By GRACE CHAILE –
THE Japanese Government and the National Olympic Committee (NOC) yesterday signed a cultural grant worth K550,000 towards improvement of sports facilities at the Olympafrica centre in Lusaka.
Japanese Ambassador Kiyoshi Koinuma said during the signing ceremony held at his office that the grant would be used for the Phase Two of the Yamato Project which will specifically be used for the construction of a hockey, basketball and volleyball courts.
Yamato is an old Japanese word used to refer to the earliest ancient regime but in this regard, it is a reflection of the enduring spirit of cordial relations, mutual trust and harmony existing between the two countries, as well as desire for further enhancement of these relations.
Koinuma said the project began in 2012 when the embassy granted about $100,000 in response to NOC request to construct an athletic field, soccer, tennis and a netball court at Olympafrica Centre in Mandevu.
The Ambassador said he was confident that the project would contribute to promoting sports and fostering future promising Olympic athletes from Zambia ahead of the 2020 Olympic and Paralympics Games to be hosted in Tokyo.
“It is my hope that in 2020, many athletes can represent Zambia at the Tokyo Olympic Games and their performance will make great impact to people worldwide by showing the inherent power of sport to realise dreams, hope and aspirations,” he said.
NOC president Mirriam Moyo thanked the Japanese Government for the grant and assured the ambassador of accountability to ensure the project was completed.
Moyo said the fields will be in reliable hands and used for the utmost benefit of the young athletes in the communities surrounding Olympafrica and beyond.
“Currently, the centre is being utilised for talent identification for various sports. The goal of the centre is to groom future gold medalists including those that will participate in the 2020 Tokyo Olympic Games in line with the NOC strategic plan,” she said.
Moyo commended the Japanese embassy for the valuable support to sports in Zambia which she said strengthened the relationship between the two countries.