President Emmerson Mnangagwa has vowed to channel more funding towards the National Youth and Paralympic Games as they have a potential to become a noteworthy economic driver.
He said this on Wednesday during the official opening of the 16th edition of the newly combined National Youth and Paralympic Games (NYPG) at Mkoba Stadium in Gweru where thousands of young athletes and match official had gathered.
President Mnangagwa said his new government is prepared to increase funding towards sports which needs to be taken more as business with the potential to change the livelihoods of those competing.
He said the newly combined NYPG seek to empower athletes, especially those with disabilities, to enhance their physical fitness, self-esteem and sense of worth in their respective communities.
“Traditionally, sport was casual, relaxed and recreational, however it has now become more competitive, organised, marketed and complexly administered.
“As such, sport has the potential to become a significant economic driver that precipitates value chain business activities, directly or indirectly contributing to the national economy of our country,” he said.
“Going forward, my Government under the Second Republic will increase the funding of these games. This will ensure that the participants are well catered for in terms of accommodation, food and suitable transport, among other requirements”.
The President said such sporting events as the Youth Games encourage those living with disabilities to gain self-worthiness amongst society and possibly lively hood when they excel.
“These national Paralympic games empower the participants to realise their full potential as well as advocate against societal stigma towards people with disability.
“These games provide opportunity for the physical improvement of the participants such as stronger muscle development, enhanced cardiovascular aerobic levels and improved motor skills.
“At the psychological level, these games nurture a stronger sense of self-esteem and personal sense of worth; thereby helping those living with disability to lead more fulfilling lives.
President Mnangagwa said the new curriculum put in place in the primary and secondary educaction seeks to promote sport as an integral part of the education system challenging tertiary education institutions and academies to train more technical staff, coaches and sports administrators from among persons with disabilities.
He said schools should provide with specialized equipment at all levels to enhance the performance of those athletes living with disabilities and all stakeholders, in line with international standards, should observe inclusivity in the development of sport.
“In line with the UN (United Nations) Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, all stakeholders are urged to continue to foster the development of all sporting disciplines in a manner that is inclusive and leaves no one behind,” President Mnangagwa said.
He thanked all stakeholders who include the corporate world and other partners for supporting the games.
Minister of Youth, Sport, Arts and Recreation Dr. Kirsty Coventry said the games are meant to expose talent and scout for those with potential who will be taken to higher levels of training.
She said the games have been expanded to include those at tertiary institutions through the inclusion of the under 23 category.
“The games which we are gathered to witness their official opening were incepted in 2003 and 2008 respectively as a way of exposing young sporting talent and to encourage young people living with disability to participate in sport.
“The youth games which initially targeted the under 18s have now been expanded to also include the under 23 who are essentially tertiary education students and for the Paralympics side the age group is open because we want to encourage as many people living with disability to participate in sport,” she said.
The Paralympic teams assembled from the Youth Games will partake in the Tokyo Paralympic Games set for next year while the national athletics teams will be in Morocco in January 2020 for African competitions.
Minister Coventry also applauded the netball national team, the Gems, for their superb performance in their first ever World Cup and came 8th from a total of 16 teams.
Present during the launch was also the Minister of State for Midlands Provincial Affairs Senator Larry Mavima and Gweru City Mayor Councilor Josiah Makombe, among several other dignitaries