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Sports Features Fri, 2 Sep 2011

London 2012, here we come

London 2012, here we come :IOC lifts suspension on Ghana Ghanaian athletes sportsmen and sportswomen can now heave a sigh of relief and look forward to participating at the London 2012 Olympics following the decision of the International Olympic Committee to lift the suspension placed on the country.

The IOC suspended the Ghana Olympic Committee on 13th January 2011 because Ghana was unable to change its sports law (SMCD 54), which had promoted “political interference” by giving the authority to government to appoint the leaders of the various sport since 1976, by December 31, 2010.

With the amendment of Section 42 of SMCD 54 sub sections (2a) and (2b), which was gazetted on April 15th, 2011 and the passage of the new Sports Regulations 2011 (L.I 1988) on July 26th, Ghana’s sports legislation was now in conformity with the statutes of the IOC. The result was that the Executive Board of the IOC unanimously voted to re-admit the local Olympic governing body back to its fold at its meeting in Daegu, South Korea, during the ongoing World Athletics Championships.

“The Ghanaian Parliament recently adopted new sports legislation which is compatible with the Olympic Charter. The next step for the NOC will be to convene its elective General Assembly as soon as possible,” the IOC release said.

The nation’s athletic contingent at the 13th IAAF World Championships was at practice and just couldn’t control themselves when the GAA President, Professor Francis Dodoo first broke the news first got to them about the IOC decision last Friday.

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It seems that they had been given a new lease of life with that announcement and they are expected to put their best foot forward in the coming months in their quest to qualify for the Games. Ghana’s sportsmen and women--including boxers, athletes, weightlifters, and the likes-- have something to look forward to when the world’s greatest nations assemble in London next July.

It is imperative to point out though that the IOC’s decision was expected especially after the government took steps to amend the legislative instrument that governs the nation’s sports law, the SMCD 54 despite opposition from certain quarters.

The road was not as easy as it seems. The very process of reviewing the national law took several twists and turns with some people from the old GOC administration-namely B.T. Baba and Frank Appiah even taking to the Law Courts to stop the amendment of the Law, despite it being a key requirement of the IOC.

Now all that is behind us as we look forward to a fresh beginning. But even before the athletes begin preparations towards London 2012, the Ghana Olympic Committee has been mandated by the IOC to convene a meeting of its general assembly to elect a new leadership for the organisation.

The IOC President Jacques Rogge told me minutes after the Executive Board meeting that the power to call congress lies within the ambit of the GOC and as such it is the responsibility of the B.T. Baba led GOC to call for congress. Under the GOC’s own constitution, the President shall call for congress by first giving a 21 day notice. So the earliest time congress can be convened could be between a month or two at the most.

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That brings me to another interesting revelation. While the IOC and some of its members want congress to be convened at the earliest possible time, Mr. B.T. Baba had wanted the new elections delayed for about 6-months.

The coming days and months will go a long way to determine the date for congress but the IOC will be keeping an eagle’s eye on developments in the country. Suffice it to say that the wrangling at the GOC has gone on for exactly 2 years and two 2 months, and has left deep scars in the nation’s sporting landscape, both locally and internationally.

It will take a lot of effort by the new administration-whoever wins the next congress-to rebuild the image of the Ghana Olympic Committee in particular after the skirmishes that occurred at the 2010 Commonwealth Games in Delhi and the 2010 Youth Championship Olympics in Singapore.

One only wonders whether the outgoing GOC Executive had any good motives for their action to slight officials of the Ministry of Youth Sports at those competitions. Like wounded Lions, they the GOC officials only sought to take their pound of flesh by refusing accreditation to the government officials at those games but in doing so, they ultimately soiled the name of the country.

Now, the GOC’s current situation is akin to a boxer who got beaten up mercilessly the night before, the Ghana Olympic Committee needs to do some introspection and get its act together quickly. The cost of the GOC saga is immeasurable with the most important part being the loss of goodwill both locally and internationally. The GOC has now come to be associated with chaos and confusion of the highest order.

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But one of the most painful loses the GOC suffered during the turbulent period was the withdrawal of the proposed £1m British Council Grant last year. The money was meant to develop sports in the country but after a year of waiting the British decided to retrench the money rather than give it to the GOC, and it is still not clear whether the nation can recover that grant once the situation has been sorted out. Also Ghana's Olympic funding was withdrawn following the ban earlier. The nation’s athletes and officials have also lost out greatly due to the inability of the GOC to access scholarships and refresher courses under the auspices of the IOC. Another area where the nation lost out is in kits sponsorship. Kit manufacturers Puma failed to renew its sponsorship with the Ghana Athletics Association in 2009, and then-ongoing discussions with other sponsors fell apart, because it appeared Ghana would not be at the 2012 Olympics.

There is also the need to recover ticket allocations for the nation’s representatives at the London 2012 Olympic since Ghana was not originally added to the list. There is a lot to be done.

However, it is not all gloomy though because now the sports associations in the country are fully democratised and are mandated to elect their own officials. The next step is definitely the GOC election, and it is our fervent hope that this will happen before the end of October. Ghana Sports is only beginning the road to recovery.

London 2012: here we come.

Best regards,

Erasmus Kwaw.

Source: Kwaw, Erasmus