Brazzaville — The All Africa Games return to their roots on Friday
in Brazzaville, Republic of Congo, at a cost of nearly $900 million just on new
The Central African nation staged the first games 50 years
ago, but because it hasn't hosted any other major sports events since then,
there have been fears over whether facilities will be ready and suitable for
the roughly 8,000 athletes who will compete in 20 sports and two demonstration
Construction on roads and venues was going on as recently as
last month, although organizers say they are satisfied that enough has been
done for the 15-day games.
The organizers have also had to overcome other obstacles,
including getting assurances from electricity suppliers that they will be able
to meet demands at the main sports complex newly built by a Chinese construction
company on barren land on the northern outskirts of Brazzaville, a city perched
on the Congo River. Power outages in Africa are common.
Also read: Dream Team, Falcons in Congo
And there's Ebola.
Although Republic of Congo — nestled in the middle of Africa
between Gabon and its huge eastern neighbor Congo — has six countries between
it and the West African Ebola outbreak, there will be precautions for those
traveling to Brazzaville, say organizers.
The city's airport and its main river port, also a common
route into the country, will have Ebola screening stations where anyone
arriving - competitors, officials, spectators - will have their temperatures
"Any suspected cases will immediately be transferred to
equipped facilities," organizers said.
Around 4,000 police, including the gendarmerie military
police, will provide security, Republic of Congo's director general of police
Gen. Jean Francois Ndenguet said.
However, the biggest focus will be the standard of
organization at the Kintele Sports Complex and the main 66,000-seat stadium
with its brown, tortoise-shaped exterior. That stadium will host soccer and
athletics, and was officially opened on Tuesday with a soccer game between
Republic of Congo and Ghana.
Republic of Congo has also rushed to finish a 10,000-seat
indoor arena, a swimming complex, and the 8,000-bed athletes' village in the
Although Nigeria will send 573 athletes and officials, many
countries will have small contingents, and most of Africa's top sports stars
will be missing from the 11th games, which are close on the heels of the
athletics world championships in Beijing.
None of Kenya's gold medalists from Beijing are on its All
Africa Games athletics team, which will be led instead by Olympic bronze
medalists Thomas Longosiwa in the 5,000 meters and Abel Mutai in the
steeplechase. Commonwealth champion James Magut will compete in the 1,500
Ethiopia will send newly crowned 5,000 world champion Almaz
Ayana as its main star.
Wayde van Niekerk, the new 400-meter world champion, was
named on South Africa's squad in July but it's unclear if he will make the trip
after his breakthrough win last week.
Alongside the likes of athletics, basketball, gymnastics,
swimming, and tennis, petanque — a form of the French game boules — has been
included on the schedule by the former French colony. Republic of Congo had
been independent for only five years when it took on the responsibility of
staging the first All Africa Games in 1965.
There are also two demonstration events: The combat sport of
pharaoh boxing and nzango, a Congolese favorite for women, where two teams line
up facing each other and perform rigorous dance routines that are judged by
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