2018 Commonwealth Games – Hit or miss for Southern Africa
By Andrew Kamanga
It is now less than six months to go to the 2018 Commonwealth Games. The hosts, Gold Coast, are working frantically and frenetically to meet the multiple deadlines for the organisation and hosting of this mega-event.
If the 2014 Glasgow Commonwealth Games in Scotland are going to be a yardstick, then sports lovers should brace themselves for some fantastic action and memorable experiences at the 2018 Commonwealth Games.
Of course, the organisation and hosting of such a major event can never be 100 percent perfect. Whatever happens, come 4 April 2018, the city of the Gold Coast will be putting up a traditional Australian welcome for the athletes and officials from Commonwealth countries as well as a mind-blowing closing ceremony on 15 April 2018.
Southern Africa now possesses a long history of engagement and participation at the Commonwealth Games. The excuses of being on a “learning curve” and “shortage of resources” are now worn out.
National sports authorities and those who compete at this level now have a fair appreciation of what it takes to record successes in the various competitions. The measure of success at the games is the number of medals acquired be it, gold, silver or bronze.
Obviously, heads of state, ministers of sport and other head honchos will be expecting and demanding gold from their representatives going to the 2018 Commonwealth Games. However, the big question is, what does it take to win gold at such rigorous competitions? Simply put, blood, sweat and tears!
Experts will vouch that it is preparation, preparation and more preparation. Such preparations require a wide array of sport science and medicine support, from highly qualified and experienced, dieticians, fitness and conditioning trainers, sports coaches, sports psychologists and many others.
The Commonwealth Games provides a unique platform for Southern African athletes to prepare for various world championships and more importantly, for the Olympic Games, which are the pinnacle of sporting competition.
In comparison, it is obvious that no Southern African country commands such colossal financial resources to support elite or high performance sport. In some instances, the amount of money projected to be spent on one athlete in the UK, can constitute the national sport budget for a country for two to three years.
These are the cold and hard facts of life, living in a world characterized by serious disparities and inequalities. Yes, resources are important but they are not the deciding factor in the quest for success at the games.
Other factors come into play such as God-given talent, skill, flair, intrinsic motivation and drive. If it was only a question of resources, then countries such as, Jamaica and Kenya would not even be considering sending teams to such games. However, to the contrary, athletes from these countries bring the games to life.
They give everybody including the developed countries a good run for their money. It follows that countries without a lot of money should be able to compensate for that deficiency through meticulously planned preparations with the limited resources at their disposal.
However, meticulous preparations require a lot of strategic planning in order to ensure that there is a sharp focus on the sport codes and talent that is likely to bring glory and medals to the country. Operating bazooka–style is not going help developing countries, including those in Southern Africa.
Southern Africa has in the past produced mercurial talent with very little and in some cases, no resources to work with. Given a few more dollars, especially through the International Olympic Committee (IOC) Olympic Solidarity Fund, Southern African countries should be actually be doing much better at the Commonwealth and Olympic Games!
Now what is surprising is that, given additional resources being availed by the IOC, Southern African countries seem to be actually moving backwards or struggling to identify and develop new talent. Since the retirement of world renowned athletes such as Frankie Fredericks (Namibia), Maria Mutola (Mozambique), Samuel Matete (Zambia) and many others, the region seems to have gone into a stupor.
The 2018 Commonwealth Games will be a sure test case to check whether the sleeping giants have awoken. All necessary preparations that should have been done or can be done now should be undertaken.
There is absolutely no reason why Southern African Commonwealth countries should just observe protocol by sending teams just to make up the numbers in Australia. The raw talent is there in abundance in the region.
It needs to be harnessed and nurtured for international competition. The diamonds are there. They just need to be cut and polished for the whole world to see them in their true beauty and glamour.
As the count-down continues to the opening ceremony next year, hearts will be pounding in anticipation of the big occasion. Southern Africa’s collective pride will be at stake at the 2018 Commonwealth Games. Will it be a hit or miss? We are praying for a big hit!
Various Southern African athletes in athletics and swimming