Maputo — The 10th All-Africa Games, officially inaugurated on Saturday night at Mozambique's national stadium, in the Maputo suburb of Zimpeto, should symbolise unity among Africans and promote the culture of peace on the continent, declared President Armando Guebuza.
Addressing the opening ceremony, Guebuza urged all the sportsmen and women participating to strive to improve their performance, but always in an atmosphere of friendship and festivity.
The President of the Supreme Council for Sport in Africa (SCSA), Jacques Yvon Ndolou, praised the commitment of all those involved in preparing the games.
Ndolou also announced that the SCSA has granted Guebuza its highest honour, the Medal of Merit, for his personal involvement in organizing the games.
Giving Guebuza the medal, before a crowd of thousands attending the ceremony, Ndolou praised Guebuza for his leadership, and Mozambique for its determination in stepping forward to organise the games after the original host, Zambia, had announced, in 2009, that it was unable to do so.
The Zambian authorities had argued that the impact of the international financial crisis, particularly the fall in the world market price of the country's main export, copper, made it impossible to bear the burden of organizing the games.
Mozambique volunteered to take on responsibility for the games, despite the tight calendar. There were skeptical voices in the Mozambican press, doubting that the government would be able to keep its promises and deliver adequate facilities for the games. Nonetheless, the Games Village for the athletes, consisting of 840 apartments, was concluded on time, and so was the construction or rehabilitation of all the necessary sports facilities.
Immediately prior to Guebuza's formal declaration of the opening of the games, Mozambican basketball player, Flavia Azinheira, read out a statement from the athletes, pledging that they will observe the spirit of fair play, and the rules of the various sports.
36 countries are taking part in the games, and their teams filed past Guebuza and the other dignitaries. Of particular interest was the Libyan team, which marched behind the flag of the National Transitional Council (NTC), rather than the all-green banner of the fallen dictatorship of Muammar Gaddaffi.
Mozambique has not yet recognised the NTC, but the Libyan embassy in Maputo now flies the flag of the insurrection.
At the same time, the flag of the Libyan rebels was flying over another major sporting event at the other end of the continent. In Cairo, the Libyan national football team won its qualifying match for the African Cup of Nations against Mozambique by one-nil.
The opening ceremony concluded in a blaze of colour and music, as young Mozambicans performed dances illustrating episodes in the country's history leading to its independence in 1975. At the end, the skies above Maputo were lit up in a ten minute firework display.
Although the formal inauguration was on Saturday, in fact the competition in some of the sports, notably basketball and volleyball, had already started by then.