Region 5 games postponed to next year due to the COVID-19 pandemic
The African Union Sports Council (AUSC) Region 5 Youth Games scheduled for Maseru, Lesotho from 4 to 13 December have been postponed by a year.
The Games will now be held in December 2021 with the 2022 Games scheduled for Malawi remaining unchanged.
The decision was reached during the Troika of AUSC Region 5 Ministers of sport virtual meeting held on Friday 31 July.
The Troika is chaired by the Lesotho Minister of Gender, Youth, Sport and Recreation, Honourable Likeleli Tampane (MP) and includes Malawi Minister of Youth and Sport, Honourable Ulemu Msungama (MP) and Botswana Minister of Youth Empowerment, Sport and Culture Development, Honourable Tumiso Rakgare (MP).
The Region 5 Troika of ministers of sport first met on 2 April 2020 to assess the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on the programmes and activities of the Region, including the Youth Games.
Following a thorough assessment of the risk matrix as guided by the Region 5 risk management framework, the ministers then resolved to further assess the situation in July 2020. It was resolved during the April Troika meeting that if the pandemic remained in subsistence by July 2020, then the Games would be postponed to April/May 2021.
The indaba of 31 July 2020 was therefore a follow-up assessment meeting to further assess the state of the impact of the pandemic on the Region 5 Games in line with the decision made in April. In reaching the decision, the Troika was informed by an experts report made by the Games Region 5 Games Medical, Health and Anti-Doping Committee as well as the World Health Organisation (WHO) COVID-19 position paper on considerations for sports events.
Both sets of expert organs provided granular detail on the dangers and implications of hosting Games under the current pandemic which is not expected to abate as soon as desired. It was strongly recommended that Games should only be held in a normal environment for the safety of participants from the hosting and travelling countries.
The Ministers further resolved that a further assessment of the situation be made in consultation with the Lesotho Ministry of Health, COVID-19 National Task Force, WHO and Ministry of Sport experts in November 2020 in order to provide a detailed analysis to be tabled for consideration at the Troika meeting to be held in January 2021.
Should the pandemic remain in existence by January 2021, the ministers resolved that the Games would be cancelled completely to be hosted in December 2022, with Malawi, who are scheduled to host in 2022 being shifted to host the 10th edition in 2024. That decision would however be pronounced only after in-depth consultation by the Government of Lesotho.
The spiking numbers of COVID-19 infections in almost all Region 5 Member Countries continue to be a cause of concern and source of anxiety in the sports movement. This prompted the Ministers to resolve that the current regulations of the Games be revamped to provide adequate preventative measures against any epidemiological outbreaks and response protocols to any outbreaks before, during and after any future Games editions. This will ensure that the Region remains vigilant and ready to prevent and deal with any outbreak episodes that may occur during the preparations and hosting of future Region 5 Games.
In recognition of the crisis in which the world finds itself in, as a result of the COVID- 19 pandemic, the ministers took time to salute and acknowledge efforts by the Governments of the Region to mitigate the impact of this invisible enemy. The ministers further acknowledged the selflessness of the frontline staff in all Member Countries particularly their dedication and sacrifice to save lives and keep economies going at the risk of their own health and safety.
The AUSC Region 5 Youth Games are hosted every two years. Hosting by member Countries is on a mandatory rotational basis in alphabetic order. The first edition of the Games was held in 2004 after a false start by Lesotho and Malawi. The Games have been held consistently since Maputo 2004. The 9th edition, Maseru Games is expected to attract over two thousand athletes and officials who will participate and compete in eleven sports codes for a period of fourteen days.