The countdown is still in double digits, but they’re down to a single month. Four short weeks. Three times nothing.
Kinshasa and the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) sounded the reminder on Wednesday July 28, thirty days to the day before the opening of the 9th Games of La Francophonie (July 28 to August 6, 2023). Thirty days which, for the organizers, is a race against time.
Isidore Kwandja, director of the organizing committee (CNJF), insisted at a press conference on Wednesday June 28 that the Games would indeed take place. In Kinshasa. On schedule. “This is no time for speculation, insisted the Congolese. We know that there are a number of questions: Will the DRC be ready? Has the infrastructure been completed? Will the member countries participate? The answer to all these questions is yes.”
On the question of infrastructure, the picture remains incomplete. The Stade des Martyrs complex (photo above), where the women’s basketball tournament and athletics competitions are to be held, is almost ready. In particular, the gymnasium, now air-conditioned and with a new roof, is in the finishing stages. The athletics track has been laid. The site should be handed over to the organizers by the end of the week.
On the other hand, the second Games venue, the Tata Raphaël stadium, scheduled to host soccer and wrestling, is running worryingly late. “We are working day and night to be ready on time“, say the organizers. However, doubts about the facilities may force the Congolese to move the table tennis tournament.
Another grey area: the athletes’ village. Set up at the University of Kinshasa, it too is not ready for use, less than a month before the arrival of the first delegations.
Another issue is participation. Present at every edition of the sporting and cultural event since its creation in 1989 in Morocco, Quebec announced earlier this week its decision not to send athletes and artists. Quebec authorities cited concerns about the safety, health and transportation of the athletes.
New Brunswick, another of the three Canadian delegations invited to the Games, will be well represented, despite the hesitations of its authorities. But its delegation has been scaled back. It is expected to have a dozen members.
France, too, has decided to scale back. Very well represented in the artistic events, it will be less so in the sporting events. Athletics, in particular, will not be sending a team to Kinshasa. Daniel Zielinski, head of the French delegation, had explained to FrancsJeux last May that the French delegation would comprise “60 to 80 people, including staff members“. In the end, the size of the delegation is likely to be smaller.
Isidore Kwandja reminded us at a press conference on Wednesday June 28, against a backdrop of 30 days to go before the opening: the Games of La Francophonie 2023, which have already been postponed twice, “are a real challenge for the DRC.” But the Congolese is not holding back his enthusiasm: “We’re convinced that this edition will go down in the Golden Book of the Games of La Francophonie. It will be an exceptional moment, showcasing the cultural and sporting greatness of the DRC and the French-speaking world.”