THE African Union Sports Council Region 5 Under-20 Youth Games finally came to an end on Sunday with a number of lessons learnt by both the local and regional organising committees.
However, the major lesson for both Zimbabwe and Angola, who will host the games in 2016, was the need for the hosting nation to prepare early.
Zimbabwe were awarded the rights to host the 10-day regional youth sporting extravaganza last year, but only started preparing for the games three months before they were due to start.
AUSC Region 5 secretary-general Mvuzo Mbebe said failure by both the local and regional organisers to prepare early for the games resulted in a number of “challenges” which also had a bearing on the start of the games.
White City Stadium, which is now the official home of athletics and netball in Bulawayo, was the last hosting venue to be completed after the contractor failed to lay the tartan track on time.
This caused a delay in the start of the athletics competition which eventually started on December 9, having initially been expected to start three days earlier.
However, looking at the current state of the stadium now, one would say the setback could have been a blessing.
The stadium now boasts of a quality tartan, new netball courts, a new VIP area and best of all electronic timing equipment.
Recently when Zimbabwe held the Southern Region athletics championships at the National University of Science and Technology (Nust), the only place in Bulawayo which had the standard tartan track, the National Athletics Association of Zimbabwe had to hire electronic timing equipment from neighbouring Botswana.
With the tartan track and the electronic timing system, Bulawayo can now hold international events and produce world class athletes.
Mbebe implored future hosting countries to prepare early for the games.
“Now that Angola know that they will be hosting the 2016 edition, they have to start preparing early for the games. Botswana now know that we will be there in 2018 and they also have to start early. The challenge that we have is that countries believe that their time is still too far and they wait for the last minute. In Zimbabwe, there were no problems, but we faced challenges which we managed to get past,” he said.
Basketball was another discipline that had to wait a bit longer for their equipment and by last Friday morning, the court had not been laid.
However, the equipment, which was finally used, proved to be state-of-the-art and Mbebe said they had not received any complaints from the participating countries.
Mbebe said they had no regrets with Zimbabwe hosting the games.
“We have no regrets with Zimbabwe hosting the games. We did have a few challenges, but nothing major. The countries also have not come to us to complain,” he said.
Zimbabwe emerged second in the games after South Africa who collected the most medals.