Close to 700 disabled athletes are expected to grace the National Winter Paralympic Games billed for Gaborone on the weekend of August 15.
The two-day sporting event, which is facing financial uncertainties, is expected to be simultaneously played at the University of Botswana Stadium, Maruapula School grounds and the Gaborone Secondary School grounds to ensure that the games are completed in two days as planned. According to Sello Moses of the Paralympics Association of Botswana (PASSOBO), the event, which is scheduled to take place during the school recess is facing acute financial shortages as sponsors have not yet come on board as expected.
The PASSOBO spokesperson informed Standard Sport that while they have had Standard Bank paying their bills for venues, accommodation and food, they are still in dire need of more sponsors to help as the sport is very expensive and has its athletes in need of special attention.
Moses says the annual event needs committed long term partnerships to see it being very successful. With only two weeks to go, Moses says they are working around the clock to try and ensure the event happens as scheduled. The Winter Paralympics Games attract disabled athletes from schools, Rehabilitation Centers and Associations of people with disabilities around the country.
Athletes coming to the event are expected to compete in various sporting codes, being Athletics, Football, Netball and Volleyball, Goal ball, wheelchair basketball and Wheelchair race.
Moses says disabled athletes competing in the games will include the hearing impaired, visually impaired, physically disabled, Intellectual disabilities and various other disabilities.
Speaking in an interview with Standard Sport, the PASSOBO spokesman said as a buildup towards the games, the association will in the coming weekend undertake an Awareness Raising Sponsored walk campaign in Mochudi to make the country aware of the impending games.
He says the aim of the campaign is to sensitise people on the issues facing disabled people across the country. He lamented that it is still disheartening to see people with disabilities still relegated to backyards and being hidden from the public, adding that their intention of the awareness campaign is to put an end to these tendencies.
Moses says this will also show people the diverse number of activities that are available for disabled people while also showcasing their abilities. The annual event is used to select athletes to represent the country at Paralympics games at international level.
This year’s games will be preceded by an HIV/AIDS and Sports sensitization workshop, which PASSOBO says is convened to impart life skills on disabled people.
According to Moses, his association has realized that information on issues like HIV/AIDS is not readily available to disabled people and their aim is to bridge this gap. He says his association intends to go across the country after the Winter Paralympics to hold games in order to ensure Batswana get to see disabled athletes in action and encourage them to support them. Meanwhile, the PASSOBO will be sending a team of 12 athletes to Zone 6 championships billed for Swaziland in December.
The all athletics team comprises of six male and six female athletes. He says while many codes are expected to participate at the games, Botswana will only be sending an athletics team but will, in the near future, like to send more athletes.