The Nigerian flag bearer leads the delegation as they enter the stadium during the opening ceremony of the Beijing 2022 Winter Olympics, at the National Stadium, known as the Bird’s Nest, in Beijing, February 4, 2022. Photo: AFP
Africa undeniably voiced its support for its largest bilateral trading partner, China, during the 2022 Winter Olympics in Beijing.
African leaders, including Tanzanian President Samia Suluhu Hassan, Tanzanian President of Zanzibar Hussein Ali Mwinyi and Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari, are unambiguously supportive of China.
Ahead of the Games, President Mwinyi expressed his support for the “successful staging of the Beijing 2022 Olympic Winter Games”.
He stressed that the highly anticipated Olympics provide an opportunity to unite people across the continent and beyond. They are a much-needed boost for humanity to advance faster, higher and stronger, in accordance with the Olympic credo.
President Mwinyi’s counterpart, President Hassan of Tanzania, also praised China for hosting the Olympics and had no doubt that China would stage a dazzling and successful global event.
“As a friend and brother country to Nigeria, President Buhari affirms the support of the Nigerian government and its people for China,” according to a statement from the State House of Nigeria.
Six athletes from Nigeria, Eritrea, Ghana, Madagascar and Morocco are competing in the alpine and cross-country skiing events of the Beijing Winter Olympics.
Other hopefuls from countries like Kenya are not participating due to reasons such as lack of resources to adequately prepare for the competitive event.
Still, many Kenyans joined Chinese living in Kenya to usher in the Chinese New Year at a popular shopping mall a short distance from the capital, Nairobi.
Strong support for the Olympics was also expressed by the chairs of various National Olympic Committee officials, including the President of the Zimbabwe Olympic Committee, Thabani Gonye, and the President of the National Olympic and Sports Committee of Mali, Habib Sissoko.
Uganda Olympic Committee President Donald Rukare and the South African Sports Confederation and Olympic Committee (SASCOC) expressed support for China’s key role in the 2022 Winter Olympics.
In this regard, African countries have formed a united front, decidedly ignoring Washington’s calls for a “diplomatic boycott” of the Beijing Winter Olympics.
It is clear that calls for a boycott are being opposed with increasingly virulent support from across the continent by leaders, sports associations and sports enthusiasts. For Africa, the Olympics are a highlight and a celebration of China as they mark a momentous moment in the history of sport.
Mali, Botswana, Zimbabwe and South Africa are among the many countries on the continent to have come out in favor of the Winter Olympics and stressed that the Games serve to bring people together and unite the world. .
In this regard, Botsang Tshenyego, Chairman of the Botswana National Olympic Committee, strongly expressed his support for the Olympics, urging others to avoid polarization of sports.
This overwhelming support comes on the heels of the China-Africa Cooperation Forum held in Dakar, Senegal.
During the forum, African countries issued a declaration which reads, among other things, “We are committed to promoting the sustainable and solid development of the Olympic Movement and we oppose the politicization of sport”.
In solidarity with China, Africa has not hesitated to express its support for a country that has stood alongside a continent that until recently has struggled to make significant progress towards sustainable development.
As the continent walks step by step with the eastern nation, it has transformed significantly as advanced infrastructure and technology have gradually improved.
For African leaders, Beijing provides an indispensable platform to foster diplomatic relations between Africa and China and deepen cooperation and friendships that transcend traditional bilateral relations.
Sports experts say the event provides young Africans with exposure to a sport that is slowly gaining ground in Africa.
As a largely tropical region and one of the hottest continents in the world, Africa lacks the climate for winter sports.
Yet many athletes in Africa continue to express a desire to participate in sports such as snowboarding, skiing and bobsledding. Experts say China-Africa relations provide the continent with an opportunity to build capacity in winter sports and learn from China.
So far, China-Africa ties have deepened, helping China-Africa trade reach an all-time high in 2021 of $254 billion. This is an estimated 35% increase from 2020, according to the most recent Chinese customs data.
Building on this partnership, sports experts in Africa are confident that the continent is capable of spreading its wings outside of its traditional sports such as marathon and football.
There is no doubt that China has entered world Olympic history as the first double Olympic city, having already hosted the Summer Olympics in 2008. It is this level of excellence and consistency in sports worlds that Africa hopes to emulate.
The author is a journalist based in Kenya. [email protected]