12 days of sport, competition and celebration: the 19th Mediterranean Games drew to a close in Oran, Algeria on July 6. Some 3400 athletes from 26 countries across three continents (Africa, Asia and Europe) competed in 24 sporting competitions, including athletics, swimming, football, judo, gymnastics and many others.
Italy tops the medals table
Italy left Oran with the biggest hoard of medals. Its athletes collected 48 golds, 50 silvers and 61 bronzes, topping the Games’ medal table for the fifth edition in a row.
Italy was especially dominant in the pool, grabbing a cascade of medals - 34 in total.
A team success, but there were also plenty of personal triumphs. The 100-metre butterfly champion Matteo Rivolta broke the competition’s record. He also won gold in the 4x100 metres medley relay.
“I’m happy with the result, I went through a pretty tough period during the last months, so I’m happy with today's outcome and so I’m pretty confident for my future,” Rivolta said.
Turkey was only a whisker away from overtaking Italy in the medal rankings, however, with 108 podiums> It was just three golds shy of Italy, shining especially in wrestling, athletics and swimming.
Algeria's best games
Algeria had a great Games, finishing fourth overall, just behind France with one gold less.
In total, the host nation collected 53 medals, including 20 golds, 17 silver and 16 bronze. The haul was a record, beating the country's previous best in Tunisia 21 years ago.
In boxing and athletics, Algeria collected five golds, while on the track there was an historic gold-silver double for runners Djamel Sedjati and Yacine Hethat in the 800 metres.
In Judo, Algeria's Messaoud Redouane Dris truimped in the -73Kg category. For the young judoka, winning in his home city Oran was particularly special.
"It was a great honour for me. I got a gold medal, it was a great joy. The public came to support and encourage me. Even my parents were present for the occasion".
The home crowd
The home advantage clearly appeared to play its part in Algeria’s huge success.
Drawing large enthusiastic crowds, many events were sold out, with spectators keen to get behind the athletes following the two-year hiatus caused by the pandemic.
Speaking to Euronews, one spectator said: "Everything is beautiful, the Oranese have a big heart, it is not for nothing that we say 'Oran in the heart'. We are welcomed, it's beautiful!"
"When we say Mediterranean Games we say Oran,” said another woman, adding: ''Oran is generosity, it is the Mediterranean, really a beautiful atmosphere, a beautiful unity between people, and a great respect for foreigners."
The Games have not only left a lasting legacy in terms of sporting infrastructure they also showed Algeria’s second city could host big events.
But the biggest triumph, according to the President of the Oran 2022 Organising Committee (COJM), Mohamed Aziz Derouaz, is that the competition showcased the very best of what Oran has to offer.
"I think that the whole world, and especially the whole of Europe, and the Mediterranean, Asian and African countries were able to enjoy a real Olympic Games. These Games will open a new page for Oran, both in terms of sports and tourism, because many of the participants now want to return to Oran as tourists rather than just as athletes.”
The 19th edition of the games closed its doors in the same way it opened them: with a stunning ceremony in the Olympic Stadium.
In the stands, 40,000 spectators of all ages enjoyed music, dance, fireworks and joy, as the 26 delegations took to the track for the last time
The ceremony also saw the handover to Taranto in southern Italy. The city will host the three-circle sporting event in four years.