Countries have infrastructure but not the faith
AS THE the world grapples with the Covid-19 pandemic, especially countries like India, where the Indian Premier League (IPL) was postponed this week, African nations could struggle to host events in the near future.
While the infrastructure is in place in many African countries, the ability to welcome sportspeople from a multitude of nations remains the biggest concern.
The IPL is one of the biggest money-spinners in world sport, but despite the tournament being held in a bio-secure environment, the incredible spread of Covid-19 in India forced the hand of the organisers. Though India, at 3.4 million active cases as of Tuesday, is more than 10 times the total active cases on the entire African continent, it serves as a warning of the potential catastrophe that could await if the spread is not contained.
In fact, Kenya was due to host the World Athletics Under-20 Championships in Nairobi in July. However,
World Athletics was forced to postpone the event back in March. Travelling to the East African country would be problematic with all the nations involved, due to Covid-19, World Athletics said.
While this event pales in comparison to a spectacle like the Tokyo Olympics, it shows that even in much smaller numbers, African countries will have little faith shown in them during the pandemic.
The Covid-19 numbers in the host country may not even factor into the equation due to the global situation. Kenya, as a matter of fact, had 48 701 active cases as of Tuesday, which is the second-highest number recorded in an African nation.
Internal events, however, seem to be going ahead once more. At the weekend, Ethiopia held its Olympic marathon qualifiers – and no new infections were recorded at the event.
South Africa, too, held its national half marathon championships over the weekend without any hitches. The Rainbow Nation is probably the best position to host major in
sporting events, given its infrastructure and relatively low Covid-19 active cases. On Tuesday, South Africa had 21 951 active cases.
South Africa has been through its second wave, with the active cases peaking at 239 799 on January 11. The date is significant as it was just over a month after the England men’s cricket team abandoned their tour to South Africa midway through the series.
On December 7, the One-day International series was scrapped before it had begun, due to members of the England squad testing positive for Covid-19. It would later emerge that the results were false positives, but the England Cricket Board (ECB) had made the decision to leave Southafrica when the news came to light.
This demonstrates that international sports bodies need little fuel before deciding to pull out of major events.
Ashley Giles, the ECB director of men's cricket, said: “These guys have been living in bubbles for long periods of time and their mental health and well-being is the absolute priority for us.
“I think we felt ultimately focusing on a game of cricket, and trying to squeeze two games into two days when this had been going on in the background, was going to be particularly difficult and we were better off calling it and looking to rearrange these fixtures at a better time.”
The Australian cricket team were also due to travel to South Africa for a three-test series in March, but hopped on the bandwagon and cancelled their tour barely a month before. Incidentally, Australia cancelled their tour in early February when SA’S active cases had dropped to under 100 000.
Meanwhile, African countries have had no problem participating in international competitions on the continent during Covid-19. Last year alone, Cameroon successfully hosted the African Nations Championship (Chan) soccer tournament in January and February. Though some sides reported Covid-19 outbreaks within their squads, the players were swiftly removed from the tournament and most players were able to carry on without any problems.
As it stands, there is the infrastructure in countries like South Africa, Kenya, Cameroon and even Egypt to host major sporting events.
Whether countries outside Africa will be willing to travel to the mother continent is another question.