Wednesday, September 23, 2009

2/9/09: Remarks by H.H. the Vice President, Lt. Gen. Mompati Merafhe, at the launch of the 2nd Botswana Games

source: Republic of Botswana (21/9/09) TAUTONA TIMES no 24 of 2009
The Electronic Press Circular of the Office of the President
"Democracy, Development, Dignity and Discipline"

B4) 2/9/09: Remarks by H.H. the Vice President, Lt. Gen. Mompati Merafhe, at the launch of the 2nd Botswana Games

[Salutations]...Distinguished Ladies and Gentlemen;

Good Afternoon.

1. I must admit that I feel both honoured and privileged to be officiating at this very important event that marks the launch of the 2nd Botswana Games. A few months ago I was approached by the Botswana National Sports Council, inviting me to serve as Patron of the Botswana Games. This to me was not only humbling, but also brought about a great sense of nostalgic feeling and gratification.

2. As it is already a matter of public knowledge, my relationship with Botswana sport dates back to many years ago. Without necessarily attempting to blow my own trumpet, I should easily pass as one of the
key architects of Botswana sport. I was among a group of men and women, who for many years sacrificed their time, energy and resources to catapult Botswana sport to where it is today. In fact I must state for the record that I was Chairman of the Botswana National Sports Council (BNSC) for a continuous period of 10 years.

3. Mr. Chairman, I must admit I am very happy that today, I am Patron for Games that involve athletes who were not even born when I first started getting involved in sport. I am sure therefore, that other sports veterans in this country will join me in celebrating this historic and very fulfilling moment. I therefore wish to reassure you and your organisation, and in fact the whole of the sporting fraternity in Botswana, of my continued support to sport. I have whole heartedly accepted the responsibility of being Patron for the Botswana Games, and indeed promise to do my all to ensure that the 2nd and subsequent National Games are staged successfully.

4. Director of Ceremonies, I am sure there is no doubt as to the role sport and regular physical exercise play in the lives of individuals as well as their overall development. Sport not only contributes to the physical well being of people, but also provides invaluable recreational, educational, social and economic opportunities.

5. If you will allow me to momentarily take off my Patron hat, and wear that of Vice President of this Republic, I would like to seize this moment to recognise the great efforts by the BNSC and its associate partners in the development and promotion of sport in this country.

6. The Government of Botswana continues to see the value of sport in the overall development of individuals, communities and indeed the nation at large. It is not in doubt that Botswana would not be as proud, as tolerant and as united a nation as she is today, were it not because of sport. As a result, Botswana Government will continue to value the contribution of sport towards building this great nation. In recognition of sport as a true champion and driver of some of our national Vision 2016 ideals, the Government continues to positively review the Botswana National Sports Council grant.

7. The Council has been allocated over P62m this year, even in the wake of a global financial crisis, as compared to P50m in the past year, and P25m the year before. This is by no small measure a demonstration of my Government's commitment towards sport development.

8. Director of Ceremonies, I once again wish to thank and congratulate the BNSC for initiating such a humble concept, a concept that can only enhance our chances of success in future international competitions. It is pleasing to note that as we speak, all the 16 administrative districts in this country have already officially confirmed their participation in the 2nd Botswana Games. I have been informed that indications are that there will be at least 4 000 athletes competing at these Games, only 500 shy of the 4 500 athletes that competed at the 2006 Commonwealth Games in Melbourne.

9. An interesting distinction is that whilst 15 000 volunteers were involved in the Melbourne Commonwealth Games, for the 2nd Botswana Games we will only have around 500 members of the Games Organising Committee, technical officials and volunteers. This scenario should say a lot about the level and extent of sacrifice we are prepared to give to serve sport
in Botswana, if that small number can successfully pull off what needed at least thirty times the number at other Games.

10. Of course it will be naive to make that comparison without taking into account the difference in the magnitude and nature of the two games. The Commonwealth is an international event which is attended by some world record holders and other top athletes who desire different levels of security and other forms of services, while the average athlete at the Botswana Games aspires to break into the international arena. Also, the Commonwealth has a lot more nations competing than we have districts at the Botswana Games.

11. Ladies and Gentlemen, with the confirmations I have already alluded to from the districts, and the fact that their preparations that cost tens of thousands of pula have commenced, there can never be any turning back. The 2nd Botswana Games will take place this year as planned, in Gaborone from the 14th to the 19th December 2009, with the
University of Botswana as the hub of the Games.

12. The Games Organising Committee, sport conveners and federations responsible for the enlisted sports codes are working around the clock to ensure that there will be staged, very successful Games. Of course their efforts alone may not be enough, especially if they will not get support from some of the very key people they need in order to deliver
very successful Games.

13. One challenge the organisers are currently contending with is the mammoth task of raising money to augment the BNSC's contribution to the Games.

14. Director of Ceremonies, I have been informed that expenditure projections for the 2nd Botswana Games stand at a whooping P6.2 m, out of which the BNSC has committed an amount of P3.5 m. This leaves a deficit of P2.7 m that needs to be raised if the Games are to be staged to the standard that the organisers desire them to be. The bigger part of this money goes towards very basic services and commodities like accommodation and meals, transport and competition equipment. To this end I wish to appeal to non-governmental players, especially the private sector, to come to the aid of the Organisers for the Games.

15. I am quite aware of the financial crisis that is currently engulfing the world, and that some segments of the private sector are amongst those hardest hit. But given that support is not only wanted in cash, I suppose there are still opportunities to support the Games in other forms. That our young athletes need our support as they 'aim for
the stars' is not in doubt, and in helping the cause, we will be living true the Games' slogan of 'Investing in Botswana future stars'.

16. Let me conclude my remarks, Director of Ceremonies, by wishing all athletes, coaches, managers and district officials who will be at the Games, the very best of luck as they prepare for this momentous
task. I am sure that at the end of the Games, they will not only take back what promises to be a memorable experience, but will have also benefited from some of the by-products of the Games such as friendship, belonging, trust and tolerance.

17. Distinguished Ladies and Gentlemen, it is now an honour and privilege for me to declare the 2nd Botswana Games officially launched. I thank you. Pula!

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