Record participation: Unprecedented attendance at Africa Youth Games in Botswana

Record 54 countries. 2500 athletes. 1500 officials. 21 sports disciplines. 13 sports venues. 1 continent.

An entire continent is represented at the ongoing second edition of the African Youth Games in Gaborone, Botswana that commenced on Thursday with the opening ceremony at the National stadium and will go on till May 31.

The Games were opened by the Botswana President Ian Kharma Seretse who praised the role of sport in society and said, ‘Sport is one of the most cross-cutting of all development and peace tools. Through the African Youth Games, we are unifying the youth as well as showcasing their talent.’

Speaking at the Botswana national stadium, Kharma emphasized that, ‘The Games also provide an important platform for our young people to get to know one another and to cultivate mutual respect for each other and for others in the world we live in.’

Kharma reminded all the people present about the plight of the Nigerian schoolgirls who were kidnapped by Boko Haram militants last month, ‘As much as we all intend to enjoy ourselves during this event, let us also remember another group of young people in our thoughts and prayers who are the many young girls who were kidnapped by terrorists in Nigeria.’ 

Kharma was presented with the Order of Valuable Contribution to the Olympic Movement by the president of the Associations of National Olympic Committees in Africa, Lassana Palenfo.

Palenfo said that the 2,500 youths who are representing 54 African nations will certainly inspire the African people to become more active in sports and encourage them to adopt, incorporate and live by the Olympic values of excellence, friendship and respect.

‘These values could offer a fundamental substructure for developing lifelong abilities, skills and talent,’ explained Palenfo.

The ceremony was attended by about 15,000 people with a colourful performance displaying the beauty of Botswana from the renowned wildlife of the savannah – zebras, elephants, lions and kobs to the nice roads and the coveted diamonds to the culture of the Batswana people.

Shouts of joy from the mammoth crowds as they waved and cheered on their countries beautifully clad in impressive traditional African wear from Lesotho’s  lekhokolo  to the Rwandan  umushanana  to the Malian  boubou , it was a beautiful display of cultures.

Fireworks marked the end of the beautiful ceremony that prepared every participant to start the journey of winning medals and for some a place at the world stage.

The continental event is a qualifying event for athletics, basketball and swimming to the second edition of the Youth Olympic Games that will be held in Nanjing, China from August 16-28.

Swimming, judo and table tennis commenced on Friday and volleyball and basketball will roll off on Saturday. Football started hours before the opening ceremony.

The first edition of this event was held in Rabat, Morocco in 2010 with 40 countries competing. 

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