The African Games was first organized in Congo Brazzaville in 1965, two years after the formation of the Organisation of African Unity (OAU). 30 African nations including Ghana participated in the first Games, thus making Ghana a founding member of the African Games. The founding Fathers of the African Games, including the First President of the Republic of Ghana, Dr. Kwame Nkrumah, saw the Games as a platform for showcasing African sporting talent and portrayal of African aspirations for freedom, unity and independence. So far, 12 editions of the African Games have been organised by 10 African countries.
Since its inception some 57 years ago, Ghana has never hosted the African Games, a situation considered by many as inconsistent with Ghana’s role as a leading player in the social, political, cultural and economic affairs in Africa, This article will discuss Ghana’s failure in previous attempt to win a bid to host and organise the African Games and how far Ghana has gone to host and organise the 13th African Games.
Ghana’s first attempt to host the African Games was in 2006 when Hon. O. B. Amoah, the then Deputy Minister in charge of Sports led a Bid Team to Algeria for a Supreme Council for Sports in Africa (SCSA) Sports Ministers Conference which was to decide the host nation for the 2011 African Games. At that Conference, Ghana’s Bid was declined because Ghana owed the SCSA US$160,000.00 in annual subscriptions. On his return to Ghana, Hon. O. B. Amoah ensured that Ghana paid the full amount it owed the SCSA.
The road to host the 13th African Games in 2023 started by a letter dated 17th May 2018 from the President of the Republic of Ghana, H.E. Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo-Addo directing the Ministry of Youth and Sports to Bid for the right to host and organize the 2023 African Games.
Subsequently, the then Minister for Youth and Sports, Hon. Isaac Kwame Asiamah (MP), constituted a Bid Committee to prepare and bid for hosting and organising the Games. The Committee submitted and won the bid on 25th October 2018 in Algiers, Algeria. After winning the Bid, the Ministry put together a Project Team to start the process leading to the hosting and organisation of the African Games. No sooner had the Project Team started its work than the emergence of COVID-19 which truncated its activities.
The process got on track on 12th October 2020 when the President of the Republic, Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo-Addo inaugurated a 9-member Local Organising Committee (LOC), (later increased to 10) at the Jubilee House and charged them with the mandate to host and organise the African Games Accra 2023 and later transform the facilities into a University of Sport for Development.
Since its inauguration, the LOC, under the leadership of the Ministry of Youth and Sports, has worked tirelessly to ensure that all Games Delivery Management Systems and Protocols are being carried out meticulously. Among others, a Protocol Agreement had been signed between the African Union Commission and the Republic of Ghana. The Protocol Agreement outlines all the obligations and responsibilities of the Host Nation and the working relationship between the Host Nation and the African Union Commission.
Towards hosting and organising a successful Games, the LOC has established contacts and working relationships with key local and international stakeholders and collaborators. Prominent among them are the African Union Sport Council (AUSC), The Technical Committee for the African Games (TCAG), The Association of National Olympic Committee for Africa (ANOCA), Association of Africa Sports Confederations (AASC) and the office of AUSC Zone 2. There have been series of meetings and conferences between the LOC and the stakeholders which have resulted in establishing programmes and timelines for the Games.
Among the local stakeholders, the LOC has met and established working relationship with National Sports Federations, The National Olympic Committee, major media houses, Ministry of National Security, Ministry of Health, Ghana Immigration Services, Narcotic Control Commission, Gaming Commission of Ghana, Accra Metropolitan Assembly among others.
The LOC secured a 100 acre plot of land at Borteyman from the University of Ghana. The initial plan was to build an Olympic Stadium Complex with a 50,000 capacity Stadium, an Aquatic Centre, 5 Tennis Courts including a Centre court and two multi-purpose halls for indoor games. A Sod-cutting ceremony was performed on 31st August 2021 by the President of the Republic. However, after careful analysis of timelines, it was realised that time constraint will not allow for the construction of the Olympic Stadium Complex at Borteyman. A decision was therefore taken to leverage on existing facilities while building few facilities at Borteyman. Accordingly, the University of Ghana Stadium is being upgraded while a new Rugby Pitch and a new warm-up athletic track are being constructed. In addition, four hostels at the University of Ghana are being refurbished to serve as the Games village to accommodate 4,900 athletes and officials. Also, a dinning hall and a health centre are being constructed at the University of Ghana for the Games. All the facilities are at various stages of completion.
Ongoing at this stage is a process to resolve an impasse among AUC, AASC, and ANOCA. The impasse is the result of a Tripartite Agreement between AUC on one side and ANOCA and AASC on the other side for the organisation and management of the 2019 Rabat African Games. The Agreement was not terminated after the Rabat African Games and AUC went ahead to sign the Protocol Agreement with the Republic of Ghana. Fortunately the impasse is far advanced in getting it resolved to pave way for the hosting and organisation of the 13th African Games Accra 2023.
In its 57th year of existence, Ghana is now having the opportunity to host and organise the African Games for the first time. At a glance, it appears that the cost involved is huge. However, the tangible and intangible benefits of hosting and organising the Games far outweighs the cost involved. All Ghanaians are therefore called upon to support the 13th African Games Accra 2023 to place Ghana on the world sporting map.