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King Philippe and Queen Mathilde invite athletes in their home

By Liesbeth Driessen - UHasselt, CC BY 3.0,

King Philippe and Queen Mathilde of the Belgians welcomed a delegation of representatives from the world of sports. 

The athletes have had notable performances over the past two years, and they included some Olympians and Paralympians from the most recent Games in Tokyo, Japan. 

The delegation included 130 athletes, and, with the addition of their coaches and selected members of their staff, the total amount of people that the royal couple welcomed to the Palace of Laeken totalled around 220. 

The King and Queen welcomed the players at the Palace of Laeken, the Royal Family’s official residence, who chose to stay in this palace surrounded by a big park instead of moving to the Brussel’s Royal Palace, which is only used for official functions. Laeken is a small suburb located north of Brussels. 

The athletes were granted a reception to mark an exceptional year of sports performances for the country; with three golds, one silver and three bronzes, the Tokyo Games are Belgium’s best Olympic performance in about 100 years. 

However, some of the names that got the most attention during the games were notably absent, among which were the winner of the gold medal in heptathlon Nafi Thiam, the silver medallist for the cycling road race Wout van Aert and the winner of the bronze medal for judo in the class Under 81 kgs Matthias Casse. 

The country did well also in world championships and other global appointments; one of the athletes present, Bashir Abdi, won a bronze medal in Tokyo and a gold medal in the Rotterdam marathon last week. 

Mr Abdi told Belgian news outlet Belga: “The King and Queen really give us time to tell our story – I think that’s great fun. As a result of my marathon in Rotterdam, the Queen wanted to know how I can run so fast. They asked really nice questions.” 

It is to be noted that the entire family seems to enjoy sports; Queen Mathilde ran the Brussels marathon on the 12th of September, and on the 20th the entire family took advantage of a vehicle-free day in Brussels to take out their bicycles and take a tour of the capital.