Harare – Newly-Appointed International Olympic Committee (ioc) Athletes Commission boss, Kirsty Coventry, says the decision by the ioc to approve plans targeting African cities as potential hosts for the fourth edition of the Summer Youth Olympic Games in 2022 is huge for the continent and the opportunities this provides are enormous.
The 34-year-old Zimbabwean, the most decorated African Olympian in history ‑ with three gold, three silver and one bronze medals won at the 2004 and 2008 Olympic Games ‑ has become an influential figure for women and athletes across the continent.
Coventry, who is at the Winter Olympic Games in Pyeongchang in South Korea embracing her role as the IOC Athletes Commission boss, as well as an African role model, has been singing songs in support of the athletes from the continent taking part at the Winter Games and also exploring opportunities for Africa.
When the IOC announced plans to consider African cities as potential hosts for the fourth edition of the Summer Youth Olympic Games in 2022, Coventry jumped onto the bandwagon calling on the continent to embrace the opportunity.
“This is big for Africa! The opportunity this presents is enormous,” Coventry announced on her official Facebook page.
While Africa has hosted the FIFA World Cup finals, which were staged in South Africa in 2010, the continent has never hosted any of the Olympics’ big events.
The South African city of Durban even passed on the opportunity to host the 2022 Commonwealth Games after the government couldn’t provide financial guarantees and some commitments, which the port city had made when it won the bid, had not been met.
Even a revised budget presented by Durban, amid concerns that the cost of hosting the Games would be too much, could not get the support of the Commonwealth Games Federation who decided that the showcase is moved elsewhere.
Coventry believes Coventry will return to the Commonwealth Games, where she won her first international medal in Manchester in 2002, to set herself on the path of greatness which was sealed at the 2008 Olympic Games in China.
“We’ve started to have conversations as a country,” Coventry told insidethegames at the IOC Session in South Korea.
“It’s definitely something that the athletes, the Zimbabwe Olympic Committee, the sports ministry and even the President (Emmerson Mnangagwa) are supportive of.
“I think it’s now about coming up with a proper strategy on how we do that.
“We’ve got to gain that confidence, trust and respect back from the Commonwealth. I think on the sports side, it will be a lot easier to rejoin.On the political side, there is obviously a lot to it, but maybe sport can lead the way and I’m hoping that is what will happen.”
Zimbabwe withdrew from the Commonwealth in December 2003. Coventry has also been rallying for support for African athletes who are part of the Winter Olympics in South Korea.
“Africa is being represented at the Winter Olympics in alpine skiing, bobsleigh, cross-country skiing and skeleton. Check out who will be competing and let’s give them our support,” she wrote on her Facebook page.
“Eritrea – Shannon Abeda (alpine skiing); Ghana – Akwasi Frimpong (skeleton); Kenya – Sabrina Simader (alpine skiing); Madagascar – Mialitana Clerc (alpine skiing); Morocco – Adam Lamhamedi (alpine skiing); Samir Azzimani (cross-country skiing); Nigeria – Akuoma Omeoga (bobsleigh), Moriam Seun Adigun (bobsleigh), Simidele Adeagbo (skeleton); South Africa – Connor Wilson (alpine skiing) and Togo – Alessia Afi Dipol (alpine skiing) and Mathilde Amivi Petitjean (cross-country skiing).
“Good luck to all our athletes.”
A number of African countries are set to be considered to host the 2022 Summer Youth Olympic Games after the IOC felt it was time they looked at the virgin territory of Africa. The Summer Youth Olympic Games could be a good start for the continent to gauge its preparedness for such a responsibility.
“The International Olympic Committee approved plans to target African National Olympic Committees (NOCs) as potential host cities of the fourth edition of the Summer Youth Olympic Games (YOG) in 2022,” the IOC said in a statement.
“The decision was made by members at the IOC Session, following the recommendation of the IOC’s Executive Board.
“A targeted approach based on the principle adopted by the IOC Session in 2016 will replace the competitive stage seen for previous YOG host city selections, making the process more streamlined, simpler and shorter.
“Part of this evolution is to ensure the event is accessible to a greater number of cities, which will be encouraged to make full use of existing and temporary venues. The goal is to elect the host city at the next IOC Session, to be held in October 2018 in Buenos Aires, ahead of the YOG.
“This approach has been taken in line with a recent YOG review, to ensure a more impactful and effective concept for young elite athletes, and for host cities.”
The IOC said they will be engaging selected African countries to establish the feasibility of staging the youth showcase on the continent.
“The next few weeks will see the IOC engaging with selected African NOCs to establish the feasibility of staging the Youth Olympic Games 2022,” the organisation said in a statement.
“This will be based on the criteria established by the revised YOG model, including the use of existing infrastructure and affordable temporary fields of play, enhanced flexibility and adaptation to the local context, with the event to be used as a catalyst for wider youth and sport engagement programmes.
“Significant work has already been undertaken by the IOC on the African continent to use sport to protect and invest in young people and drive social transformation, starting with the Youth Olympic Development Centre in Zambia, a facility which supports over 10,000 young athletes, from grassroots through to the international level.”
And IOC president Thomas Bach said he is fully supportive of this initiative.
“Africa is the home of so many very successful Olympic athletes. Africa is a continent of youth. That is why we want to take the Youth Olympic Games 2022 to Africa,” he said in a statement.
“The IOC will proactively approach a number of African NOCs to evaluate the feasibility of such a project.”