It is all systems go as Lesotho officially starts the African Union Sports Council (AUSC) Region 5 Games Maseru 2020 Youth Games today. Although the tournament kicked-off on Wednesday with inter alia, a soccer game where the National Under-17 soccer team went 0-2 down to Zambia, the official opening of the Games is today.
This follows the handing over of the main arena for the regional games, the Setsoto Stadium by the contractor to the ministry of Gender and Youth, Sports and Recreation (MGYSR).
The stadium went through rehabilitation of the tartan track which was constructed by a South African company, CK industries. CK industries is an agent for Conica AG, a Swiss high-end sports facilities developer.
CK Industries Site Agent, Keith Van Tonder, told Newsday Sports that they are glad to have met the deadline in time despite challenges.
â€œHaving worked day-and-night in order to complete the work in time, we are happy that we met set deadlines despite having limited time.
â€œThe mandate we were given was to finish work by December and today being the first day of the month, here we are officially handing over the track,â€ Van Tonder said.
The project was only for the track and not the turf as the organisers had concluded that there will not be enough time to upgrade the turf because track replacement could not be done concurrently with the turf installation.
Meanwhile, the Games Local Organising Committee (LOC) Deputy Chairperson, Mohale Mabaleha, indicated that expectation is for the turf replacement to be launched early next year.
â€œDue to the limited time we have decided to use the field as it is. Since we already have money allocated, we will replace the turf in January after the Games,â€ Mabeleha said.
Meanwhile, in receiving the newly upgraded facility, Principal Secretary (PS) of the MGYSR â€˜Mamoeketsi Ntho thanked the contractor for his dedication and timely delivery.
â€œI would like to appreciate the dedication and hard-work displayed by the contractor and the timely delivery of these world class facilities. It really brings tears of joy to my eyes when I recall the journey we travelled,â€ the PS said.
The AUSC Region 5 Chairperson Sports Development and Technical Commissioner, Dr Eugenia Chidhakwa thanked the government of Lesotho and the contractor for the timely delivery.
â€œThere was a time that people kept knocking on our doors asking whether we were really going to make the cut in terms of delivery on time but the structure here is intact and we are happy for this timely delivery of the track,â€ Chidhakwa said.
The AUSC Region 5 Maseru 2020 Youth Games should have been staged last year, but were postponed due to the Covid-19 pandemic.
A total of 10 countries including Angola, Botswana, Malawi, Mozambique, Eswatini, South Africa, Namibia, Zambia, Zimbabwe, along with hosts Lesotho are expected to compete in 12 sporting codes in the youth tournament.
Todayâ€™s official opening ceremony is expected to be graced by the presence of only participating athletes and officials as there will be no spectators for the tournament due to Covid-19 restrictions. The games are expected to be broadcast live on Lesotho National Broadcasting Services (LNBS) channel 292 until the closing ceremony on 12 December 2021.