Eddie Chikamhi Senior Sports Reporter
FIFTEEN years after swimming sensation at the Commonwealth games, Zimbabwe could yet bounce back to the Club Games amid strong indications by Sport, Arts and Recreation Minister Kazembe Kazembe that Government was mulling rejoining the grouping.
Zimbabwe voluntarily withdrew from the international multi-sport event involving athletes from over 50 Commonwealth Nations in 2003 following a fallout with the organisation.
But with President Emmerson Mnangagwa’s Government exploring possibilities of re-engagement with the international community, Kazembe said there are bright chances of Zimbabwe rejoining the Commonwealth Club after spending more than a decade in self-isolation.
The next Commonwealth Games will take place in Gold Coast, Australia, between April and August 2018 and because of time limits, chances of an immediate return are a huge doubt.
But should the Government decide to pursue the re-engagement on the sports front, Zimbabwe’s athletes could be back for the 2022 Games in Birmingham, England.
Birmingham has been chosen as the host venue for the 2022 Commonwealth Games, organisers announced yesterday with the British Midlands city being the only bidder. Commonwealth Games Federation (CGF) president Louise Martin announced the decision at a press conference in the city.
“We warmly congratulate Birmingham and England on today’s announcement — it is a defining moment for this truly Commonwealth city. With its rich history, cultural diversity, youthful dynamism and ambitious spirit, Birmingham embodies all that we cherish about the Commonwealth,” she said.
Durban, South Africa was originally awarded the Games in 2015 before being stripped of the event in March because it failed to meet promises contained in its bid. Birmingham was chosen as Britain’s candidate city in September, beating a rival bid from Liverpool and receiving UK government backing.
The city’s bid was judged to be not fully compliant with all the criteria in October, leading the CGF to extending the deadline for other bidders, but no other cities came forward. The 2018 Commonwealth Games will be held on the Gold Coast in Queensland, Australia, from April 4.
Should Zimbabwe return for the 2022 Club Games, it would be a journey back to the country which hosted their last participation with Coventry, as she often did in her glittering career, leading the way for Team Zimbabwe.
Zimbabwe last participated at the 2002 Games in Manchester where iconic swimmer Coventry put the country on the map by scooping the country’s only gold medal in the 200m Individual Medley. preaching reconciliation and re-engagement at home and with the international community and Kazembe told The Herald yesterday that the new dispensation opened doors for negotiations and possible return to the Commonwealth Games.
“We move in line with the overall Government policy and the direction that our President wants us to take as a nation. As a ministry we are part of the Government of Zimbabwe and we have to complement whatever policies our leadership take.
“If the policy says engage, of which it says so, we will also consider engaging. If you follow closely the tone of the President’s speeches, it’s all about engagement with the outside world. We cannot remain in isolation forever. But on this issue we haven’t sat down yet to deliberate on it. “His Excellency has said ‘isolation is not splendid.
Yes it is not splendid even in sports. World over sport is a powerful tool that can be used to make bridges, it goes a long way in promoting development and nation building. “When we host international tournaments or when we play against other nations, it is an opportunity for interaction. It also sends a huge statement out there that Zimbabwe is indeed a safe destination,” said Kazembe.
Zimbabwe had been a member of the Commonwealth since pre-independence. The country continued with the fellowship after independence in 1980 and sent athletes regularly to compete at the Games. The Commonwealth Games presents talented young players with vast opportunities to compete at a bigger stage.
Participation in the Games also gives athletes the much needed exposure and preparation for other world events like the Olympics, World Championships and the World Cup.
Apart from Coventry, boxers Johnson Tshuma, Langton “Schoolboy” Tinago — a three-time Commonwealth champion — and former Flyweight champion Alfonso “Mosquito Zvenyika have also made their names at the Games.
There were also gold medals for Evan Stewart in springboard diving and Roy Garden in men lawn bowls at the 1998 Games in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia. Long distance runner Samukeliso Moyo, Kenneth Harnden (400 metres hurdles) and Julia Sakala have also won medals at the Club Games.
Zimbabwe’s re-admission also gained momentum with Britain’s foreign secretary Boris Johnson telling the UK Parliament recently that he backed calls for Zimbabwe to be allowed to re-join the Commonwealth. Johnson welcomed the stance by the new Government of Zimbabwe and revealed the door was open to re-engage with the Commonwealth.
“But of course, I must caution him that several steps need to be done through before that can happen. There must be free and fair elections next year, it then falls to Zimbabwe to apply to the Commonwealth secretariat and then to make clear to the Commonwealth and to the world that Zimbabwe fulfils the criteria on human rights, on rule of law, on democracy, that are necessary for Commonwealth membership,” Johnson said.
Article Source: The Herald