would be the first woman to run the IOC, and only the second non-European to do the job, following Avery Brundage of the United States. Rogge himself is promoting her as his successor. Al-Matouwakel currently heads the coordinating committee for the Rio de Janeiro 2016 Games. The IOC presidential election is to be held at the 125th IOC session in Buenos Aires in September. â€œSport has given me so much that whatever I give back it will never be enough,â€ said Al-Moutawakel. â€œI am certainly considering standing for the IOC presidency. Maybe it is time for a woman. But there is a long list of possible contenders.â€
Al Moutawakel was a student at Iowa State University when she won her gold medal. King Hassan II of Morocco even phoned her to offer congratulations and declared that all girls born on the day of her victory were to be named in her honor. She went on to organize the first Moroccan womenâ€™s 10km race in Casablanca, an event that now attracts more than 30,000 participants annually.
She soon became a successful businesswoman. She then followed that up by becoming Moroccoâ€™s minister of sport. She ultimately became an IOC executive board member and led the IOC Evaluation Commission for the London 2012 Games. She speaks fondly of the London experience: â€œLondon was a historic milestone for women. Women competed in every discipline and for every nation, even Saudi Arabia. Notably, the first female boxing competition was a great success. Also for the first time, 35 out of the 204 national Olympic committees had more women than men in their delegations, including Germany and the United States.â€
â€œShe is an iconic role model for womenâ€™s sport, for which she has consistently broadened the parameters,â€ says Englandâ€™s Lord Coe, with whom she sits on the boards of both the International Association of Athletics Federation and the Laureus International Awards panel. â€œI am a great admirer. She would make a terrific IOC president.â€
Fourteen years ago El Moutawakel said: â€œSomeone once said the future of sport is feminine, and I believe that. You cannot move forward without both legs, men and women. Complete integration is important, but increased female presence at major sports events is not enough. We want full inclusion in administration. Women are present in all activities, so why canâ€™t they be leaders in sport?