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Beijing Olympics 2008 : Report Card for Africa

Last Updated: 8/25/2008 9:18:03 AM

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It has come and gone the 29th Olympiad hosted by the Chinese Capital Beijing. Africa Nations were there in force with hundreds of athletes and quite a few officials, much was expected and from some much was delivered in return. ClickAfrique reviews Africa at the Beijing Olympics.....


SPORTS

So the Olympics are over. Africa won 40 medals the most ever but how did we do across the sports? We look at the performance across the 38 disciplines of the 29th Olympiad.

Archery: As is traditional at the Olympics the event was dominated by the South Koreans, there were athletes from Africa but they had little impact beyond providing diversity to the event.

Athletics: 28 of the 40 medals African nations won at this Olympics came on the track and field. Ethiopia and Kenya in particular dominated the long distance races. The sprints and fields events while not so fruitful still yielded one gold, on silver and two bronze medals. As normal Africa's best performance came in athletics.

Baseball: Huh? Well not exactly a global sport, given only eight teams took part no surprise there was no African representation here. Why is it in the Olympics? Well Japan and the USA love it.

Badminton: We came, we took part and we departed with barely a handful of matches won. Another sport where Africa struggles to make any mark whatsoever.

Basketball: With the exception of football the team sports proved to be a very poor outing for the African representatives, Mali for the Women and Angola for the men. Their combined efforts saw a total of 10 games played, 0 won, 0 Drawn. At least they were consistent.

Beach Volleyball: You would have thought with seemingly endless tropical coastlines Africa boasts we would put up more of a fight. The Angolan pair in the men’s competition lost all three matches 2 sets to 0 and in the Women’s competition the South African pair showed solidarity by posting the same set of losses

Boxing: Boxing like Athletics historically has the some of the largest number of African participant and has produced 58 medals over the years. Well China proved very different with a single medal won by Mauritius, there first ever, the only success.

Cycling BMX: Synchronised Swimming, Beach Volleyball and now BMX Cycling a reminder that the Olympics is increasingly run by TV companies. In its own right BMX is exciting but an Olympic sport? Anyhow we digress. Only six medals on offer and none won by an African.

Cycling Track : The event was dominated by the British, given that a velodrome costs in the region of US$100m to build it comes as little surprise African medallists were no where to be found.

Diving: Loads of medals to fight for but given the infrastructure needed to support this sport again no surprise they is very little participation from African participants.

Equestrian: Another blatantly elitist and expensive sport favoured by double-barrel named Europeans and the occasional well to do South Africans and Egyptians. A sport culturally alien to Africa and too expensive even it were not.So ne we didn't win any medals.

Gymnastics: A main staple of the Olympics but again one that African participation is at best limited to a token athlete. With over 76 medals at stake across rhythmic and artistic gymnastics there is much to gain but the precise technical and artistic requirements needed to win points in this sport means without the right training and infrastructure this will be difficult to achieve.

Trampoline : Same story as gymnastics.

Handball : Another team sport, another washout. Angola represented Africa in the Women’s game played 5 matches lost 4 and drew 1. Egypt representing Africa in the Men’s game played 5 lost 3 and drew 2 not as bad as Basketball but by no means a brilliant outing.

Hockey : South Africa represented Africa in both the men’s and women’s competitions. In the tournament proper, the Women’s team played 5 lost 5 conceding 18 goals and scoring only 2. The men’s team fared just as badly playing 5, losing all 5, and conceding 25 to 4 goals scored. I suspect there will a low key return to Jo'burg

Judo : Prior to these games Africa had only ever won one medal in Judo at the Olympics through Egypt’s Mohamed Ali Rashwan but this year saw that total quadrupled as a both Algeria and Egypt tasted glory. Of note was Soraya Haddad becoming the third women in Algerian history to win an Olympic medal.

Modern Pentathlon: Swimming, Fencing , Horse riding, Shooting and Running. Individual African athletes have only excelled in one of those disciplines, combine all five and winning a medal becomes a herculean task but to her credit Egypt’s Aya Medany finished 11th in the Women’s event out of 36 participants.

Rowing: Again a sport where Africa has never done well. South Africa the only African nation to have won a medal in rowing was again Africa’s best hope but were unable to build on or even repeat their previous success

Sailing: Even amongst Western nations this is a sport dominated by the wealthier sections of society and it no surprise when one considered that a Yngling class boat for instance costs about £50,000. It may be awhile before an African medallist is spotted at the Olympic sailing regatta.

Shooting: It is somewhat disappointing that again no African nation can make an impression in this sport at the very least Military or Police based shooting associations should be able to spawn contestants capable of making an impact at the Olympic Games.

