Since February 2020, Africa has been grappling with the Coronavirus pandemic, a situation that has led political leaders of the continent’s States to impose a battery of restrictions ranging from confinement to simple containment measures to forestall the spread of the virus. The world of sport has been particularly hard hit. Both amateur and professional sports competitions have been grounded or have been merely cancelled. Championships have ended, matches postponed… Never, in the 21st century, has the sports movement been so affected, forcing sports stakeholders to suspend their favourite activity.
In this month of May 2020, the time has come to begin easing these restrictions gradually in most African countries as in the rest of the world. I would, therefore, begin by thanking the IOC and Olympic Solidarity for all the measures taken in the interest of NOCs and athletes so that they can better cope with the post-coronavirus period, especially by increasing the budget allocated to their athletes’ programmes.
The post-covid-19 period will certainly open up a new phase, a restart of social life and therefore of sports activities. It will not be a totally normal life, since the dark spectre of this pandemic will still haunt our minds; all stakeholders will thus have to be disciplined and responsible. At this time of unprecedented crisis, I am pleased to note that, without giving in to resignation, African sports administrators are, on the contrary, harnessing the resources necessary for collective resilience. The post-Covid-19 period will be a time of revival of activities, including sports. There is need today, taking advantage of this respite, that stakeholders of the African Olympic Movement, while availing themselves of the opportunity of ICTs, should communicate and concert, map out appropriate strategies and recovery plans.
Technically, since the beginning of confinement, two months ago, athletes have, in theory, had to comply with the same rules as all citizens and train at home, with the shortcomings we are all aware of. They will need special programmes to relaunch their training in order to be competitive. We should not lose sight of upcoming major sporting challenges, especially Tokyo 2020 in 2021, the Olympic Games being a platform on which each nation, each continent, seeks to showcase itself with a large number of participants, an abundant medal haul and, above all, with the healthy and exemplary behaviour of its athletes.
Economically, the sports industry, which includes the related industrial production, the share of communities, household consumption and all media events: sponsorship, media rights, ticketing and merchandising, is hard hit. A great deal of resilience will be required. All sports stakeholders will have to review spending levels and readjust accordingly.
At managerial level, it will be necessary to organise consultations at continental, regional and/or national levels to calmly prepare for international meetings. These should bring together experts, administrators of sports organisations and government representatives. It should not be lost on us that, together, we stand stronger. Such meetings should help fine tune a collective strategy of coordinated and synergetic preparation for international competitions, especially the Olympic Games. This will require a strong ethical foundation because, on a daily basis, and this is our vision as supervisory bodies of young Africans, we have made it part of our operating policy that sport is not an end but a means of education, coming together and progress for all those who practise it. After COVID, sport will take its rightful place. We will have to be ready to take up its many challenges as a powerful lever for peace, nation building and as a catalyst for development, a vector of socialisation.
Mustapha Berraf, IOC member, President of ANOCA