First African Para-Games: Ghana’s disabled athletes prove their worth
Ghana hosted the first ever African Para-Games which is a sports competition for disabled athletes across the continent.
The competition, which ended a week ago, served as an eye-opener for future sports events for para-athletes on the continent, despite some few missteps in organisation.
The Black Challenge, the male national para-football team, claimed gold in the final of the football match against their Moroccan counterparts.
In wheelchair tennis, the trio of Bridget Nartey, Lucy Konadu Mensah and Bernard Yawson made it into the quarter-finals.
If given the needed support and funding, para-athletes in the country could claim medals at the paralympics in Paris in 2024.
The disabled in the country have a lot to offer if provided with some form of assistance from the state and the general public.
According to the 2021 Population and Housing Census, Persons with Disabilities (PwDs) constitute eight per cent of Ghana's population, which represents 2,098,138 individuals.
The Association of Sports for the Disabled (ASFOD), the body that oversees and regulates the activities of para-athletes in the country, has over the past years appealed for funds to cater for the more than 25 para-disciplines under its umbrella.
Para-sports in Ghana like other least financed sporting disciplines is bedevilled with many financial, logistical and infrastructural challenges.
Steps must be taken to make persons living with disabilities who are into sports more beneficial to the country, to help provide for their needs, prevent them from begging for alms on the streets and give them a form of sustenance that can help grow the economy.
How to grow and develop para-athletes in Ghana
To start with, the government, private companies and organisations must provide financial support and sponsorship to para-athletes.
This can help cover training expenses, equipment and competition participation fees.
It is also very essential to create and maintain accessible sports facilities that cater to the needs of para-athletes.
These facilities should have specialised equipment and infrastructure to enable the athletes to train effectively.
It is also mandated by the state to develop specialised training and coaching programmes for para-athletes.
This should include skilled trainers who understand the unique needs of para-athletes who can provide appropriate training methodologies.
Nonetheless, hosting the African Para Games often requires a significant workforce, including event organizers, security personnel, volunteers, hospitality staff, and various support services.
This can create temporary employment opportunities for the local community and provide income generation for individuals who may otherwise be unemployed. In some cases, the skills developed during event organisation might also lead to long-term job opportunities in related industries.
Hosting a major sporting event can provide a platform for local businesses to showcase their products and services.
This increased visibility and exposure can lead to a rise in sales and business opportunities, benefitting the local economy.
Additionally, it can encourage local entrepreneurs to invest in industries related to sports, such as sports equipment manufacturing, sports apparel and fitness services.