Omicron disrupts Commonwealth summit

NTHAKO MAJORO

MASERU – The dreaded Omicron Variant has forced the Chef de Missions’ meeting for the upcoming Commonwealth Games to be held virtually. The meeting was initially scheduled for the city of Birmingham in England to host this year’s Commonwealth Games. The Lesotho National Olympic Committee (LNOC)’s Public Relations Officer, Fetang Selialia, has confirmed that the meeting will no longer take place physically because of fears surrounding the Covid-19 Omicron Variant. Selialia, who has just been appointed Lesotho’s Chef de Mission for the Birmingham Commonwealth Games, said the initial dates for the meeting have not changed.

“There are some new changes for the CDMs (Chef de Missions) meeting in Birmingham from January 23 to 25,” said Selialia in an interview with Public Eye. “The meeting will no longer take place physically like it was supposed to but will now be conducted virtually due to the Omicron Variant.” Selialia further said: “However, they (Commonwealth Games officials) are looking into the prospect of the CDMs going to Birmingham physically in March.”

This year’s Commonwealth Games have been scheduled to take place from July 28 to August 8. Selialia said as a Commonwealth Games tradition, Chef de Missions are supposed to visit the host city well ahead of the games in order to familiarise themselves with the place and its surroundings. “As Chef de Missions, we have to be familiar with the place where the games will be held, hence the need to be there physically well ahead of the games.

“A Chef de Mission must be conversant with everything and be resourceful in order for them to be able to guide their officials and athletes upon arrival in the host city for the duration of the games and during their stay over there. I must know everything when all arrive in Birmingham,” Selialia added. Lesotho is set to compete in five sporting codes in the Birmingham 2022 Games, namely; athletics, boxing, rugby, taekwondo and weightlifting. However, Selialia revealed he has been given a maximum of 19 individual slots for athletes in the upcoming Commonwealth Games.

This will also be for the first time in the country’s history to send a team to compete at the Commonwealth Games – the Sevens rugby team will be flying Lesotho’s flag high, running for honours. To realise this dream, the Lesotho Sevens rugby teams, both men and women national sides, must qualify for the Birmingham games during the regional Rugby Africa Sevens tournament which will be played at the end of this month in Maseru. The tournament will also serve as the Commonwealth Games qualifying contest.

The Lesotho Sevens teams face Botswana, eSwatini, Malawi, Zambia, Mauritius, Zimbabwe, and Namibia. The Lesotho women Sevens team will be making its debut at an international level with the upcoming Rugby Africa Sevens tournament. The men side has competed in the tournament before and won the 2019 contest that was held in the country for the first time in its sports history.

 

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