African Games mascot “Okorde3” at the closing ceremony
African Games mascot “Okorde3” at the closing ceremony

Three cheers for the 13th African Games

Back in the 1980s, one of the highlights of the secondary school year was the inter-school athletic championships.


In the Ashanti Region in particular, the prestigious superzonal competition (‘SuperZo’, as we called it) held at the Baba Yara Sports Stadium in Kumasi, which drew the top schools in each zonal contest, was the ultimate grand fiesta. I dare say it was the best regional event of its kind in the whole country.

The intense inter-school rivalries, the drama on the tracks, the ‘jama’ songs and the post-event frolicking in the streets by young boys and girls as darkness approached all contributed to the buzz.

In that sense, the recently-ended 13th African Games held in this country brought back memories of those heady, youthful days, even if from a safe distance and via television.

Negative energy

Ahead of the games, there were calls from certain quarters, including former President John Mahama, for Ghana to pull out of hosting the games altogether due to the nation’s economic challenges. This was on top of doubts about Ghana’s ability to get its facilities ready on time.

Notwithstanding our economic challenges, I believe the government was right to press ahead with hosting the games, with its potential to boost tourism, stimulate economic growth, improve infrastructure and promote national pride and unity. It is not always possible to quantify in monetary terms the benefits that come with opening up one’s country for major events such as these games.

Sporting competitions do have their own way of bringing people together and creating a feel-good factor in the most interesting and sometimes most unexpected of ways, and it is for a good reason that nations fall over themselves and each other in their bid to host them.

The initial stages of the Games appeared rather wobbly on a few fronts, from challenges with cyclists’ bicycles to a rather tacky-looking podium for medal ceremonies all the way to a power cut during a football match in Cape Coast to a boycott by South Africa of our hockey pitch and more. But regrettable though these were, they were not fatal.

A social media battle erupted over these issues along thinly disguised partisan political lines.

Understandably, eyebrows raised over the cost of sprucing up some halls of residence at the University of Ghana to serve as the Games Village, among others. 

Negative turns positive

I cannot quite put a finger on exactly when things began to turn around to dilute, if not dissolve the negativity around the games, but I think it was our steady climb on the medal table that did it.

In the final week, the University of Ghana stadium and the new Borteyman Sports Complex saw huge numbers flocking to watch events late into the night. The medals kept clanging for Team Ghana, from football to boxing to athletics, as if the gods had conspired to save the best for the last.

And then the hilarious moments that gave us chuckles. Bukom Banku gave a boxing pep talk to his son, Bukom Tilapia, who went on to win a silver medal.

The crowd at the Bukom Boxing Arena singing a contrived Ga ‘version’ of the national anthem of a gold medallist’s country, Zambia. High jump gold medallist Evans Cadman Yamoah’s delightful antics before and after his jumps, egged on by his fellow ‘Old Vandals’ from the University of Ghana’s Commonwealth Hall.

Perhaps, our point of pain was when Nigeria narrowly beat us to second place in the 4 x 100 men’s relay final, with a clumsy baton change ruining our prospect. The rivalry still runs deep.

In the end, Ghana acquitted itself reasonably well both in sporting performance and event organisation. Finishing 6th with 68 medals, made up of 19 gold, 29 silver and 20 bronze medals is not to be snorted at, particularly relative to our 15th position in the 2019 African Games in Rabat, Morocco.

Hosting over 13,000 participants, consisting of 5,000 athletes, 3,000 technical officials, 3,000 volunteers and 2,000 guests from 55 African countries is no mean feat.
The organisers deserve three cheers for a job well done. 

The road ahead

There are several lessons to learn, of course, as with every project. For instance, many did not even know arm-wrestling was on the bill, but Ghana’s rather surprising 41-medal haul in that discipline calls for more attention to be paid to the so-called ‘less prestigious’ sports. There is sporting life beyond men’s football.

Further, I think calls for accountability concerning the funds expended on the games are legitimate. We all expect the relevant authorities to do the needful within the shortest possible time.

I also like the government’s idea of converting the Borteyman Sports Complex into a hub for a University of Sports for Development.


Like many, I hope the successes and the facilities brought on stream will drive our sportsmen and women to aspire to even greater heights and bring many more laurels, with support from the state.

The writer is Head, Communications & Public Affairs Unit

Ministry of Energy                                                                                                                                    

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