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We all shine on

January 6, 2010

Surfing around a bit, I came across this BBC item, which asks: Is 2010 Africa’s year to shine?

I’m going to go out on a limb and say “no”. THe problems facing Africa are still overwhelming in their size and scope; there are too many to mention, but I will mention some obvious ones: war, disease and corruption. Most of which, of course, we never hear about; Nigeria has been in the news lately due to a terror suspect, Burning Balls, who tried to blow up a Detroit-bound plane. You may not have heard that, a couple of days later in Nigeria, 38 people were killed in Bauchi skirmishes. You may not know what a Bauchi skirmish is (I can’t honestly say that I do). And who knew that Chad was on its 4th Civil War?

Some other African headlines from the past three days:

Congo-Kinshasa:Alarm As Villagers Form ‘Militia’ Groups

South Africa: Zuma Proves to Be a Man of Many Parts

Gay in Uganda, and Feeling Hunted

Somali Pirates Said to Hijack British-Flagged Ship

Somali Rebels Pledge to Send Fighters to Aid Yemen Jihad

Zambia: Banda Sacks Minister Over Tribal Comments

But here are two that gave me a warm fuzzy:

In pictures: Skateboarding in Uganda

Rwanda: 2009 the International Year of Astronomy

The purported reason why this might be Africa’s year to shine is the 2010 FIFA World Cup, which will be hosted by South Africa. It’s easy to scoff at the idea that a month of futball will outshine 12 months of death and disease, but… I think I can at least try to sympathize with those looking forward to four weeks of positive news from the continent.

After all, we’re doing the same thing here in Canada – in two months, Vancouver will host the 2010 Winter Olympics, for no obvious reason except that we’re freakin’ Canada and we should have the Winter Olympics at least once every couple of decades. I’m sure we’ll have a fun time and the good folks in Vancouver might get some positive lasting legacy out of it. The government will be happy that nobody will be talking about the government.

Closer to home, Toronto just won the rights to host the 2015 Pan Am Games. As a Torontonian, I feel a little bad about it – we beat Lima, which strikes as pretty much a perfect Pan Am Games city, whereas Toronto is such a cultural behemoth – and will be so much bigger in 2015 – that I can easily see the games getting swallowed up. But whatever; we had a long garbage strike this summer and our transit system breaks down every day and the economy still isn’t too hot – so people are happy for any kind of “win” to get our mojo running again.

(and a friend of mine just recently traveled out west, and could’t help but notice that Vancouver’s waterfront is really nice while Toronto’s continues to suck)

I have never been to a World Cup – I presume it is bigger than the Pan Am Games, possibly bigger than the Winter Olympics. Canada has a mixed legacy with Big Events – some good (1967 Expo, 1988 Winter Olympics), some not-so-good (1976 Summer Olympics); I hope that it is a great month for South Africa and the entire continent.

And although I might caution about the letdown that follows afterwards – the empty feeling of knowing that the fun is over and all the old problems still exist – it’s something that really needs to be experienced to be understood. It’s a really big high and low, something that only a really potent drug (and certainly not my writing) can mimic.

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