After 10 days of frenetic competition over eight sporting codes, the curtain finally came down on the 2014 African Sports Council Region 5 Under-20 Youth Games in Bulawayo on Sunday with hosts Zimbabwe coming second on the medal table with a total of 93 medals.
Regional powerhouses South Africa amassed 121 decorations and came first, while Angola, who will host the games in 2016, finished third with 20 medals.
Zimbabwe put up an impressive display in a variety of sports codes, winning a memorable gold medal in netball after an upset victory over giants South Africa.
Team Zimbabwe also managed a variety of medals in other sports codes such as soccer, basketball, tennis, boxing, athletics, judo and swimming.
The team’s success highlighted the tremendous sporting talent that exists in Zimbabwe while at the same time emphasising the need to take grassroots sports development more seriously.
More efforts should now be put in place to ensure that the country capitalises on the success in Bulawayo by making sure those athletes and teams that did well at the games continue to get exposure at both regional and international competitions.
In addition to exposing young talent to high-level competition, the Region 5 Games also leave behind a legacy in Bulawayo as the country’s second biggest city now boasts of sporting infrastructure which now matches international standards.
Some of the new state-of-the-art facilities include the refurbished swimming pool complex at Bulawayo Athletic Club, the renovated netball courts, the mobile basketball court and the tartan track along with electronic timing equipment at White City Stadium, among others.
The refurbished tennis courts at Bulawayo Athletic Club, which match international standards, have also revived calls for Tennis Zimbabwe to consider hosting the country’s Davis Cup matches and ITF Futures tournaments in Bulawayo.
Other national sporting associations should consider holding major sporting events in Bulawayo to take advantage of these fantastic facilities.
There are many of examples of local sports facilities that have turned into white elephants after being developed for major sports events.
Some of the facilities that quickly come to mind include the Chitungwiza Aquatic Complex and the Magamba Hockey Stadium which were constructed when Zimbabwe hosted the 1995 All-
It will be very important for the Ministry of Sport, Arts and Culture, sports associations and other stakeholders to come up with a management plan to maintain the newly-refurbished facilities at high standards and to take advantage of them to further develop Zimbabwe’s young sporting talent.