26 November 2012

Rwanda: A Golden Chance Missed

Sometimes the best way of promoting a particular sport is by hosting a big international tournament. The 2009 CAF African Junior Championship was a turning point in Rwandan football not only because it proved that the country had what it took to host an international tournament of this magnitude, but also because it was a stepping stone to Rwanda's first ever appearance in a Fifa World Cup (2009 Fifa U-17 World Cup which was hosted in Mexico).

It's because of the 2009 CAF African Junior Championship that we now have several football fields - Kicukiro and Mumena artificial turfs and upgraded football grounds in Amahoro and Kigali Regional Stadium.

But more importantly, the 2009 AJC has shaped local football and given Rwandans the belief that they can become a major football powerhouse not only in the region but on the continent.

That is exactly what Rwanda's Athletics Federation (RAF) needed to do when the Confederation of African Athletics (CAA) granted the country the hosting rights for next year's African Junior Athletics Championship, after emerging as the sole bidders for the event. Unfortunately, the opportunity slipped away last month when Rwanda pulled out citing financial constraints.

At the bidding ceremony held in Benin, the country was represented by RAF head Jean Damascène Nkezabo and the director of sports in the ministry of sports, Emmanuel Bugingo. The pair was told that the country needed to raise over US$ 2 million (Frw 1.3bn) to facilitate the championship which at the time seemed feasible. "We had a solid bid which has been approved but there is a mandatory inspection to verify what we presented," Nkezabo was quoted as saying.

However, with just over seven months to the championship, Nkezabo has written to CAA conceding that they cannot raise the funds, according to CAA Vice President, David Okeyo.

"We have received communication from Rwanda that Kigali is not ready to host the 2013 Africa Junior Championships. This is a blow to our plans because Rwanda had just been awarded the bid to host event," he said.

"Rwanda failed to procure necessary equipment in time and has always been lagging behind the time ever since they were awarded, the event," Okeya continued. "There is no standard tartan track in Rwanda to stage the championship. They also needed equipment for the event and technical support. All this requires money and the organizing committee has had difficulties getting it."

Nkezabo acknowledged that the event would cost Rwanda a lot of money and the ministry of sports and culture was not ready to commit itself despite assuring the continental body mid this year that they would provide everything to host the first ever continental athletics championship.

The permanent secretary in the ministry of sports, Edward Kalisa, cleared the air saying that the government could not meet the budget within the remaining time. "CAA officials came to Kigali and we discussed the terms of reference to host the championship. After those discussions, an assessment was carried out to see whether we could meet the costs," he explained.

According to Kalisa, infrastructure costs alone were to cost US$ 2 million (Frw 1.3 billion) while organization costs were valued at Frw 1 billion. In addition, the requirements needed to host the event include financial backing from government, hotels, stadia, and security and communication systems, training areas among others.

Botswana hosted the 2011 championships while Kenya hosted 2010 Africa Senior Athletics Championships in Nairobi.

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