THE African Union Sports Council Region 5 Troika of Ministers announced the rescheduled 2020 Region 5 Youth Games will be held in Maseru, Lesotho, in December 2021.
The 9th edition of the Region 5 Youth Games is scheduled to run from 3 to 12 December 2021.
The announcement was made following an online Region 5 Troika of Ministers of Sport meeting on Thursday.
The meeting, chaired by Lesotho Minister of Gender, Youth, Sport and Recreation, Likeleli Tampane, was attended by Malawi Minister of Youth and Sport, Ulemu Msungama and Botswana Minister of Youth Empowerment, Sport and Culture Development, Tumiso Rakgare.
Speaking after the Troika meeting, the Region 5 CEO, Stanley Mutoya confirmed the Troika resolution on the Games.
"It is true, the Games are on from 3 to 12 December 2021 in Maseru, Lesotho", Mutoya said.
The Games were originally scheduled for December 4 to 13, 2020 in Maseru, Lesotho, before the Covid-19 pandemic brought all sport to a screeching halt.
The Troika of Ministers then met on July 31, 2020 and resolved to shelve the Games due to the ravaging Covid-19 pandemic, with the view to reconvening in January 2021 for further assessment.
Unfortunately, the Ministers could not convene in January 2021 as envisaged, due to other pressing commitments.
In making the decision to proceed with the Games, the Troika considered a number of elements.
Key among these elements was the fact the Government of Lesotho's Cabinet had approved the hosting of the rescheduled Games in December 2021.
The Lesotho Cabinet had gone ahead and approved the budget for hosting the Games, further granting the Lesotho Minister of Gender, Youth, Sport and Recreation to proceed with re-constituting the Games Local Organising Committee in readiness for successful hosting of this sporting extravaganza.
In addition, the Troika was pleased with progress made by the Region 5 Secretariat in developing Covid-19 protocol guidelines, in consultation with the World Health Organisation, and other international stakeholders.
These guidelines will go a long way in ensuring hosting of safe and secure Games in Maseru and beyond.
The fact that most countries of the Region are at various stages of a phased return to sport added to the Troika's confidence in pronouncing the Region's readiness to resume preparations to host the biennial Games in Maseru, Lesotho, come December 2021.
"This is, indeed, a milestone development as the Games open an opportunity for our athletes to resume competition and rekindles their waning hope for career recovery after the devastating impact of Covid-19 since 2020," Mutoya said.
Mutoya noted the resumption of the Games brings a glimmer of hope to the recovery of athletes' careers as these Games have a direct impact on their performance pathways.
The 9th edition of the Region 5 Youth Games have a special significance in that they are designed to prepare athletes for Malawi 2022 Region 5 Games, from where athletes to participate in the Ghana 2023 African Games, will emerge.
It is from Ghana 2023 that athletes are expected to qualify for Paris 2024 Olympic and Paralympic Games.
"So, the Lesotho Games become a conduit and vector for Olympic and Paralympic excellence.
"We may as well call these Lesotho Games, Paris, via Accra with stop-over in Lilongwe," Mutoya added. Mutoya revealed that while the Games have been given a thumbs up to resume, there will be several adjustments to the structure and texture of the event.
A number of significant modifications will be instituted in order to ensure safety and security of both athletes and officials.
Some of these modifications will include a review of the sporting codes to be retained on the Games programme, duration of competitions, number of teams and team sizes.
Several athletes have passed through these Games, key among them being Wayde Van Niekerk (South Africa), Nigel Amos and Naomi Ruele (Botswana) among some notable sporting icons.