Softball: Almost the definition of a sporting clique at the Olympics over the 4 Olympiads that this sports have featured only 13 nations none of them African. With little interest in the sport in Africa, don’t expect any medals soon.

Swimming: It was a relatively good year for Africa but that was almost down to one woman Kirsty Coventry of Zimbabwe who single-handedly won 1 gold and 3 silver medals. Oussama Mellouli also won a gold medal for Tunisia. However with 102 medals up for grabs, the second highest for any discipline, Africa can definitely do better.

Synchronised Swimming: Another sport that seems to be the particular reserve of a couple of nations. With only seven nations (Russia, USA, Canada, Japan, Spain, China and France) in the world having ever won a medal in the sport, it’s no surprise the medals haven’t reached Africa.

Tennis: There was no joy on the courts of Beijing for the African contingent but with no Africans troubling the top ten ranking in either women’s or men’s tennis it would be asking too much to suddenly make an impact a the Olympics.

Taekwondo: Africa had a solitary medallist in Yagazie Chukwumerije at Beijing but the performance across the continent's contingents suggest that in the future this sport holds the potential for more medals.

Triathlon: No medals and few entries. The sport has potential but a network of local competitions across the continent will need to be developed to raise awareness and elevate the competiveness of African athletes in the sport.

Table Tennis : A sport loved across Africa but such is the Chinese dominance that few nations are able to squeeze on to the medal podiums, however the low cost of entry into table tennis means it remains a popular sport across the continent and one worth investing in for future Olympics.

Volleyball: Another team sport, another disastrous entry. In the Women’s competition Algeria lost all their games and only won a single set in their last match against Kazakhstan. Egypt in the men’s competition did even worse losing all their games and without a single set in their favour. It’s back to the drawing board on this.

Weightlifting: Again a sport that leaves commentators bemused as to why Africa has not done better. The last medal won in the men’s competition by an African athlete was as far back as 1948 when Egypt won 2 golds and a silver medal and the only success in the Women’s competition was Nigeria’s Ruth Ogbeifo at Sydney 2000.

Water-Polo : No African nation has ever taken part in the Olympic event and it comes as no surprise there have been no medallists. Given it does not even feature in the all African games it is not a sport that will see any African success in the near future.

Wrestling : Wrestling is practised and loved across Africa but clearly the Greco-Roman style provides an all together different challenge. Of all the African nations that have taken part only Egypt has enjoyed any success (1928, 1948, 1952, 1960 and 2004) but Beijing 2008 proved unfruitful even for the Egyptians.

PEOPLE

Ultimately the Olympics is about the triumph of the individual athlete and we look at the best and worst of Africa at the Olympics

Hall of Fame : This is a hard one, from Kirsty Coventry singlehandedly winning Zimbabwe’s entire haul of four medals to Bruno Julie winning Mauritius’s first ever Olympic medal there were quite a few deserving athletes. We pondered and decided that ClickAfrique’s Hall of Fame award for the Olympics 2008 goes to Ethiopia’s Tirunesh Dibaba for her historic double in the 5000m and 1000m races an accomplishment that no female athlete has ever achieved before.

Hall of Shame : The performance of African contingents at most team events left a lot to be desired but ultimately they were still professional and competitive, not so the athlete who has wins our Hall of Shame award. When Eric “The Eel” Moussambani flopped about in the swimming pools of the Sydney Olympics it caused general mirth and amusement across the world, but eight years later it is no longer funny to see an under-qualified incapable swimmer bringing African swimming into disrepute. The Hall of Shame award goes to the Stanley “The Snail” Kempompo Ngangola of the Democratic Republic of Congo for his disgraceful performance in 50m freestyle in Beijing.



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Comment By: iceager

I see you've left out entire disciplines where African athletes made their mark.

Have you forgotten Benjamin Boukpeti, who won Togo's first ever medal in kayaking? He was the first ever athlete to represent Africa in Olympic canoeing. Granted, you could say he only represented Togo because he couldn't make the French team, but it's an important milestone nonetheless.

And let's not forget Nigeria's footballers who won silver.

Posted On: Monday, August 25, 2008 11:49 AM

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Comment By: Birkbeck

Hi.

You can find the list of African medals at the link below

http://www.clickafrique.com/Magazine/ST010/CP0000002930.aspx

and a list of all the medallists here

http://www.clickafrique.com/Magazine/ST010/CP0000002931.aspx

[Copy the whole link and past in your browser]

Posted On: Sunday, October 19, 2008 12:36 AM

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