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Multi-national forces compete in Ali Olympics

By Sgt. David Foley

ALI AIR BASE, Iraq (Army News Service, May 2, 2005) – As Coalition forces work together fighting the war on terror, fun usually takes a back seat to the missions at hand, but all that changed for a day April 18 in Talil, Iraq.

Service members and civilian contractors from the U.S., Romania, Britain, and Italy took the day off work to compete in the Ali Olympics, testing their skills at soccer, basketball, dodge ball, tug-of-war, arm wrestling, table tennis, volleyball and a strongman competition. Many of the competitors then competed in a 26.2-mile marathon that coincided with the Boston marathon the next day.

The Ali Olympics were the brainchild of Capt. Rodney T. Freeman, Base Camp Adder Morale Welfare and Recreation officer-in-charge, and Air Force Capt. Sabrina Jones, 407th Expeditionary Service Squadron commander.

Freeman, a New England native, had plans to hold a marathon in Talil to coincide with the Boston Marathon, and Jones was planning a sports day for her airmen. The two put their heads together and the Ali Olympics were born.

The Olympics were a good time for members of the Coalition to spend time together and learn about different cultures, Jones said.

All in all, more than 200 people turned out for the Olympics, and more than twice that number ran the marathon, which was a complete success, declared Freeman.

Jones said she organized the events based on the availability of on-hand resources, and tried to get as much diversity as possible.

The Romanians, who took first place in the soccer competition and placed second in tug-of-war, table tennis and volleyball competitions, turned out for the basketball with no intentions of winning, but wanted to be a part of all the events.

During the first game of the basketball competition, Romanian soldiers played against U.S. Soldiers despite their lack of practice.

“It is important to participate in all the games,” said Romanian Staff Sgt. Alexander Mihai, a member of the Romanian basketball team. “We like to talk and make friends, and it is good to take a break from the missions.

“The stress of our missions is sometimes too much,” he added. “So it is very good for us to do this.”

Mihai said his team played basketball just for fun and exercise, but was serious in the soccer and volleyball competitions.

The U.S. troops also enjoyed the opportunity to spend some time with their Coalition comrades while taking part in some friendly competition.

Sgt. John Dennis, a mechanic with the 206th Corps Support Battalion, 1st Corps Support Command, Fort Bragg, N.C., who was on the U.S. Army basketball team, said he really enjoyed playing basketball against the Romanians and had plans to tell his family about the event.

“It’s not every day you can say you played basketball against Romanians in the Olympics,” he said.

Dennis and his team defeated all other competitors in the basketball competition and finished in first place. The Army also took first place in the dodge ball tournament and won all three medals in the strong man competition.

By the end of the day, many of the soldiers, airmen and civilians had met several people who they would normally pass by on their way to work or lunch, and the Olympics led to many new friendships.

The competition results are:

Soccer: 1) Romania 2) Italy 3) Army

Tug of War: 1) ITT Company 2) Romania 3) Army

Table Tennis: 1) Patrick Mualem, ITT Co. 2) Gurin Valentin, Romania 3) Mario Mezza, Italy

Strong Man Competition: 1) Romone Martinez, Army 2) Alyn Brown, Army 3) Kelley Regan, Army

Volleyball: 1) Air Force 2) Romania 3) Italy

Basketball: 1) Army 2) Air Force 3) Army

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