Africa united! – By Adnan Nawaz, BBC

August 16th, 2008 Print Print Email Email

Africa had to wait until day seven of competition to win its first gold medal of the 2008 Olympics.

The entire continent celebrated as Tirunesh Dibaba of Ethiopia won the women’s 10,000m in the Bird’s Nest Stadium, and then, on day eight, there was more glory for Africa to enjoy as Zimbabwe’s Kirsty Coventry took gold while setting a new world record in the women’s 200m backstroke. (more…)

Africa had to wait until day seven of competition to win its first gold medal of the 2008 Olympics.

The entire continent celebrated as Tirunesh Dibaba of Ethiopia won the women’s 10,000m in the Bird’s Nest Stadium, and then, on day eight, there was more glory for Africa to enjoy as Zimbabwe’s Kirsty Coventry took gold while setting a new world record in the women’s 200m backstroke.

It had been a long wait for Africa, but when triumph was finally achieved there was great evidence of continental solidarity among the African media here in Beijing.

Dibaba wins gold

It got me wondering, is there a greater sense of continental kinship in Africa than anywhere else in the world?

I asked a few of my fellow journalists whether they thought African solidarity was a greater force than European solidarity. African journalists certainly agreed with that premise, whereas European journalists were a bit more reluctant to agree, although often after a few minutes conversation, they too seemed to grudgingly accept that it might possibly be true.

What do you think? For example, imagine you’re watching the final of the 1500m and the competitor from your own country comes fourth in an agonisingly close blanket finish. You’re obviously disappointed, but would you take any solace from the fact that a runner from your own continent actually won gold in the event?

Adekunle Salami is the Sports Editor of the popular Nigerian publication Punch and he told me that he celebrated Dibaba’s gold as if he himself was an Ethiopian. He also told me how he and all his fellow Africans cheered Cameroon to the rafters when they won Olympic gold in the men’s football event at Sydney 2000. It was all about “African Brotherhood” he said.

Speaking to European journalists, it was surprising how many thought it was more a question of their personal feeling towards the athlete rather than their nationality. One such was Stefanie Wahl, who writes for Germany’s Heilbronner Stimme. She said she felt really bad for France’s Laure Manaudou the swimmer who came to the Games as France’s golden girl of swimming, but has had such a terrible Olympics that she’s now considering her entire future in the sport.

I also spoke to Lars Werge Andersen, a former high jumper who now writes for Danish paper Ekstra Bladets. He began by saying it was more about the feelings people had for the competitor, but then he almost came round to agreeing that yes perhaps there was a greater feeling of continental solidarity in Africa compared to Europe.

What do you think? Do you agree or disagree? Either way it would be great to hear why, so tell us how you feel about this issue through this blog or via e-mail on mygames@bbc.co.uk.

On Monday’s My Games we will be discussing Africa at the Olympics. If you have an opinion, express it, and we’ll use the best of your comments as part of our show. Look forward to hearing from you.

Adnan Nawaz presents the My Games programme on BBC World. Our FAQs should answer any questions you have.

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