Wed, 18 May 2022

By Zhang Yuliang, Tichaona Chifamba

HARARE, Jan. 20 (Xinhua) -- The Zimbabwe Olympic Committee (ZOC) has expressed confidence in Beijing 2022, saying that it is sure that the host has left no stone unturned in its preparations for the global event.

In an interview with Xinhua on Thursday, ZOC President Thabani Gonye said that despite criticisms of the Games by some western countries, Zimbabwe saw them as an opportunity to bring the world together.

"When we look at the Games, we believe this is an opportunity to unite the world, to speak of peace. And I believe that sport and politics don't mix.

"What is important is that the platform that is created by the Games is just to send out the message: The Games are here for us to have our athletes participate and the focus should be on the athletes," he said.

Gonye said the Games had an impact in China as well as the rest of the world and those countries which will participate should focus on sport.

"They should focus on the humanity; they should focus on the brotherhood, the sisterhood of uniting the world. Sport can unite nations. Sport can unite the world.

"So the publication should be about the unity, about the brotherhood and just about friendship and excellence of the athletes in their performances," he said.

Gonye, who was Zimbabwe's Chef de Mission at the Beijing 2008 Olympic Games, said countries should focus more on their athletes and give them opportunities to shine, instead of getting involved in extraneous issues which had nothing to do with sport.

"My rally call to my sister nations and to everybody involved in sport is let's give the Beijing Games the opportunity to showcase what the people of China can do for the athletes.

"And I believe there will be incredible performances that will come out of that. Our rallying call is the unity of the world, the peace of the world because that's what sport is all about. Let's give the opportunity for excellence to come out of Beijing," he said.

He also urged China to go out of its way to serve the world since it had not invested in the Games in vain.

He said ZOC was excited about China hosting the Games, despite that the country would not be sending athletes to the Winter Games.

"The holding of the Beijing Olympic Games; we are always very excited when the Olympics come around and as an Olympic family, we are always very happy when the Olympic Games finally being held.

"They are not just an event, but they are a process of many years of investment by the athletes and also the host nation to have those Games. So when the Olympic Games are finally happening, which will be happening in Beijing, we are very, very excited and we are very, very happy," Gonye said.

He said he knew that the Games would be successful because Beijing had a history of successfully hosting the 2008 Games, which were also historic to Zimbabwe because it had its largest haul of medals to date there.

"So when we see the Olympics being held in Beijing, we are very happy because we know the people of China are very thorough. They are very, very articulate about making sure that when they host an event of this nature, it would be a showcase to the world.

"And people are very excited to be uniting nations. And we are very, very excited about that for the athletes. It is a platform for them to enjoy and exhibit their skills. It is a global event, and I'm very excited that the world will be united in these Games.

He did not see the COVID-19 pandemic getting in the way of the Olympics, especially after Japan had also hosted the Tokyo 2020 Olympics last year.

"We just had the Tokyo 2020 Games that were held successfully. Under this situation, we are very sure that the Olympic Games will be very safe and very secure as they've been promised by the IOC and the host nation," he said.

He said he had no doubt at all that China would hold a successful event, given the amount of investment it had put in while preparing for it.

He also wished a skier from Nigeria well at the Games. Africa is hardly visible at the Winter Olympics since most of the Games there are predominantly winter-related and therefore not in line with the continent's generally warm climate.

Zimbabwe has also previously participated in one Olympic Winter Games.

"We know we don't have as many winter seasons in Africa that actually enable playing of the winter sports. But I know that for every nation that has an opportunity to actually have someone participate in these Games, they will go out there and have a lifetime experience," he said.

Gonye still has fond memories of the Beijing 2008 Games, more so because they are still the most successful for the country when the current sports minister Kirsty Coventry won four medals in swimming.

"Those games were historic, I think, one at a personal level and also at a national level. They remain the most successful games that Zimbabwe has taken part in.

"And personally, if I have fond memories of Beijing, because when I go around, I just think of the people of China, what they did to pull those Games together," he said.

In terms of Zimbabwe's performances in later Games, he said there was much that needed to be done to return to the performances of 2008.

He also saw opportunities for cooperation in sports between China and Zimbabwe, in the same ways the governments were leading the way in other sectors of the economy.

"I think we could take a cue from the government of Zimbabwe and the government of China. They have a close-knit working relationship, What we can do is also tap into those government networks.

"And linkages that the government has already established in the various sectors, and particularly for us as a sports sector, we believe we need to also look at what China has been doing through exchange programs, the partnership with our stakeholders, National Olympic Committee of China and all the arms of sport in China," he said.

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