Ghana’s struggles to host African Games - New schedule presents headache for athletics
Ghana now faces a race against time to get ready for the 13th African Games after the continental competition was pushed back seven months following disagreements by some major stakeholders and the failure by the host nation to meet timelines for the construction of critical facilities for the continental event.Subscribe
This week, it was announced at a press briefing that the 2023 African Games, oringally scheduled to start in August this year, had been postponed to March 2024 to allow for the completion and testing of the facilities for Africa’s flagship multi-sport competition.
A long-standing impasse between the African Union (AU), the owners and main organisers of quadrennial competition; and some key stakeholders such as the Association of African Sports Confederations (AASC) and President of the Association of National Olympic Committees of Africa (ANOCA) threatened the games until a lot of back channel negotiations by the government of Ghana culminated in the signing of a Negotiated Agreement on the Management and Organisation of the African Games — a significant milestone in the planning of the games which comes off from March 8 – 23, 2024.
The impasse was a red flag for the success of the competition, but the slow pace of construction works in Ghana was a bigger threat as Ghana even risked losing the hosting rights, with Egypt said to be in waiting to rescue the continent’s version of the Olympic Games, just as happened to the 1999 Games which was handed to the Moroccan city of Rabat at the 11th hour following the inability of Equatorial Guinea to host the Games due to economic problems.
The Executive Chairman of the Local Organising Committee (LOC), Dr Kwaku Ofosu-Asare said the games would still be called ‘Accra 2023’ despite its postponement and promised the country would have no other choice than to work around the clock to deliver the critical infrastructure by December 2023 for testing ahead of the games next year.
This week, a delegation from the AU, the AASC and the ANOCA undertook an inspection tour of key facilities to evaluate the readiness and completion date of these facilities, which were critical steps in the consultation process that determined the new date for the start of the 13th African Games.
The delegation started the facility visit at the Borteyman Sports complex, where the contractor on site presented the project and the progress of work achieved so far. The team continued the inspection at the University of Ghana Sports Stadium and the rugby field, followed by the Games Village. The Achimota Cricket Oval, the Bukom Trust Sports Emporium, the Theodosia Okoh Hockey Stadium and the Accra Sports Stadium were among the other facilities inspected.
Later at a meeting with the heads of the national sports federations, the delegation was provided guidance on the technical requirements and logistics necessary for the facilities to meet international standards.
Since winning the rights for the 2023 Games, Ghana has struggled to deliver the promised infrastructure in part due to the COVID pandemic which delayed the start of construction works on the Olympic Complex at Borteyman and the completion of the University of Ghana stadium. The delay was also worsened by the economic crisis the country is facing, which prompted former
President John Mahama suggesting to the government last October to consider pulling out of hosting the continental games as it would overstretch the country’s financial situation.
However, the government stuck to its guns and insisted it would use $140million out of a $750m Afreximbank loan facility to speed up work on the facilities, especially at Borteyman which is earmarked to host the swimming, boxing and indoor sporting events.
Despite all the challenges, the Coordinator of the African Union Sport Council, Dr Decius Chipande, said last Tuesday that they were counting on the assurances by the government and the establishment of a technical committee by the major stakeholders would support Ghana to host a successful African Games.
It is expected that with the approval by the ANOCA and the AASC for 12 of the 24 sporting disciplines to serve as qualifiers for the 2024 Olympic Games, most of Africa’s elite athletes would turn their attention to Accra 2023 in order to book their places at the Paris Olympics, instead of participating at other competitions across the world.
The qualification for the 2024 Olympics dependent on participation in track and field events, basketball 3x3, badminton, beach volleyball, cycling, judo, swimming, tennis, table tennis, triathlon, volleyball and wrestling at the African Games, Ghana looks set to host one of the most competitive games in recent years with Africa’s top performers all descending on Accra in 12 months’ time.
It also throws up a big challenge to Ghana’s sports federations to begin preparations to ensure that Ghanaian athletes are at the peak of their performance to compete favourably for honours at the African Games.
Despite the compromised arrangements, officials of the country’s athletics federations have raised misgivings about the timing of the competition as it comes too close to the World Athletics Indoor Championships in Glasgow (March 1-3, 2024) and also coincides with the US indoor collegiate season, particularly the 2024 NCAA Division II Men's and Women's Indoor and Outdoor Track and Field Championship in Kansas, which many Ghanaian student athletes would compete in.
Also, the 2024 Division I Men's and Women's Indoor Track and Field Championships takes place in Brighton, Massachusetts on March 8 – 9 and is an event which is expected to parade the cream of American collegiate stars, including Ghana’s Benjamin Azamati, among others.
The challenges, occasioned by the new schedule for the African Games, could also affect the participation of track and field stars of other African countries who are in American colleges and would be busy in the NCAA Championship or those who have their eyes on winning honours at the global event in Glasgow.
These are potential challenges that need to be addressed by the LOC, the Ghana Athletics Federation and the government because as the host nation, Ghana has to be well represented in track and field events which are often the main attractions at the African Games.