Accra - Ghana — Ghana's Vice-President, His Excellency John Dramani Mahama opened the 2nd ECOWAS Under-23 Games in Accra on Saturday 16th June 2012, with a call on stakeholders to invest in sports to improve income generation and job creation in the region. "Sport has become big business and a great revenue earner both for individuals and corporation organizations," he said, adding that the region should use sport as a tool to change its negative reputation as a "region noted for wars and conflicts" by positively engaging its teeming young population in sporting activities. Since governments alone cannot fully exploit the sporting opportunities that abound, in the face of myriad of competing demands, the Vice-Present recommended effective public-private partnerships to develop the sector and maximize its limitless potentials.
Apart from promoting peace, unity and friendship among West African youth, he said the region should also use sport to improve fitness and correct the modern sedentary lifestyle of citizens, which has resulted in high prevalence of health conditions such as cancers and heart diseases. The Vice-President commended the ECOWAS Commission for sponsoring and promoting the Games, coordinated by its Ouagadougou-based ECOWAS Youth and Sports Development Centre. Finally, he called on the sportsmen and women to go beyond competing for laurels and forge lasting bonds of friendships in line with the theme of the second of edition of the biennial regional Games - "Promoting Peace and Unity among ECOWAS Youth through Sports." Speaking in the same vein, on behalf of the President of the ECOWAS Commission, Ambassador Kadre Desire Ouedraogo, the Commissioner for Human Development and Gender, Dr. Adrienne Diop, urged the athletes to adopt Excellence, Camaraderie, Solidarity and Fair Play as abiding ethos.
Tracing the background of the competition to the July 2008 adoption of the Games by the ECOWAS Ministers of Youth and Sports, the Commissioner said the Games seek to bring together, young sportsmen and women to compete in the field of sports and improve performances, thereby involving them in the building and sharing the common ideals of regional integration. The objectives of the ECOWAS Games, she said, are in line with those of the ECOWAS Vision 2020 for transformation from an ECOWAS of States to an ECOWAS of People. These include to: - provide an important opportunity for interaction among ECOWAS youths; - enable Member States to develop future sports elites; - contribute to the integration of the stakeholders of the West African Sports movement; - strengthen the economic base related to sports among Members States; and - promote a sense of belonging to the same community among participants. While noting that "West Africa possesses one of the largest potential of sportsmen and women," the Commissioner enjoined all stakeholders to ensure that the ECOWAS Games are not only a success but also become a reference point and a permanent feature of the regional sports calendar.
In his welcome address earlier, Ghana's Minister of Youth and Sports, Honourable Clement Kofi Humado said sport should be used to further peace, love and friendship, especially among young people who are the region's leaders of tomorrow. He urged the sportsmen and women to be disciplined and professional, and to cherish the Olympic values, while the officials should be fair and firm. Highlights of the opening ceremony included the hoisting of the ECOWAS, Olympic and Ghana's Flags, lighting of the Games' Flame, march past by contingents of participating countries and a gymnastic display by performers from the Global Art Centre, Ghana. Eleven of the 15 ECOWAS Member States are participating in the week-long competition which ends on 22nd June 2012, featuring some 1,740 sports persons, 315 coaches and handlers and 465 officials.