Libya’s Country Profile
Official country name: Great Socialist People’s Libyan Arab Republic
Area: 679,362 sq miles (1,759,540 sq km)
Population: 6 million, including some 500,000 non-Libyan, sub-Saharan Africans working in Libya (2006 est.)
Median age: 23.3
Ethnic Groups: Arab-Berber 97 percent; the remaining 3 percent includes Greeks, Maltese, Italians, Egyptians, Pakistanis, Turks, Indians, and Tunisians.
GDP and GDP per capita: $51 billion and $8,470 (2006 estimates)
Read a complete country profile of Libya
Libya’s Olympic History
First time represented at Summer Olympics: 1968
Gold medals won: 0
Athletes at the Beijing Olympics: 7
Number of Sports competing in at Beijing Olympics: 5
Medals at 2008 Beijing Olympics: 0
Libya’s Olympic Playbook
Asmahan Mercedes Farhat is one of two women on Libya's seven-member Olympic team, and just the fourth woman ever to represent the country at the Olympics since Libya made its Summer Games debut in Mexico City in 1968. The question is: why was she being featured in an 1,100-word spread for the tiny Naples Daily News on Florida’s Gulf Coast?
The answer: Farhat is actually an Ohio born American citizen whose father is Libyan, and whose aunt sits on Libya’s Olympic committee. Farhat is a fantastic swimmer in her own right. Her father, Kamal, arranged Mercedes’ dual citizenship (even though the U.S. State Department makes clear that while dual citizenship isn’t in and of itself unrecognized in the United States, “a person who acquires a foreign citizenship by applying for it may lose U.S. citizenship.”
Then again, this is for the Olympics, and no one is really keeping score on the 18-year-old fresh graduate of Lely High School and University of Florida freshman (she wants to be an anesthesiologist).
“You will no longer be judged by what you have done, but by what you will do,” Farhat told her high school graduating class in May 2008. “And every decision you make will lead you down a new road, sometimes a one-way street.” She’s about to take just such a road in Beijing, where she’ll swim in several events. And there, she’ll be known only as Asmahan Farhat—not after the famous Syrian-Lebanese singer and actress of the same name, but after her late Libyan aunt, and in honor of winning her Libyan citizenship. Translated, by the way, Asmahan means “the seeker of excellence.”
Keep an eye also on Libya’s youngest team member, 16-year-old Sufian El Gaddi, who’ll swim in the 100m and 200m Backstroke.
Now to the elephant in the room: will Muammar Qaddafi, Libya’s leader since 1969 and former fan of all things terrorizing and terrorist (he says he’s reformed, though he was supposedly one of the financiers of the attack on the Israeli athletes at the 1972 Olympics) take an interest in the festivities? You can be sure he will. He’s not just an avid sports fan. His third son, Saadi Gadhafi, played soccer for Italy’s Perugia, a Series A (or top-division) team, and Libya owns a 7.5% stake in top Italian team Juventus. A few years ago he was considering investing in Liverpool’s new stadium. (He didn’t.) His eldest son and heir to the Libyan throne, Muhammad Qaddafi, heads the Libyan Olympic Committee. You can be sure he’ll be watching.
Libya’s Athletes at the 2008 Beijing Olympics
Sofyan El Gadi
Asmahan Mercedes Farhat
Track & Field/Athletics
Ali El Zaidi