The stage is set for the ninth edition of the Africa Union Sport Council (AUSC) Region 5 Games, which start next week Friday in Maseru, Lesotho, where Botswana is sending almost 200 athletes.
AUSC Region 5 chief executive officer, Stanley Mutoya told Mmegi Sport the reports about Lesotho's readiness were untrue. “I do not think that we need to speculate over allegations that Lesotho is struggling to provide equipment. There is no country that is going to host these games without equipment. The whole world knows that COVID-19 has made it difficult in terms of procurement particularly overseas in terms of travel and other challenges pertaining to the environment now. Everyone is stumbling to try and do things in a COVID-19 environment,” Mutoya said.
He said Lesotho has done everything possible to procure the equipment and even have Plan B in case suppliers are not able to deliver on time. Mutoya said they have started receiving some equipment and already basketballs have arrived.
He said Lesotho is working around the clock to host successful games. The sporting codes on the programme are athletics, netball, basketball, boxing, football, gymnastics, taekwondo, tennis, swimming, volleyball and judo. There are 1,179 athletes and officials who have been accredited for the games. Mutoya said 13 countries have confirmed participation, with 10 from Region 5 while the other three participating countries Seychelles, Comoros and Madagascar are non-members. He said due to COVID-19, they faced challenges such as payment for participation fees and travel and other documents needed by the athletes. “Sport has been suspended for more than 18 months and countries selected teams recently. Some of the athletes might not have travel documents and other documents that are required. Those are some issues that we have experienced.
There have also been payment delays for participation fees,” he said.
Mutoya said three have paid the full amount while seven countries had managed to contribute 50% of the participation fee, with the end of November deadline looming. He said the games are an opportunity for Region 5 to ensure that sport can safely return and athletes could start their journey towards Paris 2024. “We have dubbed these games ‘Paris via Accra with a stopover in Malawi’ because most of the athletes that are here, we expect them to be in Malawi come 2022. We expect them to use those games to qualify for the Ghana 2023 Africa Games then qualify for Paris 2024 Olympics,” Mutoya said. Meanwhile, team Botswana chef de mission, Peaceful Seleka said preparations for the games are going well. “The team went into the final camp from November 22 until their departure to Maseru.
The football team will depart tomorrow and the rest on December 1. We have a team of 174 athletes from 11 sporting codes being athletics, athletics VI (Paralympics), basketball, boxing, football, judo, netball, swimming, taekwondo, tennis and volleyball,” he said. Seleka said the main challenge during the preparation has been that most of the athletes are students and they have been busy with school examinations. He said athletes over 18 years have received their COVID-19 jab while those under age have been given a waiver by the host.