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African Games 2023: What Impact Has Hosting African Athletes for the First Time Had on Ghana?

African Games 2023: What Impact Has Hosting African Athletes for the First Time Had on Ghana?

All African Games 2023 - Afrocritik

Ghana becomes the second West African country to host the African Games, marking the third occasion of the competition being held in Western Africa after Nigeria had hosted it twice. This hasn’t come without challenges. 

By Tuka Letura 

The 13th African Games marked its opening ceremony at the University of Ghana Sports Stadium on Friday, March 8, 2024, in Accra. Originally scheduled for August 2023, the event was postponed due to disagreements among organising bodies over marketing revenue and game ownership, coupled with delays in the completion of facilities. Despite the shift, the event retained its original designation as ACCRA 2023, mirroring events such as the recently concluded Africa Cup of Nations in Côte d’Ivoire.

Declaring the event open, Ghanaian President, Nana Akufo-Addo highlighted that sports can bring people from different cultures and backgrounds together to compete and bond. “It is heart-warming to witness the unity of Africa through sports. As you compete in the games in the coming days, remember that your efforts will inspire countless individuals across the continent. Strive for excellence, push your limits and showcase the immense talents that Africa possesses”, he stated.

All 52 participating nations matched around the stadium, hoisting their national flags, with most dressed in beautiful native attires and colours of their respective countries.  The event was graced by electrifying performances from some of Africa’s most beloved artistes: Ghana’s Grammy-nominated Shatta Wale, King Promise, and South Africa’s Kamo Mphela.

All African Games 2023 - Afrocritik

The theme for the 13th African Games, “Experience the African Dream”, envelops the aspiration for a united and prosperous continent. It also tallies with the founding ideology behind the creation of the tournament, which was initially organised to bring together newly independent African countries and foster African unity and a sense of solidarity and shared identity. 

A total of 23 sports have been confirmed for this continental event, including athletics, badminton, 3×3 basketball, boxing, chess, cycling, field hockey, football, handball, judo, karate, rugby sevens, swimming, table tennis, taekwondo, tennis, volleyball, beach volleyball, weightlifting, and wrestling. Cricket makes its debut in the 2023 edition, with the women’s event coming to a climax and the men’s event to get started in a few days. Additionally, arm wrestling and rugby union (sevens) are set to make their inaugural appearances at the African Games.

More than 5,000 athletes and officials have begun participation in the competition. Eight of these disciplines will function as qualifiers for the 2024 Paris Olympic Games, scheduled for July and August. The Olympic qualifying events are swimming, athletics, badminton, cycling, tennis, table tennis, wrestling, and triathlon.

For a lot of Ghanaians, this is the perfect opportunity to showcase Ghana’s rich culture and put the country in an even better light. It is also a chance to show that Ghana is in a good position to host continental events. This sentiment is keenly shared by Dan Kwaku Yeboah, spokesperson for the African Games’ local organising committee, who views this as a “golden opportunity” for Ghana. He highlights that apart from Nigeria who hosted the tournament in 1973 and 2003, no other West African country had previously hosted the African Games. 

However, not everyone shares the same enthusiasm. In 2022,former President John Mahama expressed reservations, citing Ghana’s economic situation, which has  seen worse days since his comments. He suggested that hosting the African Games could severely strain the country’s already precarious finances. Given the recent economic challenges, some argue that it might not be prudent to allocate significant resources to hosting the event. “If it is not too late, we can pull out of the hosting of the Africa Games as it would severely stretch our already precarious finances by hundreds of millions of cedis,” he had said.

In 2022, Ghana experienced a 58% decline in its currency’s value and sought a $3 billion lifeline from the International Monetary Fund to stabilise its economy. By December, inflation in Ghana soared to 54.1%, marking its highest level in 22 years and ranking as the seventh highest globally. Food prices surged by 59.7%, while transport costs spiked by 71.4%, as reported by the country’s statistics office.

Regardless, Ghana has got around to hosting the competition and is doing so despite evident challenges. A recent trending video of Ghanaian Badminton player, Leslie Addo, has him complaining about the late arrival of kits and equipment he needed to compete. “The equipment that we’ve got didn’t even come at the times we needed it. The racket I used to play a tournament I got it yesterday and I’ve never tested it. The shoes I wear are size 47. They gave me 36. What am I going to use it for?”, he had said in the video.

Amid the excitement surrounding the games and the cases of lack going on among Ghanaian athletes, the Ghanaian Minister of Youth and Sports, Mustapha Ussif, on the 4th of March, 2024 disclosed that the government had allocated $195 million for infrastructure and a $47.7 million operational budget. This announcement stirred up considerable discussion.

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After five years of meticulous planning, Ghana showcased its organisational excellence once again by constructing facilities at Borteyman, the University of Ghana, and refurbishing existing infrastructure for various sporting disciplines, culminating in a three-week festival of sports. Although there are areas that have only just received attention before the kick-off of the tournament, like the Netball Court. 

The latest bit of complaints has come after a shabby-looking podium with places printed on A4 sheets was used for the awarding of medals. A better-looking podium has since been put in place, dousing the stench of the situation.

 

All African Games 2023 - Afrocritik
At the podium – All African Games 2023

Over 300 medals have been given out so far, with Egypt alone picking up at least 20% of those. Nigeria, Algeria, and South Africa also rank highly at the top of the medals table and will all try to increase their medal count before the competition rounds up. Afrocritik provides daily rankings on the medals table on all social media platforms. The curtains of quadrennial games draw to a close on March 23, 2024.

African Games Monday 11th Table - White - Afrocritik
African Games Monday 11th Table 

 

Tuka Letura is an experienced sports writer with over five years of experience in the craft. He uses data and statistics to provide analysis and commentary. From regional to worldwide competitions, he has covered a wide range of sports-related events and topics. He is devoted to sharing his enthusiasm for sports with his audience and engaging them with interesting anecdotes and viewpoints.

 

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