Betway

In my six decades as a junketing sports journalist, I have been privileged to cover numerous top level international sports festivals including four Olympiads and I can say without any exaggeration that it’s no joking matter being the host of a continental sports festival.

It’s a huge responsibility and Ghana cannot afford to toy with preparations to host the upcoming African Games. A host nation of such a gargantuan sports festival would need the services and the contributions of almost the entire working force of the populace to achieve a successful organisation.

Right from the ordinary man in the street, to taxi drivers, hoteliers, security services, hospitality agencies, health personnel and last but not the least the mass media, you will need all of them as a unit in order to obtain a smooth programme.

It is obvious that such sporting extravaganzas thrive on publicity and it’s a big shame that our ministry in charge of sports promotion should wait till barely eight months to the start of the Games before giving the public some indication that all facilities for the festival would be ready by the end of December. Please note that the Games are scheduled for the first week in March 2024.

Being a great optimist, I trust the maxim that says “better late than never”. The nation should trust the assurance given by the Sports Ministry to deliver the goods.

You may say this is not the first time Ghana is hosting a major sports competition. Yes, we have hosted Afcon finals four times, African championships in disciplines like amateur boxing, table tennis, hockey and even a number of world professional boxing title fights but the African Games are in a different category.

We are talking about hosting nearly 5,000 sportsmen and sportswomen from 54 countries the first time in the country’s history. It’s no joke at all. We are racing against time.

The normal practice is the need to organise a dress rehearsal long before the actual event in order to plug any loopholes. As time is not on our side we can conveniently organise some sort of a mini regional competition for selected events. A crash programme, if you like. My view is that since sports thrive on publicity I would suggest the Sports Ministry in conjunction with the ill-equipped Local Organising Committee organise fortnightly press briefings in preparations for the Games.

Ohene Djan succeeded as an astute sports administrator because he ensured adequate publicity for his programmes with regular weekly press conferences. He knew the media would always have something up their sleeves so he was bent on matching political stories in the media boot for boot. When it came to the turn of Lt Col Simpe Asante in the 70s, instead of enjoying the fun in sports journalism, he was rather overwhelmed by the number of sports papers always focusing on the sports Ministry.

He complained bitterly to the Ministry of Information that he was being ambushed by the sporting press but to no avail. The then Information Secretary Col. Tachie Menson held that sports thrive on publicity and all must have a say and enjoy the fun.

Currently, the numerous radio and TV stations devote huge time for sports discussions. The Sports Ministry should take advantage of this free airtime to let the teeming sports fans know what is cooking in the pot.

Political stories will definitely take the lion’s share of news coverage from now till December next year for obvious reasons. It is up to the sports authorities to make their presence felt with regular interactions with the media. After all we also have Afcon and the Paris Olympic Games on the calendar next year.

I am sure my good brother SWAG President Kwabena Yeboah who has covered numerous magnificent sports festivals around the globe since I got to know him closely in 1980, will galvanise his people to give the African Games the high leverage it deserves. The SWAG will be the unofficial hosts of all the foreign media and, no matter how you look at it, the media can make or mar the Games from their point of view. The media’s valuable contribution to the success of such global events should not be underestimated.

The African Games is the biggest sports gathering on the continent and Ghana being a pioneer participant since its inception in 1965, should be able to give a good account of herself both on and off the pitch.

The African Games has an interesting history worth narrating. It is a transformation of what was then known as Friendship Games held biannually among French speaking African countries which began in 1958.

France successfully used the Friendship Games as an effective instrument for holding together her “colonial empire” in Africa. Incidentally, for the third Friendship Games in Dakar, Senegal the French probably for political exigencies in Africa at the time, decided to invite some non-French speaking African nations to join the race. The invited countries included Ghana, Liberia, Nigeria, the UAR (now Egypt) and Sierra Leone.

Ghana sent a token team of nine competitors. Rose Hart won gold in the women’s 80 metres hurdles. Lightmiddleweight boxer Joe Darkey won gold and the men’s sprints relay team of B. K. Mends, Mike Ahey, M.F. Okantey and Bukari Bashiru won bronze.

