Beginning today through to August 8, the United Kingdom’s West Midlands region – Birmingham to be precise, will welcome over 5,000 athletes from 72 nations and territories – including Ghana, to battle for a total of 1,875 medals in 283 medal competitions across 19 different sporting events.
An estimated 30,000 live audience will witness the opening ceremony at the Alexander Stadium which will officially be performed by the Prince of Wales, Prince Charles, who will step in for his mother, Her Royal Highness Queen Elizabeth II, at the event.
Among other things, Prince Charles will read a message from Her Royal Highness, which is carried in the Commonwealth Games Baton, and has travelled to all 72 nations and territories of the Commonwealth.
Under the motto: “Games for Everyone,” the 11-day packed multi-sports showpiece, boasts of the largest-ever programme for female and para-sports athletes in the Games history.
Ghana has been a regular force in the Commonwealth Games since her first appearance at the Vancouver, Canada Games in 1954, missing only the 1986 Games in Edinburgh and for the 17th time, Ghana’s flag will be hoisted at the Games.
Ghana’s all time medal haul at the Commonwealth Games stands at 15 gold, 18 silvers and 24 bronze medals.
The nation’s most successful campaign was the 1966 Games held in Kingston, Jamaica, where Ghana bagged the highest gold medal haul of five, with flyweight boxer Sulley Shittu, welterweight Eddie Blay, middleweight Joe Darkey, 220 yards runner Stanley Allotey – and the 4×110 relay team made up of Ebenezer Addy, Bonner Mends, James Addy and Stanley Allotey, mounting the rostrum.
Then came the 1966 Games, 1962 Perth Games as well as the 1974 Christchurch Games which saw Ghana grabbing some outstanding medals each from those games: three gold, five slivers and a bronze medal (1962), five gold, two silver and two bronze medals (1966), while in 1974 – one gold, three silvers and five bronze medals were picked up.
Aside from the 1982 Brisbane Games which Ghana recorded zero medal haul, the Edmonton Games in 1978 saw the nation win a total of three medals, one gold, silver and bronze. The Auckland 1990 Games also had Ghana picking only two silver medals, with two bronze medals recorded from the 1994 Victoria Games and five medals, three bronze, a gold and a silver at the 1998 Kuala Lumpur Games.
Since the turn of the new millennium, Ghana’s flag has been hoisted at the last five editions of the multi-sport event with little success to cheer about.
At the 2002 Games in Manchester, heptathlete Margaret Simpson made sure Ghana did not return home with empty hands as she grabbed the only bronze in the women’s heptathlon event.
Ghana raised the bar in 2006 in Melbourne, Australia, with the late weightlifter Majeti Fetrie picking gold in the men’s 77 kg division, whilst Ignisious Gaisah jumped to gold in the men’s long jump with 91 kg heavyweight boxer Awusone Yekeni picking bronze.
At the Delhi Games in 2010, the women’s 4 x 100m relay team made up of Rosina Amenebede, Elizabeth Amolofo, Beatrice Gyaman and Janet Amponsah grabbed silver with long jumper Ignisious Gaisah, heavyweight boxer Yekeni and para-athlete Anita Fordjour competing in the women’s 1500 metres (T54) race all picking bronze.
The Glasgow 2014 edition saw judoka Razak Abugiri fighting in the men’s 60 kg and men’s flyweight boxer Abdul Omar being the only athletes to returning home with a bronze medal each.
The last edition held in the Gold Coast, Australia, also recorded men’s 64 kg boxer Jessie Lartey being the only athlete to return home with bronze medal.
As the Birmingham 2022 Games open today, Ghana will once again attempt to take the rest of the Commonwealth nations with a total of 101 athletes competing in 13 sporting disciplines. They are athletics, boxing, judo, hockey, swimming, weightlifting, beach volleyball, triathlon, table tennis, squash, badminton, para-cycling & para-lifting and cycling.
Predictably, boxing team the Black Bombers and the track athletes will lead Ghana’s medal onslaught at the Games.
The hopes of the nation in boxing would rest on nine boxers including Glasgow 2014 bronze medalist Abdul Wahid Omar (lightweight), 2018 Gold Coast bronze medalist Jessie Lartey (welterweight), Shakul Samed (light heavyweight), Abubakar Quartey (middleweight), Joseph Commey (featherweight), Alfred Kotey (light middleweight), Abraham Mensah (bantamweight), Samuel Yaw Addo (flyweight) and female boxer Ornella Sathoud (middleweight).
In athletics, Ghana’s fastest and 100m record holder Benjamin Azamati will lead Ghana’s quest for medals on the tracks.
The 4x100m relay team made up of Joseph Paul Amoah, Sean Safo-Antwi, Joseph Manu, Emmanuel Yeboah and Azamati will be looking to step-up their 5th place performance at the just-ended World Athletics Champions in Eugene, Oregon, for a place among the top three in Birmingham.
Sadly, Ghana has been compelled to make some changes to its relay team, following the failure of Emmanuel Yeboah to secure a UK visa to travel for the Games, while Manu asked to be left out due to personal reasons.
However, another bright spot for Ghana at the Games would be in the long jump, where national record holder Deborah Acquah will be looking to put the disappointment at the just-ended World Athletics Championship behind her. The flying queen failed to qualify to the final with a 6.47 metres distance jump to miss a place on the medal rostrum.
The male hockey team will be making their maiden appearance at the Games together with their female counterparts who made their first appearance four years ago.
Weightlifting and para-lifting have been ranked high as some of the strongest sports to earn Ghana medals at the Games, but it remains to be seen if the country’s medal haul in the history of the Games would rise.
BY RAYMOND ACKUMEY