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In Review: Recounting the 2024 African Games Experience

In Review: Recounting the 2024 African Games Experience

African Games 2024 - in review - afrocritik

For African sports, the 2024 African Games has unfurled with a showdown of its best athletes on the continent. 

By Tuka Letura

Accra hosted Africa’s finest after a lengthy delay of the quadrennial African Games. It was a period fraught with organisational challenges, yet undeterred, the event held its own for 16 days, not just as a prelude to the Olympics, but as a platform to show the abundance of talent on the continent.

The 13th African Games was a landmark event that brought together athletes from across Africa to compete, celebrate, and showcase their talents in a wide array of sports. The games were hosted from March 8 to March 23, 2024, and for the first time, they were not only held in the capital city but also in two sub-host cities: Kumasi and Cape Coast. 

This year’s events were particularly significant as they aimed to contribute to Ghana’s transformational agenda and the African Union’s Agenda 2063: “The Africa We Want”. 

The sports line-up for Accra 2023 was impressive, with the introduction of cricket and arm wrestling, alongside the debut of rugby union (sevens). A total of 29 sports were confirmed for the continental event and over 5,000 athletes participated. 

Among these, seven were featured as demonstration sports, which are typically included to promote new sports and gauge interest for potential inclusion in future games. They include e-sports, mixed martial arts, pickleball, scrabble, speedball, sambo, and teqball. These sports were not only a test of the athletes’ skills but also provided entertainment and a chance to introduce new games to the audience. 

Eight events were Olympic qualifiers, including athletics, badminton, cycling, swimming, table tennis, tennis, triathlon, and wrestling. Non-Olympic qualifiers were also part of the event, with sports such as arm wrestling, basketball 3×3, beach volleyball, boxing, chess, cricket, football, handball, hockey, judo, karate-do, rugby, taekwondo (with an Olympics upgrade), volleyball, and weightlifting. 

THE HIGH POINTS

Ghana: Men and Women’s Football Gold 

Ghana made history by being the first nation to secure gold medals in both the men’s and women’s football competitions at the same African Games event.

Success was crowned as the Black Princesses, Ghana’s under-20 women’s side, secured a 2-1 win against Nigeria at the Cape Coast Stadium on Thursday, March 21, 2024. They trailed at half-time after Loveth Edeh profited from a goalkeeper’s blunder in the 23rd minute to give Nigeria the lead. In the 78th minute, Tracy Twum drew level to eventually take the game to extra time. Mukarama Abdulai delivered the decisive goal nine minutes into the first half of extra time to give Ghana gold and usurp reigning champions and three-time gold medallists Nigeria in football at the African Games.

Ghana celebrates gold medal win in football at the 2024 Africa Games - Afrocritik
Ghana celebrates gold medal win in football at the 2024 Africa Games

Ghana’s Black Satellites, the under-20 men’s team, mirrored the success of their female counterparts by clinching gold in a nail-biting final against Uganda at the Accra Sports Stadium on Friday, March 22, 2024. The match was a tense affair, with Ghana trailing until the dying moments. The breakthrough came in the 90th minute when Jerry Afriyie, the Thoughts FC striker, unleashed a spectacular strike that found the back of the net, securing a 1-0 victory for Ghana. This triumph not only earned them the gold medal but also completed a historic double for Ghana, as both the male and female football teams stood atop the podium at the African Games.

Egypt: 100 Club 

Egypt clinched an unprecedented 102 gold medals, marking a milestone in the event’s history. They become the first country in the history of the African Games to pick up at least 100 gold medals in a single competition. This achievement not only secured Egypt’s position atop the medals table with 192 total medals but also showcased their remarkable consistency, having now claimed victory in four of the last five editions of the tournament. Despite facing stiff competition, particularly from perennial contenders, Nigeria and South Africa, Egypt’s relentless pursuit of excellence propelled kept them at the top for both gold and total medals accrued.

While Egypt’s gold medal tally soared to new heights, their overall medal count of 192 fell short of previous editions, signalling a shift in dynamics within the African sporting landscape. In 2019 at the games hosted in Morocco, Egypt topped the rankings with an outstanding 260 medals. 

Nonetheless, Egypt’s prowess extended beyond gold medals, as they boasted the highest number of silver medals as well. 

