El Moutawakel to monitor Rio’s 2016 preparations

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LAUSANNE, Switzerland (AP) — Former Olympic hurdles champion Nawal El Moutawakel of Morocco will head the IOC’s oversight panel for the 2016 Summer Games in Rio de Janeiro.

The International Olympic Committee announced Wednesday that El Moutawakel will chair the 17-person coordination commission, which will work with Rio organizers and monitor preparations for the first Olympics in South America.

El Moutawakel, who also chaired the IOC’s evaluation commission that assessed the bids for the 2012 and 2016 games, becomes the first woman to lead an Olympic coordination panel.

El Moutawakel has been an IOC executive board member since 2008. She won the 400-meter hurdles at the 1984 Los Angeles Olympics, becoming the first woman from a predominantly Muslim country to win an Olympic gold medal.

“Nawal El Moutawakel is ideally suited to lead our highly experienced and multifaceted team of experts,” IOC president Jacques Rogge said in a statement. “As an Olympic gold medalist and chair of the IOC Evaluation Committee for the last two Olympiads, she knows the Games inside and out, is well-acquainted with the Rio organizers and has the experience and leadership abilities to ensure that Rio is 100 percent ready to host a fantastic Games in 2016.”

El Moutawakel is the highest-ranking woman on the IOC and is considered a potential candidate for president when Rogge completes his final term in 2013.

“I am confident our team will help Rio deliver a memorable Summer Games in 2016,” she said. “Having chaired the Evaluation Committee for the 2016 Games, I have firsthand knowledge of the many strengths that Rio and Brazil have to offer, and together we will strive to showcase that to the world in six years’ time.”

The coordination commission comprises IOC members from five continents, including executive board delegates Richard Carrion of Puerto Rico and John Coates of Australia and former Olympic pole vault champion Sergei Bubka of Ukraine.