03.10.2003 Sports News

Pomp heralds opening of All Africa Games in Abuja

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THE Eighth All Africa Games being hosted by Nigeria in the capital city of Abuja officially opened last Saturday at the newly built Abuja National Stadium with the usual pomp and pageantry that herald such events.

Long spells of cultural displays, gymnastic and artistically choreographed work that depict the history of Abuja, performed by Nigerians from all walks of life and all age groups, were such a spectacle to behold. They were further enhanced by a well illuminated Stadium which has been specially built for the Unity Games.

The presence of the Nigerian President, His Excellency Olusegun Obasanjo, who performed the official opening ceremony, as well as influential heads of all the African international sports controlling bodies including CAF President, Issa Hayatou, could not have made the event richer.

But all that beauty and spectacle was almost marred by the undue delay of the programme, which though was scheduled to start at 6.p.m local time, did not begin until 8.30 p.m.

The situation forced many athletes who had lined up for the ceremonial martch in their respective countries' costumes to abandon the programme and go back to the Games Village, depriving the spectators the rare opportunity of catching a glimpse of what they had to offer.

Another setback to the otherwise splendid show was the long speeches delivered by officials of the Planning Committee (COJA) and others who are lending support of all kinds to the games.

But among the 53 countries that paraded and took the ceremonial march, Ghana's contingent, clad in their ever-rich kente, caught the attention of spectators as they applauded and cheered them on.

With the historic 53 countries on hand for the competition, the event has been described as the biggest in the history of the games, beating those of1999, hosted by South Africa, which also had a massive organisation and celebration of African sports.

In all, 23 events will be competed in, another feat in the annals of the competition. Even though the games officially began last Saturday, the competition got under way with the female and male soccer competitions. The Nigerian Under-23 ladies walloped Zimbabwe 5-0 in their opening match, while South Africa beat Mali 2-0 and Cameroun won 3-0 against Ethiopia. The Nigerian men got off to a good start, beating Zambia 2-0.Boxing and handball which have Ghana competing began yesterday.

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