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It's hard to digest the shame. The 161 members of the Egyptian delegation to the Beijing Olympics, including 101 athletes, brought home only one bronze medal. President Hosni Mubarak, who is used to global defeats in sports such as Egypt's failure to be chosen as host of the 2010 soccer World Cup, set up a government commission to investigate why his country's athletes did not squeeze out more than one bronze medal in judo.

The surprise and anger in Egypt are especially great in light of reports that the national sports committee earmarked 2 million Egyptian pounds (about $400,000) to anyone who brought home a gold. But not only in Egypt is there great distress. The Arab countries together won only two gold medals.

"How is it possible that Arabs, with their legendary financial abilities, their lofty political aspirations and the human treasure they possess did not succeed more than besieged Cuba or starving Ghana?" wondered an Arab columnist.

"Our problem is that we think we are the best and strongest nation," wrote a commentator in the Kuwaiti newspaper Al Watan. "But the truth is that we are a weak nation that is good at bragging and weak in action." It was actually Mubarak's son Gamal, who is earmarked to succeed him, who proposed that everyone calm down. "We have reached many sports achievements in many other areas, and there is no point in self-flagellation."

Now all that is left is to await the results of the investigation by the respected commission of inquiry to discover not only why Egypt failed but also what to do with the millions who waited in vain for the winners.