The IJF World Judo Tour has made its way to Africa for the first time this year for the fourth event of the season as the inaugural Marrakech Grand Prix will be the epicenter of the sport from Friday 8 March to Sunday 10 March.
Following January’s debut Grand Prix in Tel Aviv, Israel, judo’s elite international circuit made stops in February in France for the Paris Grand Slam and in Germany for the Düsseldorf Grand Slam.
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After three highly-successful competitions so far this year, the spotlight now falls on Morocco who have a vast amount of experience in hosting elite level judo events. Morocco has played host to a World Openweight Championships and a World Judo Masters (both in Rabat) as well as a Grand Prix last year in Agadir.
Olympic champions and world medallists feature as part of a world-class entry in North Africa.
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Olympic Champion Beslan Mudranov (RUS), Olympic Bronze Medallist Automne Pavia (FRA), Double Olympic Bronze Medallist Leandro Guilheiro (BRA), Olympic Bronze Medallist Antoine Valois-Fortier (CAN) and Olympic Bronze Medallist Laura Vargas Koch (GER) will all see action over the next three days in Marrakech.
Mr. Marius L. Vizer, IJF President, made the opening address at the draw which took place on Thursday afternoon at the Palm Plaza hotel.
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“Dear colleagues, this a great opportunity to see each other in Marrakech, we started the year very well with previous tournaments and we’ve seen a lot of success for many different countries. We’ve seen fantastic judo from top-level athletes, good coaching behaviour and I firmly believe that judo is on the right path.
“Ahead of you, you have a difficult year as everyone is going for Olympic qualification points and it’s a very important time for athletes, coaches, referees, IJF staff and all people involved in the movement are focused to do the best in their jobs.
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“I want to wish you a successful tournament, a good stay in Marrakech and all the best to all of you. I thank President El Kettani for his contribution to developing judo here and across Africa, they have a huge part to play and are a very hard working organisation.”
Mr. Habib Sissoko, IJF and African Judo Union Vice President, said: “Mr. Vizer, Dr. El Kettani, I am very happy to attend this event which the IJF has trusted in Morocco. I am convinced that this event will be a success thanks to Mr. El Kettani who has done a wonderful job since he’s been President of the national federation. Good luck to you all.”
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Dr. Chafik El Kettani, Royal Moroccan Judo Federation President, said: “Mr. Vizer, Mr. Sissoko, dear judo family and members of the media, after the Grand Prix last year, we are very honoured to host second Grand Prix here, with the participation of almost 500 judoka in this mythical city of Marrakech. The historical capital of Morocco is a city of science, culture and sport and people from all cultures are living here together.
“It’s a great pleasure to welcome all IJF staff, athletes, coaches, referees and officials. I am grateful to the IJF and in particular IJF President Mr. Marius L. Vizer for his support and especially with our grassroots programmes. I hope you will enjoy the hospitality of Morocco and I wish you a nice time in Marrakech.”
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Ahead of the draw, IJF President Mr. Marius L Vizer visited the 6th General Assembly for the Organization of Military Sports in Africa (OSMA) as a special guest.
OSMA is the governing body responsible for organizing military and championships games, as well as the Military Football Cup in Africa. Their General Assembly, organised by the Royal Armed Forces (FAR), from March 3-10, happened to coincide with the first Grand Prix in Marrakech.
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Attendees included the President of the International Military Sports Council (CISM), Colonel Hervé Piccirillo, acting President of the Organization of Military Sports in Africa, Brigadier General Katrima Manoni Phinehas, and Olympic Champion in 400m hurdles at the 1984 Olympic Games in Los Angeles, Mrs. Nawal El Moutawakel, currently a member of the Moroccan National Olympic Committee (CNOM).
IJF President Mr. Marius L. Vizer said: “Dear OSMA President, dear Mrs. Nawal El Moutawakel (below – left), dear all members of the Assembly, I was a soldier myself, from the age of 14-23 I was in the army and so it’s a great pleasure for me to be here as a guest.
“I wish to share ideas to develop judo in the OSMA and wish to make a proposal to you as judo is very active in the military and police and in self defence around the world.
When I was President of the European Judo Union (EJU) we initiated such programmes along with Judo for Peace and today we share the same values, philosophy and respect in our societies. We will submit to you ideas for new collaborations and look forward to your feedback.
“Thank you to all for supporting judo, I wish you a successful General Assembly and thank you for your invitation to be here today.”