Arriving in Gouna

And here we are again in Gouna…

Last year, I can still remember when I heard that Gouna was cancelled – we were in the Westin in I think the Finals day of BlackBall Women – while the boys were in Canary Wharf. We were having a meeting with Omar El Sherbini about Gouna and I was the one who told him it had been cancelled.

This time round I guess I’ll remember it as the first event without Malcolm Willstrop. “If you lose, don’t come back” he used to say to his players. God we miss you Malc. We really really do.

Un ange passe.

As I arrived with a driver from Cairo after 5h of a pleasant drive – I didn’t look particularly forward to staying too long in airport halls to be honest – at the El Gouna Gate, the police told us “Hotel Paradisio is closed” when I told them where I was heading. I smiled, and I retorted “Oh no, it’s not!”

We were both right.

Apparently, they opened the hotel mainly for us, three days ago. I saw a few people here and there but mostly squash people… The hotel was the source of a lot of worries for the organisers as we normally divide the players/officials in two, sometimes three hotels. Which this time round is not possible for the Bubble rules…

The hotel that we are in used to be the Club Med – the French will know what I am referring to – and was I think to remember one of the very first hotels in that spot – Gouna didn’t exist yet. It’s a great hotel for those who like to enjoy the beach and water sports.

So we all had our tests this morning, then went to our rooms. This time round, as the hotel doesn’t provide room services, we were allowed to go to the restaurant on the beach to eat – in certain time slots of course – to prevent too many players at the same time.

The breakfast is served on the water, but the buffet is closed for COVID restraints, and only the smaller beach restaurant is serving food till 10pm. The organisers are working hard to make sure it stays open longer for the players who finish late.

I’m lucky I know a few people around here, as the vast room I was given had only one available plug.

And when you have 2 laptops, 1 tablet, two plan B internet dongles and three phones, honey, it ain’t going to be enough!

But Egyptian Magic, and zoom, one extension bought, along with with bottles of water, tea and coffee as only the kettle was provided by the hotel. Again, thanks to my Ievents colleagues who sorted it out for me!

There is one soul who is truly happy. He is next door to me, and today, after being tested, he stayed on the space in front of the rooms, moving his chair with the sun, getting further and further away… “I’m going to fall in the water soon” he laughed with his characteristic chuckle..

God Bless the Refs.

PS. It’s John Massarella of course, who else?