“More than 200 million US dollars have already flowed into the project,” Dan Kwaku Yeboah told DW. “The construction work is ongoing. And despite the economic challenges, the government is one hundred percent determined that Ghana will host the games,” emphasizes the spokesman for the organizing committee of the African Games in Ghana’s capital Accra.
The doubts about the multimillion event had recently grown. The West African country is in the middle of a severe economic crisis. Inflation was a good 40 percent in April, and food costs shot up by almost 60 percent. This puts many people under pressure in their everyday lives in Ghana. The government in Accra, which was recently unable to repay international loans, is also feeling the effects, which further aggravated the situation.
Economic aid deal with conditions
Against this background, the relief that is spreading in faraway Washington DC at the end of May is palpable. Ghana gets three billion US dollars from the International Monetary Fund (IMF) to stabilize its economy. The deal was completed in a “record time” of just a few months, emphasizes Ken Ofori-Atta, Ghana’s finance minister. The IMF representative for Ghana, Stephane Roudet, points to the conditions that the West African country has to meet: “One of the key elements is the very extensive and ambitious budget consolidation program.” Ghana’s government needs to get its spending under control and at the same time increase revenues, otherwise no money will come from the IMF.
This triggers skepticism even among those who basically see Ghana’s hosting role positively, like sports journalist Michael Nsiah Otchere: “I don’t think there will be financial means to ensure that we host the games or that we can even be good organizers.” , he explains in a DW interview with a view to the IMF deal. Even if the largest investments have already been made, the alignment still entails considerable costs. After all, the African Games are the largest multisport event on the continent. More than 5000 athletes from 55 nations are expected in Ghana. For nine of the 25 sports, including swimming, cycling and basketball, the competitions also serve as qualification for the Olympic Games in Paris 2024.
Problems delay the appointment
Due to the problems, the games have already been postponed. Instead of August 2023, Africa’s athletes are now to meet in Ghana in March 2024, as the organizers advertise with a first clip on social media.
Resident and sports fan Betty Yawson even considers this new schedule to be ambitious: “2024 is just around the corner. And at the moment it doesn’t look like we’re ready.” The Borteyman sports complex in particular resembles a large construction site. In order to shorten the work there, the organizers are already thinking about realizing an outdoor competition pool instead of the planned indoor swimming pool.
In addition, the mood among the construction workers is bad, sports journalist Otchere describes his impressions of a visit to the Legon Stadium. “They refuse to speak publicly, but behind the scenes they complain bitterly that they have been working all the time but have not been paid.” Otchere and Yawson agree that with an enormous financial and organizational effort, it is conceivable that Ghana will host the games somehow. “But I don’t think we’ll make a lasting impression with that,” says Yawson. In addition to the organizational problems, there is simply a lack of appropriate marketing. “We failed to let the world know that Ghana are hosting the games.”
More of a construction site than a sports facility: the Borteyman sports complex in April 2023
Fate of Para Games unclear
The government and the organizing committee in Accra are undeterred. Backed by the $600 million first tranche of IMF financial assistance, they want to stay on as hosts. “Time is now our greatest enemy,” admits OC spokesman Yeboah. This is all the more true because Ghana is not only set to host the 13th edition of the Africa Games, but also a real premiere: the African Para Games. The competitions for disabled athletes from across Africa are scheduled for early September.