THE government says it is ready to host the 6th edition of the African Union Sports Council (AUSC) Region 5 Under-20 Youth Games which would be staged in Bulawayo from December 5-14 this year.
This was said by Senior Minister of State in the Office of the President and Cabinet Simon Khaya Moyo during the lighting of the Torch for the Games by President Robert Mugabe at State House yesterday.
The event was also attended by Vice-President Joice Mujuru, Minister of Sport, Arts and Culture Andrew Langa, Secretary-General of the AUSC Region 5 Mvuzo Mbebe, ambassadors of participating countries, Team Zimbabwe and representatives of National Sports Associations.
Khaya Moyo, who is the chairperson of Cabinet committees that monitors the progress of the Games, said construction of infrastructure was almost done with most of the work expected to be finished this month-end.
“We are proud that Zimbabwe will hand over six of the nine facilities to the Regional Organising Committee by September 30 2014. The completion of work at the remaining facilities has been delayed due to essential but additional building works as required by building engineers, but will be completed not very long after September 30 and certainly in a time frame that will not jeopardise the hosting of the Games. I wish to assure you that the Games will leave a lasting legacy of modern sporting infrastructure in Bulawayo, a culture of excellence in sporting performance, peace and prosperity through sport in Zimbabwe and the Southern Africa region,” Khaya Moyo said.
There were revelations by Mugabe that former Minister of Education, Sport, Art and Culture David Coltart wanted the government to move the Games to Harare because of financial constraints.
However, the President said he turned down the suggestion, insisting that they be held in the City of Kings. He, however, paid tribute to Coltart as one of the people who pushed for the Games to be held in the country. Mugabe told the delegates to invite the former minister to attend the Games.
Mujuru also revealed that sometime in February, the AUSC organising committee had approached her, wanting the Games to be moved to Harare because they thought Bulawayo had no capacity to hold the event.
“Mr Coltart one day said: ‘President, we are supposed to stage a sporting competition in accordance with agreements which had been arrived at’. He said: ‘We can’t do in Bulawayo because there are so many things that need to be done,” Mugabe said.
“[He said]: ‘We haven’t got the money and the time schedule also is against us so let us change the venue’. Then I said: ‘Are you becoming spineless, Mr Coltart? Come on strengthen your spine. Games will be held in Bulawayo’.
“I jolted him a bit. Then he said: ‘We will try’. He was coming to Cabinet from time to time, reporting progress here . . . lack of progress especially in regard the funding of the programme.”
He added: “I’m glad that there has been success, but I didn’t know if there was another attempt [to change the venue] and why they had to go to the Vice-President.
“I want it to be done for Bulawayo because of all our cities, it is the one which has suffered the most because of sanctions.
“We don’t want the drift of population in Bulawayo with some of its people coming here [Harare] and others going to South Africa. We don’t want it to be.
“The torch I’m lighting today, therefore, encapsulates the message I have for the hosts, the guests, participants, the supporters, trainers and organisers of the 2014 Under-20 Games.
“All involved are urged to practise proper, good sportsmanship and through fair play. We should let the deserving athletes, as the theme for Games says, Reach for Greatness.
“The Under-20 Youth Games are aimed at promoting and strengthening within Southern Africa, community spirit, peace, unity, solidarity and brotherhood in the region. Zimbabwe is, therefore, most happy and proud to be hosting the Games.”
AUSC Region 5 Under-20 Youth Games are developmental games that are held biannually in the African Union Sports Council member countries on rotational basis.
The countries that are under the Region 5 banner and would participate are Angola, Botswana, Lesotho, Malawi, Mozambique, Namibia, South Africa, Swaziland, Zambia and Zimbabwe.
However, there would be additional five countries outside the Region 5 that have been invited to participate at the Games: the Democratic Republic of Congo, Tanzania, Madagascar, Mauritius and the Seychelles.
The Games will comprise eight sporting codes which are football, netball, basketball, tennis, boxing, judo, swimming and athletics.