Sikhumbuzo Moyo, Senior Sports Reporter
The ninth edition of the African Union Sports Council Region 5 Youth Games have been given green light to proceed in Maseru, Lesotho, in December after being suspended last year due to the Covid-19 pandemic.
The decision was taken at a virtual meeting of the Region 5 Troika Ministers last week.
The Games will run from December 3-12, according to a press release.
The Troika Ministers’ meeting was chaired by Lesotho Minister of Gender, Youth, Sport and Recreation Likeleli Tampane and was attended by the Malawian Minister of Youth and Sport Ulemu Msungama as well as Botswana Minister of Youth Empowerment, Sport and Culture Development Tumiso Rakgare.
Speaking after the Troika meeting, Region 5 chief executive officer Stanley Mutoya said: “It is true, the Games are on from 3 to 12 December 2021 in Maseru, Lesotho.”
The Games were originally scheduled for December 4-13 in Maseru, but the Covid-19 pandemic brought all sport to a screeching halt.
The Ministers Troika met at the end of July 2020 and resolved to shelve the Games due to the ravaging pandemic, with the view to reconvening in January 2021 for further assessment.
However, the ministers could not convene in January 2021 as planned.
“In making the decision to proceed with the Games, the Troika considered a number of elements. Key among these elements was the fact that 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 (permission) 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,” read the Ausc Region 5 communique.
The fact that most countries in 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.
“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.
He said 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 ninth edition of the region 5 Youth Games have a special significance in that they are designed to prepare athletes for the 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 the Paris 2024 Olympic and Paralympic Games,” reads the statement.
Mutoya said 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 the safety and security of both athletes and officials.
He said they were working round the clock to consult key stakeholders, among them being regional Sports Confederations for endorsement of the raft of modifications envisaged.
He said some of the changes will include a review of the sporting codes to be retained on the Games programme, duration of competitions, number of teams and team sizes.