30 August 2012

Zambia: Scribe Thrilled After 'Humbling' Olympic Games


THE London 2012 Olympic Games were an eye-opener for Zambian athletes and the country as a whole.

An eye-opener in many aspects as the London Olympics will leave a legacy for Britain and the countries that participated for many years to come because many lessons were learnt.

The general organisation of the Games was a marvel with a record 7,500 volunteers signing up for the games and helped in the structuring of the Olympics starting from the airports.

Upon arrival at Heathrow Airport, some volunteers that were stationed there were dressed in identical purple and pink T-shirts and bibs and spotted denim trousers.

They directed all who identified themselves as coming for the Olympics, be it athletes, officials or journalists to the next point until out of the airport to their destinations.

When one had accreditation from their respective country, which was used as a visa for entering the United Kingdom, the volunteers scanned the accreditation and placed it in a laminated paper-like tag for identification.

That was the entry to all the games' venues but was restricted to certain areas unless otherwise marked for those areas.

The volunteers were dotted round London right through to the industrial town of East London where the Olympics were taking place and cheerfully welcomed and directed anyone that needed assistance without wearing a gloomy face.

As was the heavy presence of volunteers, so was that of security personnel; the Metropolitan Police, G4 security, and the British Army were noticeable.

The 17-day long Games officially opened on July 27, to some magnificent display at the 80,000-seater Olympic Stadium in a ceremony that was characterised by fireworks display, music, dance and drama performances and was televised around the world.

At the stadium access roads, some with gravel, while others with tarmac were done in record time when construction of the Olympic Stadium was underway and may last for the next 10 years.

The organisation of the opening ceremony right through to the closing of the games was wonderful.

The soldiers, police officers and volunteers smiled, others could afford to take off to take picture with the spectators who wished to take photos with them, while others just watched as people walked into the stadium.

In spite of the numbers, entering the different venues, especially at the massive Olympic Stadium which seats 80,000 people was systematic.

At the opening ceremony those that were lucky to acquire a ticket got the cheapest at K4 million (500 British Pounds) and K8 million (£1,000) for the extravaganza, and saw close to 80,000 spectators who had entered to see an Olympic athletics arena that had been turned into a historic British Village.

Stratford, the industrial city of East London and home of the new Olympic Stadium, made ready for the entrance of James Bond and a mock person of Queen Elizabeth II, who parachuted to the ground from a helicopter hovering above, while famous television actor, Rowan Sebastian Atkinson, popularly known as "Mr Bean" also spiced up the show as part of the London Symphony Orchestra's rendition of Vangelis' inspired piece composed for Chariots of Fire.

Paul McCartney stepped to the stage to bring the opening ceremony to an end, singing the classic Beatles tune

Hey Jude, with the crowd joining in enthusiastically on behalf of viewers across the planet.

The games that had brought together 10,500 athletes, representing 204 International Olympic Committee (IOC) members and peoples of the world, attracted thousands of spectators from across the world to watch the various sports disciplines dotted around East London.

Zambia had seven athletes competing in athletics, judo, boxing and swimming and though they may not have won any medal, they should be proud to have participated in the world's biggest sports event that brought together the finest athletes and saw the United States hauling 104 medals.

Save for US-based 800 metres specialist, Prince Mumba, who has tasted the Olympics flavour before at the 2008 Beijing Olympic Games, the other six athletes that represented Zambia were new to the world stage.

Mumba, who is a part-time teacher at Santa Monica University and is a full-time athlete at the same university, emerged seventh out of eight runners, in the first round of the men's 800 metre event at the Olympic Stadium.

The other US-based runner, Gerald Phiri brought some pride to Zambia, despite not winning a medal as he was eliminated at the semi-final stage of the highly competitive 100 metre men's race that included Jamaicans Usain Bolt, Yohan Blake, America's Ryan Bailey, Richard Thompson from Trinidad and Tobago, Great Britain's Dwain Chambers, Daniel Bailey from Antigua and Barbuda, Antoine Adams from St Kitts and Nevis and China's Su Bingtian.

The 23-year-old Phiri, who was making his debut appearance at the Olympics just needs encouragement and support for him to reach greater heights in his career, which he is taking full time after completing his four-year business degree programme at A and M University in Texas.

Boxer, Gilbert Choombe was eliminated in the preliminary stage of the men's light welterweight category by Australian Jeffrey Horn.

Judoka, Boas Munyonga was disqualified 30 seconds into the preliminary first round of the men's 81kg weight category against Japanese Nakai Takahiro after he flouted the rules of the International Judo Association (IJA) by holding on to his opponent's leg.

100 metres female sprinter, Chauness Choosha who also made her first appearance at the Games managed to beat her personal best record and so did swimmers Zane Jordan and Jade Howard.

The seventh athletes may not have attained any medal, but personal achievements with personal best and seasonal records attained and with the exposure they got, the athletes and those to be identified for future games should be encouraged to put behind this year's Olympics and intensify their preparations for future tournaments.

With the Zone Six Games coming up on December 4-17, Zambia needs to learn some lessons from the organisation of the games from the London Olympics.

Though we may not be at the same level in terms of infrastructure development, at least simple things like what the local organising committee of the London games did with the recruitment of the volunteers, security and general orderliness.

The roads and access roads around the city and with the Olympic Stadium and the various Games venues, being clearly marked; the Olympics lanes left specially to Olympics users; the various venues were clearly marked with arrows and sign posts leading spectators to the exact venue of the designated games.

For the athletes, much as they got exposure, they should learn to die a little harder for Mother Zambia, not just dying a little and as a country we should take sport seriously.

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