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It is okay to be happy

30, 3, 2024

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If people were in a charitable mood, there would be general agreement that Ghana won the All African Games, Accra 2023, which ended on Saturday.

After all, the belief here is that the most important sport in the world is football, and we won both the men's and women's football competitions at the Games. 

Both the Black Satellites and the Black Princesses delivered and gave us gold. They are the continental Under-20 football champions. 

On other occasions, I have heard it said that you can win everything else, but without the football, you have not done anything. So, here we are with gold in both the men's and women's football at the African Games and there are some still trying to dampen the joy we feel at the success of the Games. Surely, we can say that both in the performance of our sportsmen and women and in the organisation by our officials and the government, we have done well. 

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I was quite satisfied to simply stick with the bare facts; we had delivered Ghana’s best performance ever at the African Games, with 68 medals, consisting of 19 gold, 29 silver and 20 bronze. 

I was quite satisfied to simply stick with the judgement of the visiting sporting officials who proclaimed our facilities and organisation to be top class and the Egyptian President of the African Hockey Federation who told off the South Africans in the most satisfying manner. 

I took notice that the visiting Nigerians, officials, journalists and athletes, all proclaimed themselves to be satisfied with the facilities, the organisations and the food. (Nigerians and Ghanaians are usually mutually reluctant to praise each other.) 

But our nitpickers are not satisfied. 

Winnifred Ntumi won gold in Weightlifting at the African Games

Winnifred Ntumi won gold in Weightlifting at the African Games

Host and win

The brightest and most intellectual amongst them say that research shows that usually when countries stage the African Games, the host nation wins. They would have us believe we shouldn’t really be rejoicing because Ghana as host nation came sixth on the medal table. 

I am afraid there is nothing that anyone can say that would dampen my spirits about the Games and I am willing to bet that anybody who took the time and attended any of the events would be feeling the same way as I am feeling. 

I went to the track and field events at the newly completed Legon sports stadium. I watched and screamed with joy as Ghana won the women’s high jump on Tuesday and was transported to unknown heights as we won the men’s high jump on what became our golden Friday. I groaned when the sprint relays did not go the way I had hoped but I knew losing some came with the territory. 

As things turned out, the Arm Wrestlers retained their status as our lead medal-winning event, with 41 medals. 

The more I looked at the medal table, the more I came to the conclusion you did not top the medal table with performances in high-profile sports like football or track and field. 

There are more than 100 medals on offer in Swimming alone at the Olympic Games, which is why swimming nations like Australia and the USA always race to the top of the medal table at the beginning of the Games. 

Egypt illustrated this point very well with their great performance at the Games and topping the medal table with 191 medals, comprising 102 gold, 47 silver and 42 bronze. Most of the Egyptian gold came from Weightlifting, Arm Wrestling, Swimming, Karate, Wrestling and Table Tennis, hardly the type of games Ghanaians swoon over. But Egypt dominated the medals table.  

It is worth considering the fact that one Egyptian swimmer Marwan Elkamash won five gold medals in the men’s 200m, 400m, 800m, 1,500 and 4x200m relays all in freestyle. He also won a silver as part of the team that finished second in the men’s 4x100m freestyle relay and the 4x100m medley relay. 

There is one gold medal for the winning football team. 

So, I suppose we can decide what we want in these competitions and aim at topping the medal table or concentrate on the games that we know and love. 

Arm Wrestling

There I was last week, trying to get my mind around Arm Wrestling and the medals that there were to win. Now I have discovered an even more, dare I say, interesting game as I scrolled through the various games that were on offer at the various event centres. 

Now, raise your hands, all those who have ever heard of Pickleball. I am afraid my hands would have to stay firmly down. Just in case others like me do not know about Pickleball, I thought I might introduce you to it. 

After all, Ghana won three bronze medals in Pickleball at these Games and this was the first time it was played at the African Games. 

I did not go to watch any of the Pickleball matches but this is what I have found out about it. 

Pickleball is a racket or paddle sport in which two players or four players hit a perforated, hollow plastic ball with paddles over a 34-inch-high net until one side is unable to return the ball or commits a rule infraction. Pickleball is played indoors or outdoors and comes in Singles, Doubles and Mixed Doubles. (Many medals are at stake here.)

Simple

According to those who know, the rules of the game are simple and it is easy for beginners to learn. I was relieved to learn that the clothing is not complicated or expensive. Pickleball players wear just about anything comfortable and appropriate for the climate, athletic shorts, sweatpants and t-shirts. You might be seeing me on the courts.

Obviously, now that the Games are over, the lasting arguments will be over the many facilities that we now have in the country. 

Shall we accept that we need to be able to attract various sporting competitions to be staged in our country and that we wouldn’t be doing them a favour if they came?

Shall we accept that there is a competition out there to host sporting competitions?

Shall we accept that the facilities need to be used and maintained, otherwise they would deteriorate? 

Shall we accept that sport is not just entertainment but can be and often is very much a bread and butter, and beans and gari matter? 

Shall we accept that the African Games we have staged have been a success and we can and should build on it and stop trying so hard to find fault and run it down?

It really doesn’t hurt to admit that the government got something right and it is okay to be happy.


Source: Graphic Online

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