Accra, Ghana (PANA) - The 2nd edition of the ECOWAS Under-23 Games opened in Accra, Ghana, Saturday, with Vice President, John Dramani Mahama calling on stakeholders to invest in sports to improve income generation and job creation in the region.
“Sport has become big business and a great revenue earner both for individuals and corporation organizations,” the Vice President said as he flagged off the Games, adding that the region should use sport as a tool to change its negative reputation as a “region noted for wars and conflicts” by positively engaging its teeming young population in sporting activities.
He said since governments alone cannot fully exploit the sporting opportunities that abound, in the face of myriad of competing demands, effective public-private partnerships to develop the sector and maximize its limitless potentials is the answer.
Apart from promoting peace, unity and friendship among West African youth, he said the region should also use sport to improve fitness and correct the modern sedentary lifestyle of citizens, which has resulted in high prevalence of health conditions such as cancers and heart diseases.
The Vice President commended the ECOWAS Commission for sponsoring and promoting the Games, coordinated by its Ouagadougou-based ECOWAS Youth and Sports Development Centre.
He called on the sportsmen and women to go beyond competing for laurels and forge lasting bonds of friendships in line with the theme of the second of edition of the biennial regional Games – “Promoting Peace and Unity among ECOWAS Youth through Sports.”
In an address on behalf of ECOWAS Commission President Kadre Desire Ouedraogo, Commissioner for Human Development and Gender Adrienne Diop urged the athletes to adopt Excellence, Camaraderie, Solidarity and Fair Play as abiding ethos.
Tracing the background of the competition to the July 2008 adoption of the Games by the ECOWAS Ministers of Youth and Sports, the Commissioner said the Games seek to bring together young sportsmen and women to compete in the field of sports and improve performances, thereby involving them in the building and sharing the common ideals of regional integration.
The objectives of the ECOWAS Games, she said, are in line with those of the ECOWAS Vision 2020 for transformation from an ECOWAS of States to an ECOWAS of People.
In his address of welcome, Ghana’s Minister of Youth and Sports Clement Kofi Humado said sport should be used to further
peace, love and friendship, especially among young people who are the region’s leaders of tomorrow.
He urged the sportsmen and women to be disciplined and professional, and to cherish the Olympic values, while the officials should be fair and firm.
Highlights of the opening ceremony included the hoisting of the ECOWAS, Olympic and Ghana’s Flags, lighting of the Games’ Flame, march past by contingents of participating countries and a gymnastic display by performers from the Global Art Centre, Ghana.
Some 1,740 athletes, 315 coaches and handlers as well as 465 officials from the 11 participating Member States are featuring in the week-long competition, due to end 22 June.
The 11 participating countries, out of the 15 ECOWAS Member States, are Benin, Burkina Faso, Cote d’Ivoire, Ghana, Liberia, Mali, Niger, Nigeria, Senegal, Sierra Leone and Togo.
Meanwhile, Nigeria - which hosted and won the inaugural edition of the games in 2010 - began the defence of its title on a good note by winning the first gold medal at the Games.
Miss Agber Shimbmengey clocked 2 minutes, 10.51 seconds to beat all comers in the 800m women’s race that flagged off the biennial Games at the El-Wak Sports Stadium, Accra.
Ghana’s Agnes Abu and Rita Luonab took the silver and bronze medals in 2:12.35 and 2:16.65 respectively.
In the 1,500m men’s event, Ghana’s Sampson Azumah (3:57.14) and Bright Attah-Gyamfi (4:03.63) clinched gold and silver respectively, ahead of Nigeria’s David Banabas, who got the bronze in 4:04.19.
-0- PANA SEG 17June2012