Lovemore Dube Senior Sports Editor
BULAWAYO was yesterday given a thumbs up to play host to the African Union Region Five Games set for December. This follows a tour of some of the facilities by the head of the regional body, Mvuzo Mbebe.
Barbourfields Stadium and Luveve appeared to have scored high marks as work on them did not have many issues raised. Mbebe said they were confident that the scope of work left would be finished in about 10 days.
The deadline for completion of work on all the facilities is November 15.
Mbebe encouraged the local organising committee to have trial runs at the facilities.
“They don’t necessarily need to be international competition, even two schools can compete against each other,” said Mbebe at an evening Press briefing.
He said even at Bulawayo Athletic Club, the venue for tennis work had gone smoothly. The playing surfaces have been given a facelift and he believes there is no reason why Bulawayo with such a facility cannot play host to international events.
The Large City Hall will be the venue for boxing and work has been smooth. The facility is in fact ready for the games.
Problems were cited at White City where the tartan track is yet to be installed on both the main and practice tracks. Another area of concern is that even the turf has not yet been planted though assurances were made by the local organising committee and the local authority that grass mats will be laid in time for the Games.
“The rest of the infrastructure is on course, however we’ve two areas of concern. These are White City Stadium where the track is yet to be erected on the main track and the practice one. There’s also the erecting of floodlights,” said Mbebe.
He had earlier on said athletics competitions would have to be held in the evening so as to avoid high day temperatures. The issue of floodlights should therefore be taken seriously.
Mbebe noted that there was still a lot of work to be done at the City Pool where swimming competitions will be held. With Zimbabwe setting up an international venue as part of the sport’s lasting legacy of hosting the Games, organisers insisted on electronic timers. These have compelled the extension of the pool on either side to allow timing pads to be erected so that local swimmers can qualify for prestigious events like the Olympics and World Championships.
Previously swimmers have had to do with hand timing which is not accurate and as such is not taken seriously by international bodies.
Locals have relied on participating on the South African Level Two and Three Championships to qualify for major events.
Bulawayo athletics will also benefit from the wind gauge and electronic timer which will be left behind after the Games.
“I’m comfortable that White City remains the only venue for athletics,” said Mbebe.
He said he had a meeting on Monday with Minister of Sport, Andrew Langa, who assured him and the region that the construction of infrastructure will be finished in time for the Games.
“I had a meeting with the minister yesterday at lunch time and he assured me that we’ll meet the targets and that he was travelling to Harare to get further assurances on the Games,” said the veteran South African sports administrator.
He however emphasised that his area of concern remained the completion of the tartan tracks.
The equipment for the track is said to have arrived in Durban and is expected to take about 10 days to reach Zimbabwe.
The jumping pits would now be erected close to terraces on the home straight after a decision to place them on the playing field was shot down. The Regional Organising Committee also did not agree with the suggestion to create room behind the goalposts as that would not conform to football specification for future use.
This morning the committees will tour the Games Village which is Hillside Teachers’ College and the Command Centre at Bulawayo Polytechnic.
Later in the day sub committees will meet to continue with their presentations on progress made so far in the Games preparations.