The 12th African Games, which is being held in Rabat, Morocco with the participation of some 7000 athletes, was officially declared open on Monday with a huge ceremony that made Rabat’s 8pm skies as brilliant as midday’s one.
With 54 African countries participating, the multi-sport event will be staged in seven cities: El Jadida, Khemisset, Rabat, Temara, Salé, Mohammedia and Casablanca. In addition to the athletes, who will be competing for medals in 28 sports, there are 1500 officials (referees and coaches) as well as 2000 volunteers.
The Games will serve as one of the qualifying tournaments for the Tokyo 2020 Olympics and the 16 qualifying events include; rowing, athletics, kayak, weightlifting, swimming, beach volleyball, tennis, archery (which makes its debut at the African Games), cycling, wrestling, judo, taekwondo, canoeing, sports shooting, table tennis and Badminton.
Chess makes a notable return to the competition after eight years, while equestrian also returns after a 12-year hiatus. Gymnastics, on the other hand, is making its second appearance at the Games following its debut four years ago at the African Games in Congo Brazzaville.
Some events, such as judo, beach volleyball and football began 48 hours before the official inauguration of the Games, with the Moroccan judo team winning several medals.
But attention must be drawn to the Games’ favourites, Egypt. They are aiming to be crowned champions for the seventh time in the history of the competition. The Pharaohs prepared 419 athletes for the African Games.
Another serious contender for African Games would be the host nation, Morocco, with over 400 athletes in its squad competing at home with the empowering support of their fans, who are expected to be numerous during the competitions considering that the organisation committee has announced free access for fans to attend the Games.
Nigeria with its big sporting heritage in Africa, its previous 314 medals in the history of the African Games and it’s 427 athletes taking part in this edition would also, as usual, play a main role in the competition.
Also, there are talks about South Africa’s potentials because they have a tradition of never dropping out of the top three since their first participation in 1995. Tunisia, and its 173-athlete delegation, also deserves a mention. Tunisia is fifth in the all-time table of the African Games. Nations like Cape Verde, Comoros and Eswatini, also aim to have their names in the medals table of Rabat 2019 – albeit with very thin squads.
Finally, besides competition, medals and victories, the African Games will present a good opportunity for young athletes to evolve and reach major international events where they can represent their countries. The quadrennial competition also offers athletes the opportunity to meet and get to know each other in order to develop a sense of community and regional integration. The Games are expected to reflect mutual understanding, develop a spirit of fair play, respect and Olympism.