The African Union Sports Council (AUSC) Region 5 Troika of Ministers announced that the rescheduled 2020 Region 5 Youth Games will be held in Maseru, Lesotho in December 2021. The 9th edition of the Region 5 Youth Games is scheduled to run from 3 to 12 December 2021 in Maseru, Lesotho.
The announcement was made following an online Region 5 Troika of Ministers of Sport meeting that was held on Thursday 8 April 2021. The meeting, chaired by Lesotho Minister of Gender, Youth, Sport and Recreation, Honourable Likeleli Tampane was attended by Malawi Minister of Youth and Sport, Honourable Ulemu Msungama and Botswana Minister of Youth Empowerment, Sport and Culture Development, Honourable Tumiso Rakgare.
Speaking after the Troika meeting, the Region 5 Chief Executive Officer, Stanley Mutoya confirmed the Troika resolution on the Games. “It is true, the Games are on from 3 to 12 December 2021 in Maseru, Lesotho”, Mutoya said.
The Games were originally scheduled for 4 to 13 December 2020 in Maseru Lesotho before the COVID-19 pandemic brought all sport to a screeching halt. The Troika of Ministers then met on 31 July 2020 and resolved to shelve the Games due to the ravaging COVID-19 pandemic, with the view to reconvening in January 2021 for further assessment. Unfortunately, the Ministers could not convene in January 2021 as envisaged, due to other pressing commitments.
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 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.
The fact that most countries of 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 in Maseru, Lesotho come December 2021. “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. Mutoya went on to note that 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 9th edition of the region 5 Youth Games have a special significance in that they are designed to prepare athletes for 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 Paris 2024 Olympic and Paralympic Games. “So the Lesotho Games become a conduit and vector for Olympic and Paralympic excellence. We may as well call these Lesotho Games, Paris, via Accra with stop-over in Lilongwe”, Mutoya added.
Mutoya revealed that 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 safety and security of both athletes and officials. The Region is therefore working round the clock to consult key stakeholders among them being regional Sports Confederations for endorsement of the raft of modifications envisaged. Some of these modifications will include a review of the sporting codes to be retained on the Games programme, duration of competitions, number of teams and team sizes. The mode of transport to and from the Games, nature of opening and closing ceremonies including nature and type of accommodation are all areas that will be seriously reviewed in order to ensure that the Games are delivered in a safe environment and in compliance with national and regional COVID-19 protocol guidelines and regulations.
The Region 5 Games have grown to become a key development component and springboard for athletes. Several athletes have passed through these Games key among them being Wayde Van Niekerk (South Africa), Nigel Amos and Naomi Ruele (Botswana) among some notable sporting icons. The Games have also stimulated serious infrastructural development key among them being competition and training venues, roads and mobile
telecommunications infrastructure among others, leaving an imposing legacy for sporting excellence and employment creation.
As the Region braces up for an exciting return of the Games, the call is upon all key stakeholders to get involved in rekindling the lost hope from among our young athletes. While corporates’ budget are restricted, there is still merit in bringing a smile on the faces of the scores of young athletes who will be setting the Paris podiums ablaze in 2024. Their journey starts in Maseru on 3 December 2021. Their journey needs financial, technical and morale cheerleaders who believe in the power of sport and the value of investing in African athletes