C’wealth Games with loads of questions …why heads must roll

C’wealth Games with loads of questions …why heads must roll

Amoah – Won bronze in 200m

After nearly two weeks of friendly – yet combative exchanges, the XXII edition of the Commonwealth Games ended in Birmingham on Monday with Ghana recording a bitter-sweet event that would forever be etched on the minds of Ghanaians.

With Ghana hosting the 13th edition of the African Games in 2023, less than a year away, it is believed that useful lessons have been learned in Birmingham – and it was good to see the crème-de-la-crème of the Ghana 2023 Local Organising Committee (LOC) turn out for the biennial multi-sport showpiece.

Commey – Boxing silver

As you may have been aware already, Ghana amassed five medals (two silver and three bronze) from the Games – a marked improvement from the previous one – four years ago in Australia where only a medal (bronze) was picked. This year’s medals took the country’s total haul at the Commonwealth Games to 62 since Ghana’s participation in the 1954 Games in Vancouver, Canada. Not inspiring enough, though.

The truth is that we could have done better in Birmingham if we had had adequate preparations and good planning ahead of the Games. To carry 13 sport disciplines to the event and only see two (boxing and athletics) pick medals is to say the least atrocious. Clearly, it means we were not ready at all.

One thing that was worth celebrating, though, was the attention and obsession Ghanaians attached to the just-ended Games. The attraction was so much that social media was swamped with thousands of comments after each Ghanaian performance. It tells you, clearly, that though football remains the numero un passion of the nation, Ghanaians also cared about the other sport disciplines.

Athletics, for instance, ‘cottoned up’ almost all the attention even though boxing demonstrated much derring-do with regard to giving the nation medals – as always.

It is the reason the nation went round the bend when our athletes were disqualified from the men’s 4X100m final race for the inanity and irresponsibility of the Ghana Athletics Association (GAA). So, just to refresh your memory; the disqualification was triggered by the GAA’s stunning failure to inform Commonwealth Games officials (Technical Information Centre) of a change in the running order.

The GAA had originally listed Joseph Paul Amoah, as a starter in the semi-final of the 4x100m. However, upon a second thought, the Ghanaian officials decided to substitute him for Abdul-Rasheed Saminu (to allow him prepare for his 200m final later in the day) – without informing the Commonwealth Games Federation (CGF).

A quartet of Benjamin Azamati, Sean Sarfo-Antwi, Abdul-Rasheed Saminu and Barnabas Agerh had placed third with a national record time of 39.05s in Heat 1 of the 4x100m relays; but all the feat meant nothing.

Per World Athletics Rule TR 24.11, only athletes whose names were on the final confirmation form as starters can run during the competition. Our promising relay team was, therefore, flushed out painfully – and denied a possible medal. For coaches and officials who have successfully participated in many international events over the past few years, how could this infantile mistake be made?

Clearly, this is objectionable and it would be surprising if heads do not roll for this terrible school-boy error. As someone said, if this horrendous administrative error had occurred in football, resulting in – let us say – the Black Stars’ disqualification to the World Cup, hell would have broken loose. That is incontestable. We wait to see what happens; whether the powers-that-be are going to take things as normal business.

Sadly, this is not the first time this avoidable fiasco is happening to us. Way back in the Atlanta ’96 Olympic Games in the USA, we had something similar that looks even more embarrassing.

In that instance, Athletics Coach Rose Hart (now late) – herself a former national athlete, was said to have gone shopping and forgot to register a substitute in the men 4x100m relay final. The GAA had decided to replace Eric Nkansah with Christian Nsiah, but Madam Hart did not inform the organisers. Thus, when the team made up of in-form Aziz Zakari, Christian Nsiah, Emmanuel Tuffour and Albert Agyeman lined up for the final, they were disqualified and not allowed to race. It was our strongest quartet yet.

Limpidly, our terrified athletes – who were not aware of the situation, refused to move off the tracks for the race to start, leading to a prolonged delay. It caused the nation a lot of embarrassment and the public uproar was piercing.

Indeed, we became a laughing stock. Subsequently, the GAA was disbanded and later reconstituted. Are we going to see similar action, this time around?

The Chef de Mission of Team Ghana (Frederick Acheampong) and the Sports Writers Association of Ghana (SWAG) have both called for a ‘snake-pit’ inquisition into the scandal that robbed the relay team of a medal and one hopes it would be carried to the letter – and the appropriate action taken.

Of course, in the same vein, efforts must not be spared to unravel circumstances surrounding the disqualification of light heavyweight boxer, Shakul Samed, from the Commonwealth Games. The boxer was expelled by the Commonwealth Games Federation Anti-Doping and Medical Commission after testing positive for a banned substance ahead of his first fight.

He was said to have violated anti-doping rules for the 2022 Commonwealth Games as his Sample ‘A’ allegedly contained the prohibited substance (diuretic and masking agent – furosemide). Who gave him the substance? Did he smuggle it to the Games? Did he see it as a normal drug that to relieve him from pain or something?

As a nation, we must get to the bottom of the issue and ensure that necessary actions are taken for the future.

Whilst the authorities are at it, we cannot forget to gild the lily of athletes that made the nation proud at the Birmingham Games. From Joseph Amoah who broke a 48-year-old national jinx by winning bronze at the 200m to boxing’s Abraham Mensah and Joseph Commey (silver medals), Abdul Wahid Omar (bronze) to long jumper Deborah Acquah (bronze), the medalists deserve a bouquet of orchids for their eye-catching feat. However, we still have a long way to go!

PlainTalk With John Vigah

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