THE African Union Region 5 Under-20 Youth Games finally roar into life in Bulawayo today with sport lovers ready for a nine-day extravaganza that kicks off with two football matches at Barbourfields and Luveve stadiums.
Four football matches have been lined up for Barbourfields and Luveve stadiums starting this afternoon at 2pm.
Being the hosts, Zimbabwe Young Warriors will take on Mozambique in the first match at Barbourfields Stadium while at Luveve Young Chipolopolo of Zambia will face Amajita of South Africa at the same time.
At Luveve the Young Gladiators, Namibia’s women’s football team will face Mighty Warriors while Basetsana of South Africa will play against Zebras of Botswana in the next match.
Boxers will have their weigh-in this morning from 8am to 10am with the competition starting tomorrow at 2pm.
Most matches are scheduled to start tomorrow with basketball at ZITF Hall 4, netball at White City Stadium and football at Luveve and Barbourfields.
Meanwhile, the White City Stadium tartan track has been laid 100% although there fears that rains could disrupt the drawing of lines ahead of the athletics competition scheduled to start on Monday.
African Union Sports Council Region 5 secretary-general Mvuzo Mbebe said this after taking six ministerial officials from participating countries through a tour of the games venues yesterday.
Mbebe said the sport ministers from Zimbabwe, Angola, Namibia, Botswana, Swaziland and Lesotho who toured the facilities were impressed, but his main worry was the drawing of lines on the White City track, which could be affected by rains.
“As you have seen, they (the ministers) are very satisfied, but there are still concerns about the track,” he said.
“Overall, they are impressed and they are saying Zimbabwe has done a very good job. The main concern and the only thing that can disrupt is the rain. If there are no heavy rains, I am sure we will start on Monday.”
Another concern from one of the ministers was the expertise on the drawing of the lines, but Mbebe allayed the fears and said a surveyor would do the drawing of the lines and it would be certified by the International Association of Athletics Federation.
Addressing the ministers, Mbebe said: “If they work hard it should take them a day to do the lines, but we have given them two days that is Saturday and Sunday.”
The ministers took their tour to the Bulawayo Athletic Club, the venue for tennis where they did not take even two minutes to inspect the courts, an indication they were impressed.
They then went to the ZITF which will host basketball where only one court was ready, with the other two awaiting equipment that was scheduled to arrive last night.
“The trucks with the equipment should be in Pretoria (from Durban) and they should be here tonight (yesterday). They should be done by tomorrow (today),” Mbebe said.
Basketball is supposed to start tomorrow. Ministers raised concerns at the non-availability of lockers at the changing rooms at ZITF. The venue for judo at the ZITF has been completed and the discipline starts on Monday.
After ZITF, the ministers were taken to the Bulawayo City Pool where the old pool has been refurbished and a new one constructed.
They then went to the Large City Hall which will host boxing which starts tomorrow before going to Barbourfields Stadium which will host football beginning today.
Barbourfields will be the venue of the official opening ceremony of the games on Sunday by President Robert Mugabe.
The ministers were then taken to Luveve Stadium which will host football before they were taken to White City Stadium, which was a major cause for concern.
Earlier in the day, local organising committee chairperson Khonzani Ncube said the deferment of the games to today was necessitated by waiting for the arrival of the sport ministers from the participating countries to tour the facilities.
“We are expecting a number of ministers from countries arriving today to tour the venues,” she said.
“All the athletes are here. We have identified training grounds and they are acclimatising. The surfacing at BAC will be done by tonight (yesterday) and the laying of the mat at the basketball courts will be done by tomorrow (today).”