Lagos — As the 9th All Africa Games begins today, the nation's torch -bearers in this year's Games would be under focus just as they face tough oppositions from perennial rivals, Egypt and South Africa.
The All-Africa Games (AAG) being a regional multi-sports event held every four years (one year before the Olympic Games) and with the competing nations drawn from the African continent is affiliated to the Supreme Council for Sport in Africa (SCSA). The quadrennial event has not only come of age, but today has become an Olympic gathering for the entire continent.
The first edition held in 1965 in Brazzaville (Congo) was won by the then United Arab Republic. However, preceding editions have seen giant nations in the continent jostling for dominance.
Indeed, countries like Nigeria and South Africa have posed great challenges to the Egyptian dominance.
Albeit, as major countries in the continent file out to jostle for honours, it suffices to adduce that the battle is a straight one considering the antecedents of the participating countries with Nigeria as the defending country, the team to beat in the championship.
A cursory look at the history or overview of the all-time medal count of the All Africa Games reveals that Egypt is the power house of the continent quadrennial show piece having won the Games three times more than other nations.
Egypt topped the medal chart with a total of 904 medals haul. Nigeria trailed with 836 medals and followed by South Africa with 509 medals haul.
Interestingly, the three front runners in the continent have won each as a host of the Games. And of the trio, only Nigeria has not won the Games away. When Nigeria first hosted the Games in Lagos (1973), Egypt snatched a stunning victory while South Africa also won in 1995 when Zimbabwe hosted it in Harare.
Nigeria and South Africa have hosted the quadrennial sporting event on two occasions while Algeria would be hosting for the second time this year. The first time they hosted the Games, Tunisia won the event in Algiers.
Now that Algeria would be hosting this edition, the contest will be rekindled with the host attempting to win at all cost. But the greatest debacle will no doubt be a straight battle involving South Africa, Egypt and the defending champion, Nigeria.
Nigeria would also want to use this year's event to erase the memory that stem from the hue and cry from top contenders when they won the last edition she hosted in Abuja tagged 'COJA 2003' by winning away from home.
As we hope for fruitful Games in Algiers, it is also expedient that the All-Africa Games will no doubt contribute to the promotion of the Olympic spirit and provides a platform as a major rendezvous for African athletes as well as an opportunity for the continent's athletes to express their potentials.