Jo-Anne van Dyk Clinches Gold in Women’s Javelin Throw

South African Jo-Anne van Dyk, won the women’s javelin throw at the African Games with an outstanding Games Record of 60.80m. She outperformed her competitors, including compatriot Jana van Schalkwyk, who finished second with a throw of 57.64m, and Uganda’s Joyce Lalam, who won bronze with a national record distance of 57.01m.

Nigerian Quartet Sets Mixed 4x400m Relay Records

Ojeli Ifeanyi, Patience George, Sikiru Adeyemi, and Omolara Ogunmakinju raced to gold in the mixed 4x400m final at the African Games 2023, breaking three records in the process. With a time of 3:13.26, they not only won the gold medal but also set new Games, Africa, and national records, with Omolara Ogunmakinju making up a 15m deficit in the final leg to ensure the win.

Nigeria wins gold at 4x400m - Afrocritik
Nigeria wins gold at 4x400m | Monirul Bhuiyan

Miré Reinstorf Claims Women’s Pole Vault Gold

South Africa’s Miré Reinstorf soared to victory in the women’s pole vault, setting a new Games Record with a height of 4.35m. Her exceptional performance surpassed the previous record of 4.31m, held by Dorra Mahfoudhi of Tunisia since the 2019 Games in Rabat, Morocco. 

Farida Osman Breaks African Games Record in 50m Freestyle

Egyptian swimmer, Farida Osman made waves – quite literally – at the African Games 2023 by smashing the 50m freestyle record with a remarkable time of 24.72s. Her stellar performance not only secured the gold medal but also earned her a ticket to the Paris 2024 Olympics, solidifying her status as one of Africa’s top swimmers. 

Her achievements were not restricted to individual events; she was instrumental in Egypt’s triumph in the mixed medley relay, mixed 400 free relay, and women’s 400 medley relay, all of which earned her team silver medals. She finished the tournament with eight medals, four of which were gold. 

LOW POINTS

South Africa Withdraws from Hockey Games

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South Africa’s hockey teams withdrew from the 2023 African Games due to concerns over the poor pitch conditions and inadequate preparations at the Accra’s Theodosia Okoh Stadium, as communicated to the Local Organising Committee (LOC).

“Over and above making this decision, our Hockey Federation consulted with Sports Flooring Warehouse, a South African-based specialist in carpet laying, and an FIH recognised service provider”, a correspondence to the LOC from Team South Africa noted. “They have also advised us – having analysed the images we shared with them – that the field is not satisfactory and may cause harm to the athletes.”

Signed by Team Leader, Patience Shikwambana, the letter to the LOC cited FIH regulations on competitions for the decision.

“If a field that is not certified is being considered as a tournament venue, it should be tested at the earliest convenience to demonstrate compliance with this specification”, the International Hockey Federation regulation demands.

According to Shikwambana, the tests were not done on time and multiple rescheduling of games had hampered their logistics. “The rescheduling of the hockey competition, on three numerous occasions has, in addition, caused an inconvenience to us logistically, as a team, where we had to arrange for both the teams to fly to Ghana in time for the commencement of the competition.” She also highlighted how the initial Chef De Missions’ site visit meeting, which held at the end of October 2023, communicated that there would be test events to ensure the readiness of venues before the commencement of each competition. Unfortunately, this commitment did not materialise, particularly in the case of Hockey, according to Shikwambana. 

The decision by South Africa to withdraw its men’s and women’s teams from the upcoming African Games in Accra, 2023, has infuriated the African Hockey Federation. The African Hockey Federation President, Seif Ahmed, stated, “We came to play, not to find excuses not to play”, during a press conference in Accra on Tuesday 19th March 2024.

No resolution has been reach and no further action has been taken on the issue at this point. 

Poor Attendance 

The African Games faced a very visible low turnout to events, with minimal attendance, despite earlier predictions of a large turnout. Hosting it for the first time, expectation generally was that it would be a huge turn out by locals and guests alike, but that fell short of expectations. 

Several factors influenced this outcome. First, insufficient marketing and promotion activities resulted in low public awareness and engagement. Furthermore, Ghana’s economic crisis, which includes rising inflation, increasing debt, and currency depreciation, is likely to have put many potential participants off due to financial restrictions.

Despite these challenges, the event provided a stage for African talent to flourish. It will be one to remember for a lot of athletes and for many nations. As the African Games has come to an end, it’s time to relish the victories, consider the difficulties, and anticipate performances at the Olympics, while waiting for the next edition of the African Games, which will keep advancing. 

Here are the top 10 final medal standings:

Final Top 10 Medals 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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