From June 25 to July 6, the Algerian city of Oran will become the capital of Mediterranean sport. The city will host the 19th edition of the Mediterranean Games and in this “Road to” series, we’ll take you there, showing how this vibrant city and its people are getting ready for the event.
Dubbed "the radiant" city, Oran has many facets thanks to its mix of Ottoman, Spanish and French influences. It’s thanks to this rich culture and tradition, but also modern outlook, that the city’s leaders are confident Oran is the perfect place to host such a sporting competition.
Oran's governor (or wali) Saïd Saayoud, says the city is very well known in the west of Algeria and at a national level.
"It is a city that has seen a lot of development in recent times. The population of the west is very welcoming and everyone is preparing for the Mediterranean Games, so that they will take place in the best conditions and that the 19th edition will be the best organised, ever. So it will be a celebration for the Oranese region, it will also be a celebration for Algeria,” he said.
Famed for its spectacular sunsets, throughout the month of Ramadan Oran's streets come alive. During the evening, shops and terraces stay open until late. It's that electric atmosphere combined with the prospect of hosting such a large sporting event that's got locals excited.
"It's going to be a real bonus, it will allow the whole world to discover Oran. It’s a very pleasant city and open to all,” one man said.
"We're all looking forward to these Games and it's a pleasure, it's an honour for Oran to be in the spotlight of the whole Mediterranean basin,“ said another local.
The first edition of the Mediterranean Games took place in 1951, in Alexandria, Egypt: since then they have been held every four years in a country in the region. This is the second time Algeria has organised them, having hosted the event in 1975 in the capital Algiers. The last edition, in 2018, was held in the Spanish city of Tarragona.
This year’s competition brings together more than 6,000 athletes from 26 countries. 22 venues in and around Oran have either been built from scratch or redeveloped to showcase the 24 sporting disciplines on offer, including, football, athletics, cycling, sailing, but also bowls, and table tennis.
"The Algerian government has gone to an extraordinary effort to build the venues that meet international standards. It’s also modernised and brought existing infrastructure up to the required level. I think Algeria will soon be able to organise any kind of international event,” said Yacine Siafi, Oran's Director of Youth and Sport.
The city has also built an athlete’s village. The new district in Oran, which covers 36 hectares - the equivalent of 55 football pitches - can accommodate nearly 4,300 athletes and team officials.
"It’s equipped with various infrastructure and facilities, namely five sports halls, four restaurants and policlinics and several sports fields for training. All the amenities available offer residents an impeccable place to live,“ says Fouad Aïssi, Oran's Director of Public Facilities.
A new Olympic stadium
The jewel in the crown is the brand new 40,000-seat Olympic stadium, completed in 2019. It will host football and athletics competitions, and of course the opening and closing ceremony of the Games. Moreover, the stadium has a hybrid pitch, a mix of natural grass and synthetic fibers.
The Commissioner of the Games and President of the COJM Mohamed Aziz Derouaz says it was important that the Organising Committee gave the athletes and public brand new facilities.
“A project of this dimension cannot be satisfied with the existing infrastructures and the specificity of the Games is to leave a heritage to the population and to the national sport movement, through this magnificent complex which constitutes the new Olympic complex of Oran.”