Ever witnessed a lull before a storm? The silence is almost deafening.
Sukoluhle Mthethwa/Thandiwe MOYO
That characterised Bulawayo hours before the colourful opening ceremony of the African Union Sports Council Region 5 Under-20 Youth Games at Barbourfields Stadium yesterday.
The drive from 12th Avenue to Barbourfields Stadium was quiet and smooth. One would have thought a handful of people would attend the opening ceremony as it seemed like just a normal Sunday.
A different story awaited us at the stadium, cars, security details and the crowd!
Queues, flags, children and an exciting atmosphere welcomed all and sundry as people from all walks of life made their way to the stadium.
Inside was an even more colourful scene awaiting with the Soweto stand already almost full, the Empankweni stand filled with excited young ones and an empty Mpilo end reserved for athletes.
The wings were already filling up with dignitaries as well as the very important delegates in their seats.
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There was a carnival atmosphere as spectactors, volunteers and delegates danced, cheered, whistled and ululated awaiting the start of the programme.
Sicocosenkosi Mangena happened!”
A young, energertic Grade 5 pupil thrilled the crowds with his sweet poetic voice.
“Halala Africa Halala,” chanted the young poet.
“Yuyuyu ya,” he continued and surprisingly the crowd responded “Ytjukutja” as though they had rehearsed previously.
They chanted the South African music group Uhuru popular theme song. He greeted everyone using 10 different languages representing the participating countries and praised Bulawayo as well with people responding to him saying “Komfazi utshaya indoda” with a huge cheer.
Soon after, the official vehicle entered the grand stage to a rousing applause from the full Soweto, eMpankweni, wing and the VIP stands.
President Robert Mugabe followed accompanied by Minister of State in the President’s Office Simon Khaya Moyo and the Sport, Arts and Culture minister Andrew Langa. Other senior government officials Saviour Kasukuwere, Justice minister Emmerson Mnangagwa with Minister of State Provincial Affairs Eunice Sandi Moyo, Olivia Muchena, Sithembiso Nyoni and Sport, Arts and Culture deputy minister Tabetha Kanengoni Malinga and other dignitaries.
Games mascot Jumbo was introduced and danced to the theme song Reach for Greatness to what is becoming his signature.
Zambia, Angola, Botswana, Lesotho, Malawi, Mozambique, Namibia, South Africa, Swaziland teams had a standing ovation before Team Zimbabwe marched in to the songs of Sebastian Magacha’s Mhunu wese ridza Bosvo, Shinsoman’s Mawayawaya and Lovemore Majaivana Ikula lami.
The speeches came thereafter starting with Langa, Mbebe and the guest of honour Mugabe who had a Portuguese translator for Mozambique and Angola.
The celebrations started with a colourful display from different artists and young people at eMpankweni whose displays were captivating.
You just had to be there to capture the atmosphere.
Spectators appreciated the work that had been done to make the opening ceremony a colourful and successful affair.