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LUSAKA: Recent assurances by Zambia’s newly appointed Sports Minister, Kenneth Chipungu, that the country will successfully host the All Africa Games (AAG) in 2011 sound hollow given that the situation on the ground tells a completely different story.
The country’s sports infrastructure has seriously degenerated and so far, repair and construction work that is supposed to be completed by the end of next year has not gone past the tendering stage.
There has been a major reversal of sports development in the country following the wave of privatisations in the copper mining industry.
Previously, the state-owned copper mining company spent generously to promote sport both on and off the pitch. With the demise of the company, the development of sports infrastructure and sport itself has stagnated and degenerated. The quality of performance has plummeted in many cases.
Besides major repairs to seriously dilapidated infrastructure, some facilities have to be built from scratch.
The would-be grand venue to host both the opening and closing ceremonies, the 44-year-old Independence Stadium in Lusaka, has in recent years been mainly a disgrace. It is outdated and is currently shut for ‘refurbishment’. But so far the repair work has not started and the venue must be ready by the end of next year. Lengthy tender procedures have delayed the project that, among others, involves the construction of swimming pools; ultra-modern multi-purpose sports complex and 15 indoor sports facilities.
Except for the construction of hostels with a 3,000 bed capacity to house athletes and a steel perimeter fence that is already underway at the University of Zambia (UNZA) campus in Lusaka, little else has taken concrete form in terms of infrastructural developments for the games.
More accommodation will be required to cater for all the 8,000 athletes expected for the games. The plan is to muster some of that capacity from educational institutions around Lusaka.
The cash outlay required to repair decaying facilities and to construct new ones plus the hosting costs is estimated at around US$500,000 million.
The tentative financing plan is for the government to fork out K446 billion with another K40 billion coming from the International Olympic Committee (IOC). Corporate partners will provide K31.5 billion and the remaining K93 billion will be secured through fund raising.
Recently, Zambia held a three-day conference in Lusaka on the games attended by leading officials of the Supreme Council for Sport in Africa (SCSA) and Zone Six. It was after the meeting that Chipungu gave assurances that the country will successfully host the games. Zambia won the bid to host the games in April 2005 with the early momentum provided by the late president Levy Mwanawasa.
The general enthusiasm endures and is unlikely to flag since the country’s new President Rupiah Banda is an enthusiastic sports fan who has been involved in sports administration at a higher level. It was his company that helped organise professional contracts in Europe for Zambian footballers; he has managed a professional boxer Lottie Mwake and has been leader of the first group of travelling national soccer team supporters. In the weeks and months ahead, it will increasingly be action not grand-standing that will be required to make the games a success.
Previously, Zambia’s attempts to host the 1988 African Cup of Nations ended in disaster. Zambia had to withdraw as hosts for lack of funds, attracting a hefty fine from CAF and the tournament was shifted to Morocco. In preparations to host the competition, Zambia demolished what was perhaps its best multi-purpose sports stadium, the Dag Hammarskjeold at Ndola to build a new one. The stadium has never been rebuilt.