The national Paralympics’ Games are finally here.
The games, which have been facing severe financial shortages, will finally be held on Friday and Saturday next week at the University of Botswana (UB) Stadium.
The two-day event, which should have been held in August this year, had to be postponed to the 12th and 13th of November to give organizers time to source enough funds to host them.
Speaking in an interview with Standard Sport, Paralympic Association of Botswana (PASSOBO) secretary general, Tendani Magazine, said preparations are at an advanced stage to host the games.
“We have met our financial target of the money required and we are now looking forward to the games,” Magazine told Standard Sport.
She says after realizing that their money was not enough, they embarked on a fundraising crusade, which involved three sponsored walks. The first of these was a 72 km sponsored walk from Lobatse to Gaborone with the last being from the Mass Media Complex to Phakalane Mall this past weekend.
As has been the norm in the past four years, Magazine says Standard Chartered Bank will be on board as the games’ main sponsor. She says the bank’s sponsorship, which is in the form of paying for feeding athletes, paying for sports facilities, medals as well as advertising, among others things, accounts for 50 percent of the games expenses and is estimated to be worth over P200 000.
The rest of the sponsorship is sourced from the Botswana National Sports Council (BNSC) annual grant as well as through fundraising events by PASSOBO.
On the actual games, Magazine informed Standard Sport that they are expecting more than 300 athletes to take part in this year’s national games. “At least 312 athletes and 99 officials have already confirmed their participation in the games. Another 50 are expected to confirm their participation before the games begin next week,” the PASSOBO secretary general said.
The athletes will be expected to compete in track events as well as ball games. Magazine says the track events will be held on the first day of the games while the ball sports will be on Saturday.
She added that the ball games will include football, netball, volleyball and basketball.
While other sports are facing uncertainty due to the ongoing teacher, government standoff, Magazine expressed happiness that teachers have shown courtesy towards the Paralympics by deciding to accompany athletes to the games.
Magazine implored Batswana to come to the games in large numbers, not only to enjoy but also to support the athletes, adding that the games will mark the start of their preparations for the London 2012 Paralympics games. “We will have, among others guests, people from the International Paralympics Committee (IPC) who will be here to assess how best they can help us ahead of London 2012,” Magazine said.
The games, which will be officially opened by the Minister of Youth, Sports and Culture, Shaw Kgathi, are expected to be graced by Standard Chartered Bank Chief Executive Officer, David Cutting, The Vice Chairperson of BNSC board Dr Nomsa Mbere, the Representative of People with Disability at Office of the President, Thomas Motingwa, officials from Paralympics associations in the region as well as officials from BNSC and the Botswana National Olympic Committee.