As with many others, I watched the opening of the African Youth Games on TV and was treated to a spectacle which made me marvel yet again, at the extent of change since 1966.
But it wasn’t just the spectacle but the fact that the city and country was playing host to representatives from over 50 different countries.
Not that long ago, or so it seems to me, we in Mochudi, had to borrow a table tennis table from Gaborone – there being not a single one in the place, so that an early group of visiting Chinese could show us their skills. And now people are enjoying exotic sports that were never even heard of at that time, such as swimming, weight lifting and judo.
But whilst I marvel at the fact that the Games were held at all and admire the efforts of all those involved, competitors, organisers and helpers alike, I do hope that enthusiasm will not deter us from undertaking a public post-Games review of what went wrong and what went right.
For instance it would have been ridiculous if, for P9 million, the opening (and closing ceremony) was anything other than spectacular. Did everyone get value for money? Or was the cost disproportionate? I have to admit that the nearest I got to any of the events in Gaborone was to see a handful of cyclists being escorted on, mercifully, the other side of the south ring road.
Otherwise my involvement with the Games was to be caught up in Tuesday’s horrific traffic jam – I specify Tuesday because I suppose that each day of the past week saw a gridlock in one part of the city or another.
When, coming into town from the north, I first hit the problem at the Sebele traffic lights and assumed that somewhere there had been a multiple pile up, another head of state or an American dignitary was visiting or that something disastrous had happened - a petrol tanker on fire or a plane which had somehow come down in the middle of town.
I turned left at the Fire Station and from there to Choppies it was bumper to bumper but then suddenly the traffic disappeared and it was possible to speed past those on the other side of the road who were horrendously stuck, car after car after car from the Sebele traffic lights all the way back to BBS.
A couple of hours later, I assumed that the problem, whatever it had been, must have been overcome and returned to the same road but then, seeing that the
Those I met, who were better informed than myself, said that all traffic moving to the north of the city had been stopped by the police because of the Games’ cyclists.
But cyclists move fast and whatever their route, will pass through it very quickly – so that it would be necessary for the police to hold back traffic for only a small period of time.
But if it wasn’t the cyclists it could have been marathon runners, which wouldn’t have been so different.
I am uneasy about this situation – and not for the first time. It has to be a priority for the police to keep the traffic moving and to limit disruption when it is unavoidable, to the shortest possible time.
This seems not to be happening perhaps because it is not well understood that by halting traffic the social and economic life of the city is immediately brought to a halt.
There is too the human factor that needs to be better grasped. When traffic is stopped for any length of time, problems quickly occur especially when it is exceptionally hot.
Children unable to get to school, become fractious and the parents frustrated and irritated - tough luck, I suppose! But then no one has water to drink because no one knew that they would be caught up in a major traffic jam. Nor did anyone bring portable toilets.
If a child suddenly needs emergency care or an elderly person has a stroke, there is nothing that anyone can do because they cannot be reached and be helped and for a certainty, those who are in that situation cannot get out and go looking for it themselves.
Self evidently the need to get traffic off the roads, for whatever reason, is almost bound to generate an entirely different set of needs for which provision cannot be easily provided by the police or anybody else.
In this situation, it would be immensely reassuring were the police in Gaborone to confirm that they are aware of the problems that are inevitably created when they stop traffic and that in future, whenever it is necessary or unavoidable, they will do so for the shortest possible time.