08 August, 2008

Africa at Beijing

With 53 countries and with a population now approaching a billion people, Africa's attendance at Beijing isn't as strong as it should be; it's very weak and very poorly represented. Only a few medals will be taken back from the Olympics to Africa. Collectively, Africa's showing at all international sporting events have always been very poor.

Ravaged by poverty, diseases and conflicts - Africans have not been given the right environment and opportunities to show their real capabilities and potential, at such sporting events. Poor governance and corrupt sports' officials, only make matters worse. Many excellent African athletes and sportsmen, simply defect or flee to foreign countries which offer them better prospects and pay; in fact, many times during such international sporting events - is when many African sportsmen choose to defect. For some, like Lopepe Lopez Lomong, they come to succeed only by sheer luck and coincidence.

It's not due to lack of finance and resources that Africa's representation is weak at international events; it's mainly due to the very poorly managed sporting organizations and committees in Africa - where selection to a team is mostly ruled by favoritism, nepotism and tribalism. Poor sporting facilities and infrastructure also contribute to the poor performance in sporting competitions. The type of sporting activities that need expensive facilities, like water and indoor sports - need proper funding and coaching - which is not available in many African countries. The other major factor, is cultural restrictions imposed on women in many African countries. Africa simply can't or doesn't invest enough and properly to get good results.

African sportsmen in very few countries and in very few disciplines - apart from middle and long distance running - have hopes for winning any medals in Beijing this time. Africans are natural athletes. African descendants living in the West in places such as the United States, Britain, South America and the Caribbean, like: Jesse Owens, Muhammad Ali, Pele, Jackie Robinson, Teofilo Stevenson, Carl Louis, Kareem Abdul Jabbar, Michael Jordan, the Williams Sisters, Tiger Woods, Usain Bolt, Shelly-Ann Fraser, Top NFL players and many others - have proven this many times over: dominating in track and field events, basketball, soccer, American football, baseball and boxing.

Unless Africa invests enough and extensively; and manages the selection of its teams, efficiently and fairly - Africa will continue to lag very much behind in international sporting events. Most African countries will simply be attending these sporting events in a symbolic nature only; and not as real competitors. And many talented and gifted African sportsmen and athletes will continue to defect or flee.

The Football World Cup, the world's biggest sporting event after the Olympic games - in terms of television audience, bigger than the Olympics - will be held in South Africa in 2010; on African soil. Will and can Africa - then - be truly ready for it? Will the Cup be won by an African country, for the first time - then? We all very much hope so!

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