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It began with toxicity from so-called critics, whom I think were engaged in mere politics and bad PR just because an audacious decision has been made by the government led by President Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo-Addo to continue with hosting such a big – and in their eyes a flamboyant – tournament when the country seems to be grinding under economic difficulties. Well, those ‘constructive’ critics had every right to criticise the African Games and were even justified by the complaints our own athletes, in otherwise less-financed and fancied sports, were pouring out to media firms. These Ghanaian journalists who are becoming partisan and less neutral by the day – an example is what they did in La Cote d’Ivoire after the Black Stars exited the AFCON – went to town with the fodder fed them by the poorly-prepared athletes. All what I told myself was to wait for a sport Ghana is known and noted for – football! If we fail at it, then indeed we did not prepare! And lo and behold, we delivered in that discipline becoming the first nation in the history of the African Games to win both men’s and women’s football.

It is simple! WYSIWYG. . .What You See Is What You Get! What you are good at is what you excel in! When did our cyclists who were complaining that much think of themselves as better than the South Africans? What is even the nature of our roads or lanes to think of cycling as a sport we really expected anything from? Is it because we are hosts, by a miracle, we were going to win Gold in all disciplines? How many Olympic-sized swimming pools did we have even before the Games? What were the nature of our sports facilities before the Games? Egypt, South Africa, Morocco and the rest were already using world-class sports facilities to train and you don’t expect them to do any less when it comes to competitiveness.

Yet, the government was lambasted at the very beginning of the Games. Glaringly, more effort may have been put into the organisation of the Games to have a successful tournament rather than the training for athletes – the men to do battle for Team Ghana. Nonetheless, truth be told, there are some sports Ghana is simply not good at. Success in those sports comes once in a blue moon. It is in this thinking that when our football teams exit group stages or quarter-finals of tournaments, we are unforgiving of our players. This is simply because this is a sport 4 out of every 5 Ghanaian are familiar with and can even do.

Well, coming back to the 13th edition of the African Games, there is no gainsaying that the government and, indeed, the Local Organising Committee (LOC) led by a man I watched as a kid on GTV, Kwaku Ofosu Asare, now PhD, have done a yeoman’s job not to have listened to the voices calling for the cancellation of the Games. When Ghana won the bid in 2018 to host the Games, it was going to be an ambitious exercise for any government to get state-of-the-art facilities in time to host the rest of Africa. Maybe, you compare this to football tournaments as some were comparing the initial hiccoughs to the successful hosting by Ivory Coast of the 2023 Africa Cup of Nations. In football tournament hosting, it is the first couple of weeks – which involve the group stage – that is most difficult. After the group stage, teams who exit return home together with their supporters. But with multi-sport events like the African Games, it is all play all or, perhaps, all support all. Athletes of one discipline turn themselves into supporters of other disciplines and pure supporters stay till the last event because there is a closing ceremony parade to attend for all.

Mustapha Ussif took over from Isaac Asiamah as Sports Minister in 2021

Therefore, for Ghana to have hosted the Games despite the global pandemic in 2020 is a no mean achievement. I have heard the Minister of Youth and Sports, Mustapha Ussif, who took over this huge responsibility from Isaac Kwame Asiamah, mention that President Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo-Addo cannot be overlooked for credit not only for the hosting of the Games but also for sticking by the LOC to get the event held despite the initial preparation setbacks. The Games were originally scheduled to come off in August 2023 and after several rumours of cancellation, Mustapha Ussif told the African Union that Ghana is committed to hosting the Games but only sought more time to complete the facilities. And, indeed, March 8, 2024 came and the Games began.

After the poor start by hosts Ghana in disciplines such as cycling, badminton, beach volleyball and table tennis, the criticisms hit a crescendo. Luckily, Winnifred Ntumi won Gold for Ghana despite recounting her own challenges. It was definitely a matter of she having the capacity to win! If the critics were genuine, they would have still taken on government for Ntumi’s plight despite the success. They never saw anything wrong with her challenges.

Well, Ghana went on to win 68 medals, the highest for the country in the history of the Games. Incidentally, the record that this medals haul broke was 1973’s in Lagos, Nigeria, where Ghana won 27 medals in total. Ghana’s ranking at that championship, 5th, however, remains the best, better than this year’s 6th.

The Youth and Sports Minister joined the LOC members to meet Team Ghana after the Games

Armwrestling, a new sport most turned a blind eye to, gave us the highest number of medals (41). Our usual boxing and football delivered Gold medals. It came as a surprise for High Jump Men and Women – Cadman Evans Yamoah and Rose Yeboah Amoanimaa respectively – to also deliver Gold. Athletics also gave us medals: Gold (200m), Silver (4X1 Men) and Bronze (4X1 Women). These are sports Ghana does well in!

All aside, the Games have left a legacy of sports facilities that will mark an epoch for development sports in Ghana. President Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo-Addo had always maintained that the facilities at Borteyman Sports Complex will be used as the core infrastructure for a university to be dedicated to sports – University of Sports for Development.

Borteyman Sports Complex

“I assure my fellow Ghanaians that these facilities will be well maintained and will serve as appropriate venue for training future champions and for hosting international sporting tournaments and competitions,” President Akufo-Addo said during the closing ceremony on Saturday, March 23, 2024.

“Indeed, the facilities will act as the nucleus of the soon-to-be established University of Sports for Development and will also be the venues for the holding of the Ghana National Games, that’s an annual sports festival where winners from regional levels will meet to compete for top national honours.”

I expect the Ghana National Games, formerly National Sports Festival, to produce world-class athletes for Ghana given the facilities that the country now has.

With these facilities becoming a legacy from our maiden hosting of the Games, sports should be a new source of livelihood for many. The real benefits will come in the future, maybe at the Los Angeles 2028 Games.

Kudos, government. . .kudos LOC!

By Emmanuel Kwame Amoh

The writer is the Senior Producer for Onua FM/TV Sports.