Saturday, January 5, 2008

Ghana's Getting Ready for the Cup

Ghana's racing to get ready for the Cup of Nations, which comes in a mere 2 weeks.

TWO WEEKS!!!

Listen to 30-year-old Ekow Smith, who's eagerly counting down the days.
He bought T-shirts emblazoned with the Ghanaian colors of red, yellow and green along with the Cup of Nations logo and says he will wear only those T-shirts until the tournament ends in February.

"I can tell you I feel the fever already," he gushed, gearing up for the January 20 kick-off.

He's not alone. Billboards throughout the country welcome Africa and the rest of the world to share "passions at the centre of the earth."

There is also a series of radio and television commercials, urging Ghanaians to get ready to enjoy the football fiesta.

The tournament's main sponsor MTN and it's main competitor in Ghana, Tigo, are putting all their advertising campaigns in football parlance. While MTN says "it's game on", Tigo is encouraging everyone to "be a true fan."

Anyone who sells anything - be it rice or electronic appliances - is confident of being able to cash in on the influx of tourists.

The hotel industry is one sector that does stand to benefit as all accommodation in the country - including a few as yet unfinished hotels - is full starting from January 16.

"If the hotel bookings are anything to go by then I can say the Local Organizing Committee has got it right in saying about a million people would be coming down for the tournament," says veteran Ghanaian sports journalist Karl Tufuor.

"I have been round Accra to look for accommodation for one or two people who are coming down from Europe and it's been very tough."

The hotels are full in spite of the fact that advance tickets have not gone on sale yet.

The organizing committee had originally planned to start selling the tickets on January 1, but then had to shift the date to January 4.

January 4 came and went, and the committee again failed to meet the deadline. But its chairman Kofi Amoah promised that the tickets will go on sale Monday.

"We have received the first batch and we have some public service announcements to inform the nation where they can acquire the tickets," Amoah told a group of journalists in Accra.

There are also fears that a big hotel in Kumasi, Ghana's second largest city, will not be ready in time to accommodate some of the teams. Workers have been working three 8-hour shifts to finish construction.

"We may be slightly behind time," Amoah says. "But we are doing everything we can around the clock to get the nation ready."

The Ghanaian government has built two new stadia in Tamale and Sekondi- Takoradi, and renovated two others in Accra and Kumasi.

Inspectors from the Confederation of African football (CAF) are largely satisfied with the efforts that have been made to host the tournament, even though the body has criticized the committee's inability get training pitches ready on time. For those too, the committee is playing catch-up.

But Ekow Smith at least is ready for the big event. He has high hopes that Ghana will win the tournament.

"We are the host and like Tunisia and Egypt before us, Ghana must win the cup."

Can't wait!!

(Thanks to the AFP Newswire for this report)

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