The opening ceremony of the 2019 African Games will hold later today at the Prince Moulay Abdellah Stadium in Rabat, signifying the commencement of Africa’s version of the Olympics.
Although events such as beach volleyball, football and judo have already taken place, Tuesday, 20 August marks the first proper day of competition with boxing, handball, rowing, snooker and table tennis all scheduled to begin at the tournament which will run until 31 August.
Morocco offered to host the Games when Equatorial Guinea pulled out over financial problems last year and thus marked their return after a politically motivated 40-year absence stemming from their ban – lifted in 2017 – by the African Union in 1978 over a territorial dispute over Western Sahara.
Rabat 2019 general manager Abdellatif Obbad told Radio France International: “Considering the time we had to organise and welcome all these countries- it is a big operation. It is a challenge that we have embraced, and we will succeed.”
A record 7,000 athletes from 54 nations are expected to compete in 26 sports with the following events – Athletics, rowing, canoeing, karate, swimming, weightlifting, beach volleyball, tennis, cycling, judo, wrestling, taekwondo, table tennis, fencing, sports shooting, archery, badminton and triathlon serving as qualifiers for next year’s Olympic Games in Tokyo.
Nigeria will be represented by 462 athletes and officials at the Games with the country competing in athletics, football, table tennis, tennis, wrestling, weightlifting, badminton, judo, beach volleyball, boxing, canoe-kayak, chess, cycling, gymnastics, golf, handball, karate, rowing, shooting, swimming, basketball, handball and taekwondo.
At the Brazzaville games in 2015, Nigeria fielded 573 athletes and officials in 21 sports as the country finished second with 47 gold, 55 silver and 42 bronze medals behind Egypt which had 85 gold, 64 silver and 65 bronze medals.
Already, Morocco leads the medal table with a total of 10 medals made up of 2 gold, 4 silver and 4 bronze medals.
Nigeria has so far recorded a 1-1 draw against Burkina Faso in the men’s football event last Friday while the women spanked South Africa 3-0 a day later. In the beach volley event, both male and female teams fell at the quarter-final hurdle.
Seventeen venues will be used in total, with the cities of Casablanca, El Jadida and Khemisset playing hosts to athletes alongside Rabat.
The closing ceremony on 31 August will also be staged at the Prince Moulay Abdellah Stadium in Rabat.