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Olympic memories still afresh for sports medicine expert

‘Undue sense of panic behind athletes wilting under pressure’
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MUSCAT: An avid Olympic enthusiast, Dr Mahmoud Shehabullah, has an empty feeling after deciding not to go to Tokyo Olympics, which would have been his ninth Olympics.

“A deep feeling of emptiness runs at back of my mind after regularly attending Olympic Games for the last 36 years,” Dr Mahmoud, who was

registered in Tokyo 2020 as IOC licentiate Sports Medicine Physician through NOC Oman, told Oman Observer.

The Covid-19 pandemic situation has forced the International Olympic Committee (IOC) and Japan to avoid spectators at the Tokyo 2020 Games.

“There is no crowd or fans and also no applause and excitement but the International Olympic Committee has decided in coordination with the Japan government to avoid spectators,” he said.

Catching the action in Tokyo on television, Shehabullah says he cannot compare the Tokyo 2020 with the past Olympic Games.

“Although the action is exciting, the passion of the crowd and the Olympic fever is clearly missing in Tokyo due to the pandemic situation,” the Bangladeshi sports medicine expert, who has completed 40 years at the Ministry of Health, opined.


Already this Games has seen superstars wilting under pressure as in the case of US gymnast Simone Biles, who pulled out of two events, and Japanese badminton top seed Kento Momota, who fell to an unseeded player in the first round.

The 24-year-old American’s struggles follow those of Japanese tennis star Naomi Osaka, another face of the Games who lost in the third round on her return from a mental health break.

A veteran of eight Olympics and expert in sport medicine, Dr Mahmoud said this Games is going on with an undue sense of panic all-around.

“The pandemic has changed the world. I hope that the athletes are doing their best to keep themselves fit to participate in the Games. But whoever it is their cognitive anxiety playing a big part in this Olympics.”

“An undue sense of panic may be around for everyone. Anyway, I hope the game will continue smoothly and conclude without any major problem.”

His thought also went for the athletes who had to return without competing after being tested Covid positive at the Olympic Village.

“It is a very unfortunate situation. Their hard work for four years had become futile at the last moment. Such things happen. Let them come back strong next Games.”


Dr Mahmoud had turned his Olympic experience into a curious hobby of collecting National Olympic Committee pins from athletes across the world.

Shehabullah, who is also an IOC Major Games Sports Physician, has a collection of more than 6,000 pins. He had collected the pins from athletes ranging from Usain Bolt to Justin Gatlin to Sania Mirza.

“This edition, I’m not able to pursue my hobby although I have enough collection of pins from the previous editions of Olympics.”

According to Dr Shehabullah’s knowledge, there are only four such major ‘Olympic pin collectors’ in the world with two Americans and a Chinese apart from him.

“This is my passion, to collect Olympic NOC pins. There are more than 6,000 original pins in my collection. This is a collection of memories with the athletes at the Olympics not once but eight times from 1988 to 2016.”

“Each pin has a story to tell and it keeps my memory about the Olympic Games still fresh in my mind.”

“I had to walk at least 5-10 km to fetch the pins as different athletes from different countries will be located at far away corners of the Olympic Villages,” the physician, who is married to a doctor and has two daughters, concluded.

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