At a conference of Ministers of Youth and Sports held in Dakar in early 1965, it was decided that the Friendship Games should be expanded and replaced by All Africa Games.

For the records, Ghana was among the participants in the maiden All Africa Games held in Congo Brazzaville in 1965 from July 18-25.

To refresh our memories Ghana sent a contingent of 56 comprising 37 track and field athletes, ten boxers, three tennis players and six officials to the Games.

The women athletes were Rose Hart, Alice Anum, Habiba Attah, Phillip Laryea, Ivy Lamptey, Felicia Agyeiwah and Beatrice Afriyie.
The men were Mike Ahey, B. K. Mends, E.W.K. Donkor, S.F. Allotey, E.C.O Addy, M F. Okantey- sprints.

400m Relay: J.A. Addy, E.Q. Quartey, Sidiku Buari, Owusu Mensah, P K Gyempeh.

800m: E.F. Kessie Ohene Asare

1500m: E.D. Amevor J.L. Kumordzie

5000m: E.K Tam, David Asante

110m hurdles: Ohene Frimpong, S M Botchway

400m hurdles: J. A. Addy, S.A. Badu

Pole Vault: M K. Dawu, F.C Korsah

Long Jump: Mike Ahey, F K Ayivor, J.O Amoah

High Jump: P. O Cruishank, D W. Dotse

Triple jump: J.O. Amoah, F.K Ayivor

Shotputt & Discus Godwin Tengey

Javelin: K. Grumah

Boxing contingent:

Flyweight: Sulley Shittu

Bantamweight: Steve Akushie

Featherweight: Carl Bobo

Lightweight: Sammy Lee

Welterweight: Aaron Poopola

Lightwelterweight: Eddie Blay

Middleweight: Joe Darkey

Lightmiddleweight: R.A. Okine

Light heavyweight: Ben Aidoo

Heavyweight: Tom Arimi

The tennis squad comprised Anthony Dove and Narh Tetteh.

Officials were Peter Renner, team manager; Adjin Tettey, athletics coach; Roy Ankrah, boxing coach; J.S Wontumi. FIFA referee G.W Amarteifio, boxing referee/judge, Hope Agyepong, chaperon, Kobina Hagan, chairman GABA.

Ghana won 12 medals at the Games namely two gold, five silver and five bronze. The two gold medals were won by field athletes who also won three of the five bronze medals. The male athletes took one silver and two bronze. The boxers won one silver and three bronze medals.
The respective medal winners were:

Athletics

1. Rose Hart [80m hurdles] – gold

2. Alice Anum [Long jump] – gold

3. Habiba Attah [High jump] – silver

4. Rose Hart [100m] – silver

5. Alice Anum, Ivy Lamptey, Felicia Agyeiwah, Rose Hart [4x100m relay] – silver

6. J.A. Addy [400m] – silver

7. Mike Ahey, B. K Mends, E.W.K Donkor, M.F.
Okantey [4x100m] – bronze

8. J. A. Addy and F.A. Owusu, E Q. Quartey, Sidiku Buari [4x400m] – bronze

Boxing:

9. Sulley Shittu, Flyweight silver

10. Steve Akushie bantamweight silver

11. Joe Darkey middleweight brinze

12. Thomas Arimi heavyweight bronze

I can confirm a few of these pioneers are still alive and kicking and it would be lovely to see them as special guests at the Games.

I know for sure E.C.O Addy is in town. I am in touch with him on WhatsApp. He has kept a low profile since he lost his dear wife, Prof Ewurama Addy of TV’s Science and Maths Quiz fame a few years ago. Mike Ahey is also in town, so is Habiba Attah who is now seriously into women’s football in the Garden City.
Alice Anum the original “Baby Jet” recently visited home from the US.

I know it will be news to many fans of famous musician Sidiku Buari that he was a top athlete in the early 60s working at the Workers Brigade headquarters in Accra. Oh yes this is down memory lane.

I definitely expect the upcoming African Games to bring fond memories of Ghana’s past as a formidable sporting nation in Africa.

Cheers everybody and keep loving sports.

Source: Ken Bediako

www.sports24ghana.com