Ellina Mhlanga Sports Reporter
ZIMBABWE Olympic Committee president Admire Masenda has highlighted the importance of Zimbabwe rejoining the Commonwealth Games, which he said were helpful in preparing athletes for the Olympic Games. Speaking during a courtesy call to the Minister of Sport, Arts and Recreation, Kazembe Kazembe on Monday, Masenda described the Club Games as a bridge to the Olympics.
The ZOC president said with the process starting at national level, then the African Games, building up to the Commonwealth Games and then the Olympic Games, the international multi-sport event was key in preparing athletes for the bigger stage.
“So that progression was very helpful because the gap between the All-Africa Games and the Olympics is very huge. So in-between the only fillers are usually your world championships and so on . . . but the Commonwealth Games for us as a country was a good bridge to going to the Olympic Games or preparing us,” said Masenda.
Zimbabwe voluntarily withdrew from the international multi-sport event involving over 50 Commonwealth Nations in 2003 following a fallout with the organisation. President Mnangagwa’s Government is exploring possibilities of re-engagement with the international community. Kazembe last month told The Herald that the new dispensation had opened doors for negotiations and possible return to the Commonwealth Games.
The minister also told the ZOC delegation that his ministry would follow the Government’s policy and revealed that there are developments going on. “It’s in the process, we are actually working towards that. I can’t really give a timeline because like I told you our programme or our efforts for re-engagements actually follow the Government policy and also the Government efforts.
“So as a ministry we follow behind, but there are a lot of things that are taking place at the moment in as far as re-engagement is concerned at that level. So as a ministry as well, we will try and plan along those lines. But what I can assure you is definitely those plans are there, the re-engagement plans because we can’t be in isolation forever, it doesn’t help anybody. If we are to compete with the rest of the world, we have to engage with the rest of the world. We have to be involved with the rest of the world,” said Kazembe.
On the African Youth Games in July and Youth Olympic Games in October, Masenda said it’s important to ensure the athletes are adequately prepared so that they don’t just participate, but are able to represent the country competitively.
“The key is to ensure that our athletes going to the Africa Youth Games and the Youth Olympic Games prepare adequately. The biggest issue is we should move away from just participation. If we are going to a competition then we are going to compete and for us it’s a key issue . . . We have some resources which are limited, which we will put into the various sporting disciplines to try and ensure that the athletes prepare adequately for participation in the Games. And for us that’s a priority,” said Masenda.
ZOC also had the opportunity to highlight some of the challenges hindering the progress of sport in the country with issues such as infrastructure development coming out. Kazembe said infrastructure development is one of the top priority areas the ministry is focusing on to make it possible for sport to reach the next level. He added that there is need to develop sport into a big industry just like the world over, as sport is now big business.
Masenda was accompanied by ZOC chief executive Anna Mguni, board members Addison Chiware, Stephen Mudawarima, Frederick Ndlovu and Abel Chimukoko, who leads the Athletes Commission.