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Africa Games

Lessons so far from Accra 2023 Africa Games

By Ken Bediako

Those who mistakingly thought hosting the Africa Games was some kind of tea party must have realised by now the strenuous efforts put up by the organisers to get things going smoothly.

The spectacular opening ceremony really gave an indication of what good organisation can produce.

The main talk in town however is the rather low pre-Games publicity for the festival. Let me explain that it is for very good reasons that a Local Organising Committee is usually constituted to handle all aspects of such Games.

Even though in our case there is the National Sports Authority and the Ministry of Sports, the convention worldwide has been to form a special committee comprising experts from various fields including the media to run the show. And this was what Ghana did. This has proved worthwhile for all major sports festivals. You name it; Olympic Games, Commonweslth Games, Afcon  etc.

These local committees don’t just exist in name but are fully resourced by the State to organise all aspects of the Games in question. I mean ALL aspects of the show. It is the reason why sub committees like publicity, security, transportation, accommodation, feeding etc are also formed to perform the envisaged day to day activities. It is almost a full time job for a specific period.

I am afraid my investigations show the LOC, to some extent, existed only on paper as far as financial issues were concerned. Instead of empowering them with accountable finances, the Sports Ministry reportedly unduly sat on the funds making the day to day functioning of the LOC rather tedious.

We give thanks to the Lord for giving the LOC the patience, courage and the spirit of patriotism to endure all these impediments and dutifully implementing their assignment to the best of their ability.

But I dare say this attitude by the Sports Ministry must not happen again in the future.
I can’t help emphasising the fact that staging of Africa Games is a huge national responsibility and it is the reason why since the first Games in Congo Brazaville 1965, Accra ’23 is only the 13th in the series. You need real courage to stage such high profile continental shows and foot dragging officialdom must not be encouraged to discourage volunteers willing to sacrifice for the nation.

It took Nigeria eight years to summon enough courage to host the 2nd Games in Lagos 1973. Incidentally this was a year after the highly scientific Olympic Games in Munich, Germany where modern gadgets for sports were used for the first time. This was the electronics era where long tape measures for field events like long discus, shot putt, javelin, etc were replaced with electronic gadgets. Timings for track events were instantly displayed on large screens at the stadium.
Beautiful Olympics was the universal verdict.

Too bad that an unfortunate killing of 11 Israeli athletes by some armed bandits at the Games Village almost destroyed the beauty of the Games.

Albeit Nigeria returned from the Munich Olympics with good lessons learnt and staged a world class Africa Games in 1973. Incidentally, Ghana stole the show in track and field sprints with Rose Hart, Alice Anum and Ohene Karikari winning gold medals like nobody’s business.

Rose Hart won 80 metres hurdles gold, Alice Anum 100 metres and 200 metres gold plus sprints relay gold alongside Josephine Ocran, Elizabeth Bruce and Rose Asiedua.

For the men, Ohene Karikari won both the 100 metres and 200 metres gold and the sprints relay with George Daniels, Okyir and Joe Apraku. Let’s not forget that Joshua Owusu also won gold in the long jump.

Algeria might have taken inspiration from Nigeria and they beautifully staged the next Games in 1978. There was a big lull after this and it took nine years before Kenya staged the 4th Games in Nairobi 1987.

Happily since then, the Games have met its cycle with the 5th Games in Cairo, Egypt 1991; 6th in Harare, Zimbabwe 1995; 7th in Johannesburg, South Africa 1999; 8th Abuja, Nigeria 2003; 9th Algeria 2007; 10th Maputo, Mozambique 2011; 11th Brazzaville 2015; 12th Rabat, Morocco 2019.

You can see clearly from this report that only three countries have so far summoned the courage to host the African Games twice.
Congo Brazzaville 1965 and 2015, a gap of 50 years, and Nigeria in 1973 and 2003, which is 30 years as well as Algeria in 1978 and 2007, a gap of 39 years

In sum, it appears it would take Ghsna an average of 30 years to muster enough courage to stage the Africa Games again. For many of us in my age group this would obviously be behind our backs and we should therefore enjoy the fun this year as much as we can. It is hoped the younger generation will learn a lot about the evolution of the Africa Games in order to be ready to answer the call when the hosting of another Africa Games beckons us in the future.

May I take this opportunit to commiserate with Prof. Twumasi who was sacked as Director General of the National Sports Authority just before the opening of the Africa Games. Many òbservers of the nation’s sporting scene find the timing of Prof’s dismissal intriguing. Popular opinion appears to be that he did not seem to make his presence felt as an active sports administrator and there should be no tears for him.

However you look at it, I say cheers and keep loving sports.

Credit: Ken Bediako 

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