General Lassana Palenfo

Week 74 (28 February - 6 March 2015)

The message was clear this week from General Lassana Palenfo, the President of the Association of National Olympic Committees of Africa (ANOCA): Africa is not ready to host the Olympic and Paralympic Games.

For the continental figurehead of the Olympic Movement in Africa, it is a surprising and bold stance to take. So it's worth considering his exact words: "For one African city to host almost 30 different kinds of sports and host tens of thousands of athletes, media professionals and spectators successfully, a lot needs to be done financially and for an African country, it is almost impossible."

Also adding: "Residents would question the priorities of the Government. You cannot have people dying of hunger and you host the Olympics."

Clearly, Palenfo's position is unequivocal. But interestingly, this is not a new stance – it's just packaged with stronger, more conclusive wording. More sensible wording, Palenfo might argue.

With the natural romance around hosting the Olympic Games in Africa – not only for the benefits it could bring to the host city and surrounding region but also because of the symmetry in staging the Games on the one continent yet to do so – many journalists have pushed the idea of the Olympic Games coming to Africa as a matter of when not if.

With Palenfo's natural optimism, and that of many other African sports politicians, towards Africa's sporting credentials, the idea has been given regular oxygen.

But Palenfo's new communications stance will likely put an end to that.

Whereas before, Palenfo was happy to closely mix realism with ambition in the same interview, giving the media the opportunity to blur the lines, his words this week were much more careful.

At the AIPS Congress in Paris, he created distance between his head and his heart, saying: "Personally, I would say yes for an African country to host the Olympics.

"It would be fantastic. But what of the aftermath of the competition?

"What happens to the match venues constructed for the competition?

"Would it be a waste? Yes."

The upshot of Palenfo's approach will likely lead to less headlines about Africa's Olympic ambitions – but, in turn, this will afford media space to the development of sport throughout the continent in a wider sense. A net win.

Meanwhile, the goal of hosting an Olympic Games will always be there for Africa, but as Palenfo has said before: "We have to go step by step. Commonwealth Games at first, and then the Youth Olympic Games. And finally, after having these two events, try to have the Games with a real chance of victory."

Photo: Botswana Judo