roars off a year today
... How ready is Ghana?
IN exactly a year from today, the eye of the world will feast lavishly on Ghana as it beckons more than 4,000 athletes from 55 countries to the much-heralded Accra 2023 African Games.
Ghana is hosting the quadrennial continental sporting festival for the first time since its inception in 1965 in Brazaville, Congo - and the weight of expectation for an eye-catching delivery, is extremely high.
Indeed, many have wondered why it took Ghana more than 50 years to have the opportunity of staging this esteemed event. The message, limpidly, is that the world cannot hold its breath any longer, and the moment is now.
The $64,000-dollar question dangling on the lips of people, however, is whether the Ghana 2023 Local Organising Committe (LOC) can meet the deadline for the August 4, 2023 showpiece - a year away from now.
A resounding response of YES, bellowed out in optimism. And, it came from one man - Dr Kweku Ofosu-Asare - Executive Chairman of the Accra 2023 LOC, who has consistently held the view that Ghana would successfully stage the 13th edition of the Games, come the D-day.
"I'm highly optimistic Ghana would stage one of the finest Games ever. Indeed, going by the timelines given to us by the African Union Commission, we at the LOC are working our fingers to the bone to make sure we meet those schedules and be able to host the Games pretty well."
The LOC has been working in tandem with the African Union Commission (AUC) - owners of the Games, to put together a formidably eye-pleasing sports feast, irrespective of the fact that the Olympic-size stadium at Borteyman - which was initially penciled to hold nearly the entire games, would not be ready, next August.
Nevertheless, Dr Ofosu-Asare asserted that even though the Borteyman complex had been halted due to time constraints (Covid-19 playing a huge part), construction of facilities for some of the events were still ongoing. Impressively, the venue will serve as the aquatic centre, 1,000-seater multi-purpose hall for basketball, table tennis and wrestling; five tennis courts complexes, including 1,000-seater centre court with a 20-capacity VVIP viewing seats. There is also a 500-seater temporary dome for handball, judo, karate, taekwondo, wrestling and 1,000-seater multi-purpose hall of badminton, boxing, volleyball, weightlifting and para-sports.
The University of Ghana Stadium at Legon, which at the moment is undergoing renovation, is expected to host athletics, football and rugby - with the Achimota Oval making do with cricket and squash. The Theodosia Okoh Hockey Stadium pitch will handle the field hockey games.
A member of the Accra 2023 LOC, Rex Brobby, confirmed that work in host districts Legon and Borteyman is progressing steadily.
The Deputy Chief Operating Officer, a 4×100 metres relay team member for Ghana at the Los Angeles 1984 Olympic Games, was equally confident Ghana would hold the best edition of the African Games - insisting priority was to improve the athletics arena at the University of Ghana Stadium.
Though criticised in some quarters, the LOC has found it expedient to create awareness of the Games - collaborating with many sporting events in the country like the Aboakyer Tennis Championships in Winneba, the Zongo games and the Ga Mantse Cup (which will be held this Sunday) among others.
It insists there is an elaborate programme in the pipeline to vigorously promote the Accra 2023 African Games, in a little while.
Buoyantly, the LOC says it is eyeing a fifth-place at the Games, having finished 20th and 15th out of 54 countries at the last two festivals hosted by and Congo (Brazzaville 2015) and Morocco (Rabat 2019) respectively.
This time around, Ghana is eager to punch 10 places above its weight than it did the last time.
Already, Dr Ofosu-Asare has promised the President, Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo-Addo, of garnering a decent number of medals that can guarantee the country a fifth position on the ladder.
"As one of our mandates, the President does not only want us to host but host and perform well on the medal table.
"We have promised the President we would improve on that - and we have gone ahead to challenge ourselves very high by saying that we will want to move to the fifth position," he asserted in an exclusive interview with the Times Sports.
To be able to accomplish that feat, the Accra 2023 African Games Executive Chairman said his outfit would ensure that "we select a very formidable team to represent Ghana."
"That is what we are working on as LOC members and we are trying as much as possible to ensure that we will be able to achieve that objective."
According to him, a lot of effort and resources would be pumped into disciplines that the nation had competitive advantage in, so as to realise its objectives.
Organisers have approved 23-sport disciplines, with teqball the sole exhibition sport to take the total to 24.
Of the main 23, armwrestling, cricket and rugby union are all set to make African Games debuts.
"As a matter of fact, we would look for funds to send our athletes outside the country for further training. Indeed, we are looking to exploit an opportunity to fly our boxing team to Cuba to sharpen their rough edges - and get them ready for the Games. Cuban boxers have proven to be the most successful in the history of amateur boxing."
More than 100 athletes from 13 disciplines are presently taking part in the Birmingham Commonwealth Games, an experience which is expected to inure to the benefit of the country when it hosts Africa next year.
To sharpen their skill and expertise ahead of Ghana 2023, too, some members of the LOC - including Dr Ofosu-Asare, Dr Emmanuel Owusu-Ansah (Chief Operating Officer, LOC) Mr Ben Nunoo Mensah (President of the Ghana Olympic Committee and member of the LOC), are in Birmingham to understudy their counterparts with the hope of returning with some fresh, animating ideas.
As the countdown begins from today, hundreds of Ghanaians and sports-loving people across the world would have their eyes intensely emblazoned on developments. That is expected.