Masvingo province must take part in hosting youth games

MASVINGO province, which boasts the country’s oldest city with the same name, is the host of next year’s edition of the Zimbabwe National Youth Games and preparations for these games start in earnest with the induction of the local organising committee (LOC) in a fortnight.

On the Ball with Innocent Kurwa

This is the second time Masvingo will be hosting the games after the city was the venue for the 2004 edition.

The Sports and Recreation Commission southern regional offices are now identifying capable (my own word) people to be members of the LOC. The commission will also be setting up the Masvingo Province Sports Development Committee which will, in turn, spearhead preparations and running of the games next year.

This year’s edition of the games ended about 10 days ago in Bulawayo and Masvingo province certainly deserves to be the host of the next edition after placing second in the just-ended games tallying 10 gold medals, nine silver and three bronze medals. Bulawayo Metropolitan were the highest-placed province with 16 gold, 12 silver and three bronze medals.

Masvingo province, unlike Bulawayo Metropolitan, spreads over a large expanse of land that comprises places like Chiredzi and Triangle in the Lowveld, Gutu-Mpandawana and Nyika in the east and hopefully all these places, or at least some of them, will take part in the hosting of the youth games in one way or another.

The lowveld sugar-cane growing area, for example, has very good sports facilities and, barring the heat and high levels of humidity, could stage some of the athletics competitions while Gutu-Mpandawana and Nyika could share the football competitions.

Gutu-Mpandawana is the country’s second biggest growth point after Gokwe while Nyika is very close to Pamushana High School — a sports powerhouse at schools level — and Bikita Minerals, both of which are able to host some of the competitions.

The lowveld has the necessary accommodation and sports facilities and, if roped in, companies like Tongaat-Hulett’s — the sugar giant that runs Triangle Ltd — should be able to assist with a reasonable amount of sponsorship as part of their corporate social investment.

The lowveld sugarcane farmers who benefited from land redistribution also have the financial ability to assist – during the recent elections they apparently collected and donated well over $300 000 to one of the political parties for its campaign. The youth that attend these games are equally worth the support of these resettled farmers!

There is a lot of time between now and the games next year, so much time that, with willingness and proper planning, games could be shared among several places in the province rather than be the exclusive responsibility of Masvingo City.

Major places in Masvingo – Chiredzi, Triangle, Nyika, Gutu-Mpandawana and even Mwenezi and Chivi — are within easy reach of Masvingo City, in a very short time, as they are all inter-connected with all-weather highways that are in pristine condition. In other words, the competitors can move from one venue to another very easily. In any case, the games can be organised along the lines Olympic Games or the World Cup football tournament are run – preliminary rounds in the major centres of the province and the finals in Masvingo City.

Such an involvement of the whole province will bring several benefits to places like Nyika and Gutu-Mpandawana. There are economic, social and health benefits that can be derived from spreading the games throughout the province. For a few days economic activity in any of these places will pick up while competitors remain in that place. In addition, preparations in the run-up to the games will provide some jobs, albeit of a short-term nature, when venues are built and spruced up.

Venues that remain after the games will also be of great benefit to the local communities in many ways.

Masvingo is also a major tourist attraction, with the Great Zimbabwe and the Gonarezhou National Park main attractions. There is also the nearby Birchenough Bridge, Bangala Dam and Ruti Dam which can be reached easily from Masvingo. The games, therefore, could be used to market these tourist places.

Given that Masvingo has a year in which to prepare for the games it will be unfortunate and indeed sad if some of the shenanigans witnessed in Bulawayo at the last games are repeated.

There is no reason whatsoever to find that some venues will not yet be complete and ready come next year, as happened in Bulawayo. This year was an election year and this possibly distracted the attention of the government people that were helping in organising the Bulawayo games.

There was also the need to fund the elections and, therefore, funds were not available for the games in Bulawayo. There is no election next year and the economy will have, hopefully, recovered from the political uncertainty that goes with elections. In addition, there should be a sizeable amount of money that central government can allocate to the Youth Games next year.

That the games are still a year away also provides organisers with loads of time to market the games to big corporates in Masvingo Province and beyond.

People organising the games in Masvingo should involve as wide a range of people as is possible so there is a wide range of opinions and suggestions, some of which will help tremendously in attaining a high degree of success in the games next year.

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