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Pride of Africa

WINNERS: David Rudisha and Mo Farah prove to be leaders of the pack

WHEN THE Olympics ended on August 12, Africans were well represented on the medal board and they are expecting that this strong presence will spur economic opportunities for the continent.

Among the continent’s champions were Kenyan David Rudisha who set a world record while winning 800m gold and Uganda’s first gold medallist since 1972, men’s marathon winner Stephen Kiprotich.

In a country famous for its male athletes, Ethiopian women also shone. Tirunesh Dibaba won 10,000m gold; Tiki Gelena, women’s marathon gold and Meseret Defar 5,000m gold. Women such as Kenya’s Vivian Jepkemoi Cheruiyot did well while British Africans Anthony Joshua and Mo Farah also struck gold.

African countries such as Kenya and Ethiopia brought trade and investment delegates alongside athletes. Following London 2012, many are now are confident they will see some post-Olympic economic boost for their countries.

Successes

According to Ethiopian Ambassador, Berhanu Kebede, “Ethiopia’s successes at the London 2012 Olympics have put Ethiopia on the map and accentuated our country’s many positive sides. This has given us an opportunity to highlight the benefits of investing in Ethiopia.”

He added: “Investors have become aware, many for the first time, of Ethiopia’s double digit growth rate and rapid development. The presence of Olympic heroes, past and present, helped us to maximise this positive impact.”

Kebede agreed. “People tell me they want to go to Africa,” he said. “For the first time Ethiopia participated in swimming and there are some investors who want to invest in swimming in Ethiopia so this thing attracts investment and good feeling for these countries.”


GOLDEN ACHIEVEMENT: Ethiopia’s 5000m gold medallist Meseret Defar (centre) with bronze medallist Tirunesh Dibaba and Kenya’s silver medalist Vivian Jepkemoi Cheruiyot (left)

John Small, chief executive of business network Eastern African Association, added: “The whole atmosphere of the Olympic Games helps to strengthen bonds and links between the UK and their countries. I think there is enormous amount of goodwill but I think it is difficult to say specifically what would come out of it.

“I think people see there can be a fantastic legacy from these things whether it is infrastructure or their own sporting prowess.”

In the UK, Ethiopian Yalew Kebede watched and celebrated.

Inspiration

“The Olympics is a very special thing for Africa, especially athletics. It is a reflection of the strength of the African people,” Kebede, secretary of the UK-based Ethiopian Consensus Forum said. He said seeing champions, including Ethiopia’s women, were “an inspiration for diaspora kids here”.

Unlike the stereotypical views of Africa, he emphasised that “when diaspora Africans see the strength, the stamina, this is also a reflection of Africa in terms of economic development and future development activities. It inspires you.”

However the wave of African celebration was dampened not only by shock upsets that saw some countries lose out on expected medals, but also by the early closure of Africa Village.

Nonetheless many Africans, both here and on the continent, were left feeling satisfied and bursting with pride.

“I am very proud of those boys and girls because they tried,” said Colin Firth, co-creator of community website, Kenyan UK.

He said some Kenyans are disappointed with the low Kenyan medal haul unlike Beijing in 2008. But their spirits were kept high by athletes such as Rudisha. “It was amazing. It deleted all the bad memories (and) motivated us. Overall I think they did well. It has now motivated us because we are bidding to host the Olympics in 2024.”

He says more athletes will be motivated, especially in non-traditional areas such as swimming.


MARATHON MAN: Uganda’s Stephen Kiprotich won the long distance event

“There will be talks of more funding now,” Firth said.

Annette Natoolo, a Ugandan born accountant based in London, said of Kiprotich’s victory: “I feel excited that we finally won after 40 years. We are still celebrating that we have a piece of the Olympics to take back home.”

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