CONGO-BRAZZAVILLE. — Jean-Claude Ganga, the founding father of Africa’s greatest sporting festival, died on Saturday, at the age of 86.
He was a former Minister of Sports of Congo-Brazzaville and president of the African Olympic Committee (ANOCA).
The Congolese was the great architect of the creation of the African Games, the first edition of which was held in 1965 in his country.
It is a giant figure of African sport, which disappeared, on Saturday.
Ganga’s last breath came near Brazzaville, the city where he was born, and to which he had offered the first edition of the African Games.
After shortened studies, the Congolese turned to teaching, he wanted to help his parents finance the care of a sick brother.
Shortly after the independence of his country, Ganga became the first inspector of youth and sports in the Congo.
With his friend Boniface Massengo, a former Brazzavillian football star, he ardently advocated for the creation of Olympic Games for all of Africa, in line with the Friendship Games organised under the aegis of France.
Ganga then took his pilgrim’s staff and travels across the continent to convince governments to create national Olympic committees affiliated with the IOC.
In 1965, Ganga’s dream came true.
His native land hosted the first African Games.
In the process, he contributed in 1966 to the creation of the Higher Council for Sport in Africa (CSSA), a satellite agency of the Organisation of African Unity (the ancestor of the African Union).
Meanwhile, his organisation was at the forefront of the fight against apartheid.
It greatly contributed to the boycott by many African nations of the Montreal Olympic Games in 1976 after New Zealand, which had sent its rugby union team to South Africa for a tour, took part.
Twenty-nine countries boycotted the Games due to the refusal of the IOC to ban New Zealand.
Some of the boycotting nations included Morocco, Cameroon and Egypt, had already participated but, however, withdrew after the first few days.
Senegal and Cote d’Ivore were the only African countries that competed throughout the duration of the Games.
Iraq and Guyana also opted to join the boycott.
The issue of boycotting apartheid South Africa had become emotive in large part due to the Soweto Student uprising which occurred in June of 1976 where between 176 to 700 students were killed by South African police.
“The government and the people of Kenya hold the view that principles are more precious than medals,” Kenya’s then foreign minister, James Osogo, explained his country’s decision to boycott the Games.
Osogo went on to say that the decision by the IOC not to ban New Zealand would give “comfort and respectability to the South African racist regime and encourage it to continue to defy world opinion.”
After serving as Congo-Brazzaville’s ambassador to several Asian countries during the 1980s, Ganga was appointed Minister of Sport.
In 1989, he succeeded the Togolese Anani Matthia at the head of ANOCA, which he headed for a decade, until controversy ended his career.
In 1999, Ganga was expelled from the IOC after being caught up in the scandal related the bidding for the 2002 Salt Lake City Winter Games.
During the following years, the Congolese continued to proclaim his innocence and threatened to make shocking revelations about the International Olympic Committee.
In 2015, a visibly appeased published the work, “Once upon a time, the African Games,’’ a few weeks after the 11th edition of the Continental Games took place in Brazzaville.
“I am happy,’’ he smiled then, during a signing session in Paris. “There aren’t many authors who are still present when we play the play, fifty years after the premiere.” — AFP.