From June 25th to July 6th, the Algerian city of Oran will be the capital of Mediterranean sports. It will host the 19th edition of the Mediterranean Games. In this “Road to” series, we take you right there to follow the preparations and discover some amazing sites.
The 19th Mediterranean Games in Oran, Algeria, offer 12 days of sport, emotions, and celebrations. And among the 24 sports on show will be cycling.
221 cyclists are going to compete in Algeria's second city, between June 30th and July 2nd. The programme includes two disciplines for both women and men: an individual time trial and an individual road race.
The time trials are going to take place on June 30th: 18km for women and 25km for men. As for the road race, the women’s event is going to be an 80-kilometre race with 469 metres of climb. For the men: 147 kilometres with climbs of 926 metres.
"We have chosen a hilly course in a natural environment," says Kerim Gherabiou, President of Oran’s Cycling League. "We'll leave Oran and go into Aïn Témouchent province and then come back to Oran.”
At only 18 years old, Nesrine Houili has every chance of a medal. She has already been crowned this year's African Champion in three categories: elite time trial, U23 road race and U23 time trial.
The young Oranese knows the course perfectly, she's trained on it over the last few months and has good reasons to be particularly motivated.
"Firstly it's in Algeria, second it's in my place, Oran. And it's close to my home, my family. I hope to get a good result," she tells us.
Nesrine hopes that these Games could inspire youngsters to take up cycling in the future.
"We don't have a lot of champions here," she says. "We don't have the cycling ‘idea’, and I hope we're going to share that idea in the future, beginning with these Games."
Two jewels in the mountains
It's out of the question to pedal the 147 kilometres of the official course. However, we wanted to take you to the highest point in Oran that overlooks the city: Mount Murdjadjo, 429m above sea level, where the Santa Cruz chapel and the famous fort of the same name are located. It's an emblematic place, as locals explained.
"Santa Cruz is a tourist site. Everyone who comes to Oran goes up to Santa Cruz. And when you're up there, you have this panoramic view...", a young man says.
"Santa Cruz is a charming monument. It's the flavour of the history of this city. The city that has known several civilizations, the city that reveals its antiquity and authenticity," a woman tells us.
Up here, you can admire a Christian chapel, with its statue of the Virgin Mary watching over the city. The French built it in 1850, to thank Mary for putting an end to a terrible cholera epidemic the previous year.
But this place is much more than just a chapel.
"This mixture here in this place, this Christian sanctuary, the Spanish fort and then above a mosque... I think it's a good reflection of Oran. It's the Oran in which we like to live together," says Jean-Paul Vesco, Archbishop of Algiers and former bishop of Oran.
Above the chapel, you can admire the magnificent fort of Santa Cruz. It was built in the second half of the 16th century, between 1577 and 1604, by the Spanish. Previously, the Ottomans built a first fort on the site. But after being defeated by the Spaniards, who were to rule Oran for some 300 years until 1792, Fort Santa Cruz was rebuilt.
It’s a real gem, particularly well preserved despite the passage of time.
"This fortress is one of the best known in Algeria and even in the world, because of the large number of visitors," Mustapha Bensahla, tourist guide and guardian of the Santa Cruz Fort explains. "It is a historical landmark for everyone. In addition to that, everyone knows that Oran will soon experience an international event, which is truly global in my eyes: the Mediterranean Games."