Sport should use tourist resorts

The story goes that when he was there, the salesman noticed that all the inhabitants of that far-off land went about their business barefoot. Not even one of them had shoes on, never mind possessing a pair. They apparently did not believe in shoes.

The story goes that our dear salesman returned home empty-handed and told his supervisor that where he had just come from there was no market for shoes.

There was no business to be done there because the inhabitants of that far-off land did not wear shoes, did not have a shoe culture. They did not use his products.

The salesman was suspended on the spot, pending re-assignment to some other department in the organisation.

Bring it home, Mr Banda, bring it home.

Alright, my friends, sometimes I get carried away in the toxicity of my own verbosity I forget that I may not always be carrying my readers with me.

Put simply ‘ the story above- a land of people without shoes means that whole populace is a potential market for shoes! It is a market crying to be exploited.

The story is also told of one of our own, enamoured with speech journalism. As the name indicates, speech journalism concerns itself with going to an occasion, listening to the speeches delivered there, getting copies of th0se and returning to the newsroom to hammer out a story quoting liberally from the presentations.

So our dear journalist is on his way to the event, which of course for him is the speech or speeches.

On the way he comes across a horrible accident. A Mercedes Benz has collided with a train at a rail crossing.

There have been some deaths. Upon hearing that one of those killed is the government minister who was on his way to officiating at the function that he was going to cover, the journalist makes a u-turn and returns to the office.

Upon being asked by his editor why he is back so early, our dear journalist points out that he decided to return after finding out that the minister had died and the function cancelled.

“What about the story then?”

“Sorry, what story, Sir? The minister died before he got to the function to present his speech.”

Ah, so!

The point being made here, Comrades, in case you are beginning to think that I am on my weekly beloved verbal jaunts, is that southern Africa is blessed but somehow we act as if we are ignorant of this fact.

We have lovely weather. But how many times are we sitting indoors and entertaining our visitors instead of being out on the lawn or around the yard enjoying the beautiful sun? We have lovely weather.

But how many times do we opt to sit inside a restaurant, caf’ or some such eatery, instead of out on the sidewalk enjoying the sun and the view?

As my friend Albert Nyathi, the dub poet, sang: “I shall not speak.”

But if you insist saying that if I do not speak then it may not just be as clear to you how we are so blest then I will point out, under duress, that part of that view would be the perambulating poems that are the physical forms of our womenfolk. Very few others are so generously endowed, and I have seen some’believe you me. But I digress.

We have the weather. We have the views. We have the tourist attractions, in each of the southern African countries. Very few others are so generously endowed. We also have the political climate. Very few others are so generously endowed. Check the next television news bulletin.

But what are we doing about our blessings? Are we exploiting them enough? I do not think so.

Which is why I salute the organisers of the Victoria Falls International Marathon, which was run in the Zimbabwe resort last Sunday.

Wild Frontiers South Africa, the main sponsors, in conjunction with fellow commercial concerns Safari Par Excellence and Wild Horizons and the National Athletics Association of Zimbabwe, have taken a huge step towards unlocking value in one of our major blessings ‘ the majestic Mosi-oa-Tunya, the smoke that thunders.

To give credit to the main tourism industry player in that smart partnership, Victoria Falls is not the first time that they have done what they have done. They are also the underwriters of the Kilimanjaro Marathon in Tanzania.

In fact, the winnings athletes benefited from the synergy created by the sponsor’s association with the two events. Zimbabweans Nkosiyazi Sibanda of Banket Mine and Caledonia Corporation, who beat the field home, and Margaret Mahohoma, who won the women’s race, both got tickets to the Tanzania event.

It is interesting that Mahohoma is linked with two other events that we should salute: she won the Africa University Peace Marathon in Mutare last month, and was using the Victoria Falls event to prepare for the City to City marathon in South Africa on the 25th of this month.

We are blessed to have the Victoria Falls. Athletics grabbed that blessing and used it to help undo a curse we are ridden with, moreso from Europe following the land reform programme.

Now those who have been hearing the other side got a chance to hear our side through the race: Zimbabwe is a safe tourist destination.

Any other position is falsification.

We are blessed to have the Victoria Falls. But one of our curses lately is the shortage of foreign currency. Athletics used its sport to bring in foreign runners, their families and supporters, officials, media and hangers-on.

They stayed in places, ate food, drank, played the casino, enjoyed boat cruises and white-water rafting and bought curios. There was an impact on foreign currency receipts.

Indeed, a tourism industry player was quoted as saying there was an increase in the demand for products and services in Victoria Falls around the time of the marathon.

By way of this article, other sports officials please be similarly advised.

September 2006
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