Bring on the Games
49 years ago the first All Africa Games were held in Brazzaville, Republic of the Congo. Next year, the 50th anniversary of the games, the All Africa Games will return to the city that gave birth to them. Congo-Brazzaville is hosting the games in style, hiring French-Spanish architectural firm Independent Architectural Diplomacy (IAD) to build the athletic village. Village might be an understatement. IAD is constructing a city that spans both sides of the Congo River, which flows through Brazzaville. When completed, the stadium will be able to seat 68,406 spectators. On top of that, IAD is building two Olympic-class training fields and a multi-purpose arena that can hold over 10,000 fans. Besides these facilities, IAD is constructing a whole town to house 2,000 people and a hotel complex to take care of spectators.
IAD has paid special attention to building facilities that match traditional patterns and using materials local to this region of the Republic of the Congo. The winding and sinuous architecture of the village mimics the meandering path of the mighty Congo River. In the past, sports events such as these were used for political and nationalistic ends. The 2015 games will try to highlight African unity.
Republic of the Congo hopes to improve on its final tally of 7 medals from the 2011 All Africa Games held in Maputo, Mozambique. None of the 8 unfortunately were gold. They scored Silver Medals in Women’s Handball and Men’s Kumite Karate while the rest of their medals were bronze. In terms of number of medals, 2011 was Congo’s best performance. That said, the last time one of their athletes won Gold was Yang Fen in Table Tennis back in 2007. Meanwhile, perennial front runners like Egypt and Nigeria have 463 and 334 Gold medals respectively.
Football (a.k.a. soccer) is the number one sport in the Republic of the Congo yet they haven’t fared well at previous All Africa Games. They’ve also failed to qualify for the World Cup. Despite that, Congo won Gold in football at last fall’s 7th Francophone Games, defeating Morocco in the finals. The national team—named the Diables Rouge (Red Devils)—have performed well in other football tournaments. They’ve reached the finals of the African Nations Cup six times and won…back in 1972.
Hosting the 2015 All Africa Games is a prodigious task, but the Republic of the Congo has risen to meet the challenge. Last year, President Denis Sassou N’Guesso announced the launch of the Infrastructure World Initiative. The IWI provides the opportunity for Congo to work with international corporations and allow for infrastructural developments. Congo is a country rich in natural resources, but Sassou N’Guesso is keenly aware that resources run out. A viable economy cannot be based solely on selling their oil, gas, cobalt and copper. It requires diversification. With the country at peace, its GDP growth over 6% and a highly literate population, the Republic of Congo hopes to utilize the 2015 All Africa Games as a means to ignite the economy, much like the original 1965 games had.