Gambia: Sub-Saharan Africa's Only Female IOC Member Hails Gambia's Achievement

The first vice president of the Gambia National Olympic Committee, Beatrice Allen has told reporters that the country should be proud of the achievements of sprinter Suwaibou Sanneh who became the first Gambian to secure qualification timing to the Olympic Games.

The country's fastest man who will turn 23shortly after the Summer Olympic Games in London secured qualifications for the 30th Games in the English Capital in the Deggu Games and will be accompanied by female sprinter Saruba Colley who will be participating on a wild card arrangement.

According to the Gambia's first and sub-Saharan Africa's only female International Olympic Committee member, the fact that Gambia secured qualification for the first time -compared to previous Games when it only participated on the wild card arrangements- is the most significant thing for the country.

"For the first time that a Gambian is qualified for the Olympic Games is a pride for every Gambian and that is why the Games this year is very special because the Gambia is going to be in the same footing with the other Olympic nations in the world," she said while adding that the participation of the Paralympic team is also exciting in itself. "I am proud and very happy that we have a Gambian Paralympicathlete that will be competing in the Paralympic Games."

Advice for future Games

Beatrice Allen, who was speaking at a reception hosted by the British High Commission in Banjul on Friday on behalf of the Gambian Olympic and Paralympic athletes about to depart for London for the 2012 Summer Olympic and Paralympic Games added that for an Olympic Games, an athlete is the main focus while a delegation is just there to accompany the athlete.

She said that Suwaibou Sanneh is physically, mentally and psycologically ready for the Games. She also saidthat Saruba Colleydespite going on as a wild card is very much ready, while hailing the Gambia Athletic Association for doing a good job which other national sporting associations should use as a benchmark for future Games. But Beatrice also hastened to give a word of caution to the Gambian stakeholders for future Olympics.

"We will be at the Games to give the athletes moral support and encourage them but even if we don't make it, we have qualified for the Games and I wish it was not only athletics but the other sporting disciplines like volleyball and wrestling, but it is a good lesson that will teach us for the next Games.

"Athletes need a systematic preparations and Suwaibou has been in Jamaica for three years and as far as athletics is concerned, they have prepared well. Isaac Jones was also in Dakar [training] but did not qualify and this should be a lesson for other sporting associations, the Gambia National Olympic Committee and the Government which is the Ministry of Youth and Sports to know that immediately after the Games, you should start preparations since long term preparation will secure qualification," she said.

Impact of London Games

The 2008 edition of the Olympic Games in Beijing has been hailed as one of the best but Beatrice Allen who became an IOC Member in 2006 is hopeful London will make a very good presentation for next week's Games because of Britain's cultural heritage for sports.

"London is well prepared for the Games and apart from that, the British have a strong cultural heritage for sports and sports is a part of the cultural heritage for every country. So I would say London will make a very fine presentation of the Games because of its cultural heritage. If you don't have a cultural heritage in your country, then you have nothing to show.

The British have it, the Chinese had it because I was there in 2008 [Beijing] and they had a very good presentation but you cannot compare the two because culture differs from country to country and from person to person so there is no comparison. The Chinese did their best in a grand scale and the British are going to give their best and it is going to be unique. We are going with the expectation thatwe are going to witness a wonderful presentation of the Games," she concluded.

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