Confusion has reigned ahead of the scheduled start of the African Sports Council Regional Five Youth Games in Bulawayo today, with the Opening Ceremony delayed, teams and equipment having not arrived and venues for several sports not ready.
The Games, due to take place from today until December 15 in Bulawayo, Zimbabwe's second city 220 miles to the south-west of capital Harare, is supposed to feature 1,200 athletes aged under-20 and showcase the growth of the Southern African nation as a potential location for major events.
Instead, it is threatening to leave a reputation for poorly-organised events which are at the whim of the country's controversial President Robert Mugabe.
The Opening Ceremony, due to take place this evening at Barbourfields Stadium, has had to be postponed until Sunday (December 7) in order to allow Mugabe to attend.
Mugabe is currently preoccupied with the Congress of his Zanu PF party that began following the death of veteran diplomat and party member Kotsho Dube at the age of 79 on Monday (December 1).
Organising Committee secretary-general Mvuzo Mbebe insisted, when announcing the postponement, that "it is normal for Games of this nature to have it this way and this will not affect the start of the Games".
"We want to apologise to the people of Bulawayo who had planned based on the Opening Ceremony being held [today]" he told Zimbabwe newspaper Southern Eye.
"We want to be thorough in our preparations and have a Ceremony that fits the status and standard of the Games."
But Mbebe also admitted some of the equipment to be used was still to arrive while some venues still needed "touch-ups".
This included the venue for basketball, where much of the equipment remains docked on a ship in Durban, as well as for athletics, where by yesterday evening only three quarters of the track had been laid despite it having been due for completion on November 15.
The basketball programme, due to start tomorrow, has now been pushed back until Saturday (December 6).
Athletics, meanwhile, also due to start on Saturday, has been delayed until Monday (December 8) at the earliest due to the need to allow time for the track to settle.
Other venues, for sports including swimming, tennis, boxing, judo and netball, are completed, while football action will start as planned tomorrow.
But although 1 308 athletes, 1 289 officials, 1,122 volunteers, 119 VIP guests, 212 media representatives and 575 local Organising Committee personnel had arrived by yesterday afternoon, teams from Botswana, Zambia, Malawi and Mozambique had still reportedly not arrived.
As well as the host country, athletes from Angola, Lesotho, Namibia, South Africa, the Seychelles and Swaziland and are also due to compete in a range of Olympic and Paralympic disciplines.
Contact the writer of this story at [email protected]
November 2014: Zambian Government steps in to support aspiring Para-athletes
September 2014: Call for schools to help young Zimbabwean athletes prepare for regional event in Bulawayo
June 2014: Zimbabwe to hold Olympic Day celebrations in Bulawayo