GABORONE, May 30, 2014 - The 2nd African Youth Games being in Gaborone, Botswana, is barely 48 hours from completion. It has been an intense competition, witnessing superb feats of accomplishments by some athletes, overenthusiastic crowds, and minimal organisational and logistical faux pas.
The President of the Association of National Olympic Committees of Africa (ANOCA) - under whose auspices these games are being held, General Lassana Palenfo expressed similar sentiments. Gaborone 2014 has been a success story so far, and the profile of the African Youth Games has been raised to such an extent that interest in hosting subsequent tournaments has never been higher.
Looking at things now, it seems a far cry from the early days of the competition. Several logistical challenges, particularly concerning transportation of teams to Gaborone plagued the organisers. The first few days were a challenge, but after the games got into its stride things have been going smoothly since.
After having expressed satisfaction with the organisers so far, the issue of doping was next on the menu. General Palenfo emphasised on the organisational structure in place to deal with the phenomenon. He also believed that education is the way to tackle this canker.
“ANOCA has instituted levels of educational programs in member confederations to get the message across to athletes at a young age.” That seems a worthy goal, and shows that the issue is not being taken lightly- at these games, an educational program is being held for the athletes by the Regional Anti-Doping Organisation Africa Zone XI, which comprises countries from the southern part of Africa.
Another particular issue of interest evolved around the fall from grace of some continental heavyweights. Senegal attended these games with 8 athletes, Ghana with 10. Traditionally, these are some of the sides who brought top athletes to strengthen competition. The ANOCA President however, did not seem particularly fazed by this.
“This competition was organised within a short period of time, and if you compare it to the first championships in Rabat, there has been a tremendous improvement. Teams like South Africa, Egypt, and Nigeria brought large contingents in on their own, whereas four years ago ANOCA had to foot the bill to bring in some of these sides because there was little interest in the games”
The thrust here seems to be that the African Youth Games is now gaining a sense of prestige, and might over time be approached with a level of seriousness reserved for competitions such as the Olympic Games. And certainly countries should have that attitude, because it is on platforms like these games that stars are born, stars that would move on to make Africa proud on the world stage.
The ANOCA boss’ parting comment was for the experiences garnered from Gaborone 2014 to guide the organisation of the games moving forward, starting from Algiers in 2018. The challenges in Gaborone 2014 must serve as a learning curve for the next hosts, to improve the overall experience of the African Youth Games.