THE spirit of Africa is ignited again, this time with Zambia hosting the much anticipated Supreme Council for Sports in Africa (SCSA) Zone Six Under-20 Youth Games that officially commence in Lusaka today.
The opening ceremony scheduled for Nkoloma Stadium this evening is expected to be graced by Republican Vice-President, Guy Scott.
The K113 billion-worth Games will bring together 10 regional member States that will be represented by 2, 000 athletes who will sample the Zambian hospitality and culture.
The 10 Southern African Development Community (SADC) countries represented at the Games that run through to December 16 include Angola, Botswana, Lesotho, Malawi, Mozambique, Namibia, Swaziland, South Africa, Zambia and Zimbabwe.
Running under the theme 'Sport: Rhythm of Our Nations', the 10-day Games would feature eight sports disciplines in athletics, also for the visually impaired, basketball, boxing, tennis, netball, judo, swimming and soccer.
Zambia will be hosting the Zone Six Games for the first time and hopes to showcase her skills.
A seemingly enthralling football fixture between the junior Chipolopolo Boys and Young Zebras of Botswana is scheduled to kick off the Games this evening at Nkoloma Stadium.
The Zone Six Games are truly a dream come true for Zambia after the country failed to host major international sporting events like the Africa Cup of Nations in 1988, which later went to Morocco, and the 10th edition of the All Africa Games last year, later hosted by Mozambique, due to poor sports infrastructure.
The Zambian Government spent an estimated K113 billion to successfully host the zonal games, and the money was mostly spent on rehabilitation works at the five venues that are hosting the games - the Olympic Youth Development Centre (OYDC), Mulungushi International Conference Centre (MICC), National Sports Development Centre (NASDEC), Sunset and Nkoloma Stadiums, and the Games Village at the University of Zambia (UNZA) Great East Road campus.
Nkoloma Stadium, apart from hosting the official opening and closing ceremonies, will host men's football while Sunset Stadium will be used as the venue for women's soccer.
Tennis, netball and boxing will be played at NASDEC while athletics, basketball and swimming will be at OYDC, with MICC hosting Judo.
The Games will undoubtedly leave an indelible mark in the history of the Zambian sporting industry and the country at large because they will benefit the nation economically.
Even the Vice-President, Scott got into the mood of the Games and praised the oneness and hard work exhibited in the country in putting up infrastructure in readiness for the Games, adding that the challenge now remained with the athletes to reap medals.
He said it was pleasing to see everything in place for the Games, especially at UNZA which was run down and had a lot of rubble prior to the final inspection earlier this week.
Scott said the enormous work put in the last few months in making it an ideal Games Village was commendable.
"People were saying see all this rubble at Unza, look this infrastructure will not be ready but after seeing what has been done, I must say this is commendable and I must mention that we made it with the skin of our teeth, deadline was just about the time the Games are starting, any labour unrest would have thrown things apart," he said.
Sports Minister Chishimba Kambwili said the Patriotic Front (PF) Government had made the hosting of the Zone Six Games a reality after previous attempts to host the 1988 AFCON and 2011 All Africa Games failed.
He said the PF Government had done everything possible to make the Zone Six Games a dream come true and that the onus was now on the athletes to pay back by winning medals.
"We feel very privileged and honoured to be associated with the hosting of the most prestigious Supreme Council for Sports in Africa Zone Six Under-20 Youth Games.
"May I take this opportunity to remind you all that the theme for the 2012 SCSA Zone Six Games is 'Sport: Rhythm of Our Nations' is most appropriate.
"It calls for the hearts of the countries that will be participating in the Games to beat as one," Kambwili said, as he wished all the visiting teams and participants a memorable 2012 SCSA Zone Six Games.