As Botswana prepares to host the 2nd edition of the Africa Youth Games (AYG) this coming year, the Chairperson of the Botswana Africa Youth Games Organizing Committee (BAYGOC), Ms Regina Sikalesele-Vaka, is optimistic that the country will host a spectacular event.
With more than 4000 athletes from 52 African countries expected to grace the event, the games, which will be the biggest the country will have ever hosted, will pose a challenge to the organizers.
Factor in the number of spectators from within Africa and from the rest of the world, the event promises to give Botswana the grandest of stages to showcase her capability to the international world. With the magnitude of this event placed in this perspective, the BAYGOC chairperson believes that if the games are hosted successfully, they can catapult Botswana into the international arena.
Speaking in an interview with Standard Sport, the BAYGOC chairperson said in view that they are determined to ‘host games to remember for Botswana’.
According to Sikalesele-Vaka, so far, a master plan of what is really needed to host the games has been laid and the BAYGOC will now be pushing on to recruit the secretariat to deal with the day to day organization of the games.
“For our master plan, we had a consultant from the United States Olympic Committee (USOC) to help us draw the plan. It has been done and now we are at the recruitment stage where we will now employ a permanent secretariat to deal with its day to day execution. This is because as you are aware, members of the BAYGOC have full time jobs and they cannot deal with the day to day execution of the games,” the BAYGOC chairperson explained.
According to Sikalesele-Vaka, the committee’s expectation is that the secretariat must be fully operational by the end of August this year. She said once in office, the secretariat will be expected to start work on issues like accreditations, accommodations, flight plans, security as well as the issue of visa applications.
“Our expectation is that before Christmas holidays this year, we should have a clear vision of how things will be, come the day of the games,” Sikalesele-Vaka explained.
On whether Botswana has capacity to host the games, the BAYGOC chairperson said she has no doubt that the country has what it takes, adding that where there is a need, they will rope in experts from outside the country.
“Ever since 1997, the government has embarked on a strategic position to build stadia and infrastructure around the country. So, in terms of infrastructure, we have the capacity to host. In respect to human resources or capacity, if you look at us today as a nation, we have various Batswana heading big local institutions, be private companies, financial institutions and or government institutions. As such, we have the capacity,” she explained.
She added: “Where we do not have the ability, we will rope in companies from outside the country but have resolved that whoever we rope in will partner with a local company as a way of building capacity. As such, knowledge and skills will be imparted to the locals.”
According to Sikalesele-Vaka, the committee will also rely on the help from the Olympic family, which has opened their hearts to helping Botswana host successful games.
“At the moment, I can tell you that Germany has committed to extending to Botswana a resource person to help our athletes. We are also expecting to have someone from Brazil who has been involved in game hosting preparations. Countries like Poland and China have invited us to the games they will be hosting to benchmark how things are done. Apart from these, the Association of National Olympic Committees of Africa (ANOCA) has established a commission of six people to monitor and help with the implementation of the games while the Olympic Committee is also keen to help, so we have an overwhelming support from the Olympic family,” she added.
Meanwhile, the BAYGOC Chairperson said athletes coming to the games will be competing in 16 games and 5 optional games. While there were still question marks over whether some games, more especially water sports, like canoeing and rowing, will still be part of the games, Sikalesele-Vaka said there is still time before everything can be confirmed.
“We have given all sporting codes that will be competing in the games to have made their submissions by mid July this year. What we expect is that they would have come to the country, inspected the facilities and made reports and submissions on whether things are going well. As part of the submissions, they will also have to make recommendations as to where we need to improve,” she said.
Quizzed on how the hosting of such games will benefit Batswana, Sikalesele-Vaka said Batswana should not expect any short term benefits from the games.
“The impact will be felt in the long run. If we host successful games, we will open doors to host even bigger events. These games will also give people from outside Botswana to get to know the country better. As such, we will be working with stakeholders such as the Botswana Tourism Organization (BTO) so as to help the world appreciate what Botswana has to offer,” she explained, adding that this is to go along with the theme of the games, which will be, ‘Unifying the Youth, Diversifying Botswana’s Economy.’