The West African Olympics

Most Satisfied Street Dogs? Most Edible Jollof Rice? Most Corrupt Officials? These are the Olympic medals that no one asked for, but I will hand them out anyway. Welcome to the first, and only, West African Olympics! Having completed a three-month backpack through this magnificent and unique region, I deem myself eligible to conduct the most meaningless sporting event since the Mauritanian Camel Wrestling Championships of 2015 (it’s a real sport). The entrants for the inaugural games include Senegal, The Gambia, Guinea-Bissau, Guinea, Sierra Leone, Liberia, Côte d’Ivoire, Ghana, Togo, Benin, Nigeria, Niger, Burkina Faso, Mali, Mauritania, and Cabo Verde (deep breath). Good luck to one and all!

Most Satisfied Street Dogs

Gold – The Gambia          Silver – Guinea-Bissau          Bronze – Cabo Verde

Good day folks! My name is Jack Rees, I am your commentator for this years’ games, which is being held in Ulaanbaatar, Mongolia, after their barnstorming victory in the Silk Road Olympics two years ago. We begin the competition with a brand new, and highly competitive, event: The Most Satisfied Street Dogs. Even with the new stringent drug-testing protocol, ruffly two-thirds of the entrants provided urine samples when they weren’t required to – often down the trouser legs of the adjudicators. Despite several disqualifications, we have a result…

Congratulations to The Gambia on receiving the first gold medal of the Games! Good boi tail wagging and very wide smiles (see below) were a theme on nearly every Gambian beach, as they were able to roam free and socialize in paradise. Receiving plenty of treats from their adoring onlookers, The Gambian Muttley Crew showed that, despite their nation’s diminutive size, anything is paw-sible. What a superb start!

Most Relentless Street Sellers

Gold – The Gambia          Silver – Togo          Bronze – Liberia

Well, I have never seen the likes of this! Double gold for the smallest mainland nation in Africa! This event, however, was a far tighter affair. The Togolese Street Sellers team, who narrowly missed out on gold, made shopping around the markets of Lomé a truly horrifying experience: following and harrowing our official judge (me) continually for almost an hour! Now that’s the dedication needed to win a medal at these games!

However, whilst the Togolese team hassled and hustled for their lives, they didn’t manage to stop our official from visiting somewhere new altogether, for fear of his life! That outstanding honour goes to The Gambian Street Sellers squad, who have perfected the art of isolating, intimidating, and tormenting tourists to such an extent that certain attractions are simply off-limits. Just wonderful! If you want to see them in action (and who wouldn’t?), they mainly train outside the Bijilo Forest and Monkey Park near Serrekunda. Just remember to take some spare change, and possibly a taser, with you! Congratulations guys!

Most Visitable National Museum

Gold – Liberia          Silver – Mali          Bronze – Sierra Leone

Another new event for the games, with a number of nations prioritising this competition over any other. The Sierra Leonean entry focused on elaborate ethnic dresses and a remarkable rail history that was almost lost to time. Mali’s brand-new and outstanding N.M. was full of ancient artifacts and large-scale models of some of the country’s most famous historical sites; sites that our official didn’t want to risk his life to see (he has since been relieved of his duties).

However, whilst Mali has thrown incredible funds at their effort in this event, Liberia pipped them to the post with an experience that money simply cannot buy: a seat inside a convicted warlord’s bulletproof jeep. Charles Taylor, now serving at HM Prison Frankland in Durham, would undoubtedly be a contender for the evilest human in existence today; so experiencing a moment inside his personal transport was about as eerie and moving as it gets. A truly gold medal worthy museum.

Most Suicidal Roads

Gold – Guinea          Silver – Burkina Faso          Bronze – Liberia

Well, there was absolutely no need for any other team to show up to this event, and none of them have. Stuck in traffic, apparently. First, a word on our runner up. Whilst Burkina Faso’s roads are reasonably well paved and maintained, there is a good chance that you would be kidnapped or shot at if you ever drove on them. Embassy after embassy warned our official to not even attempt to judge their manhole covers. For that reason alone, they are awarded the silver medal.

Now, on to our runaway winners: Guinea, and what a remarkable fifty years it has been for that team. Decades of corruption at the very highest level (more on that event later) has resulted in some of the worst roads our judge has ever seen. Crawling through rivers of mud for hour after hour, squashed in the back of a sweaty and overfilled jeep, would be enough to bring even the toughest of Marines to tears, and each of those tears paved the way to glory for this fantastic national effort. The Mongolian officials don’t look too happy about handing over their title though… Security has been called.

Most Edible Jollof Rice

Gold – Ghana          Silver – Nigeria          Bronze – Liberia

Possibly the most controversial and scandalous event at the games (rice tampering has been known), every nation in the region stakes some sort of a claim to be the owner of the finest Jollof rice recipe in the world. For those viewers watching this event for the first time, like an Olympic fencing competition, the meal is a West African staple, usually consisting of a fried tomato and pepper base, into which the rice and protein are added. It is the Gallo Pinto of Western Africa, and a meal our adjudicator ate almost every other day for three months straight. Ricely done!

Unless the protein has gills and a tail, it is usually pretty difficult to ascertain which creature it has originated from, but when in Ouagadougou… Ghana and Nigeria have been fighting for years over rice supremacy, it’s almost boiled over on many occasions, but it is in this very moment that the brutality and savagery can end. The people of these great nations can finally sleep easy, knowing that the discussion is over: a Welshman has spoken. Ghana wins the gold!

Most Corrupt Officials

Gold – Nigeria          Silver – Liberia          Bronze – Togo

The blue-riband event. The zenith of the games. The event every leader wants to get their tiny little hands on: the Most Corrupt Officials. Despite its distinction, our adjudicators were surprised by the lack of effort in most nations – rather disappointing. Step up Togo, who asked for a financial favour to turn a blind eye when our rather foolhardy judge accidentally paid the border fee with Monopoly money (lucky they took that one actually).

Then Liberia came to the fore, demanding a fee for a cholera vaccine that doesn’t exist! Fantastic improvisation! Fee paid and certificate given to say vaccine had been issued, even when it wasn’t – efficient! But, without a doubt, the clear winner is the Nigerian Border Patrol and Police Force, who brazenly demanded a bribe at every single checkpoint on the road to Lagos, of which there were about twelve. No shame, no consequences, no problem! You guys are undoubtedly the best at your craft. The rest of you, go to Kyrgyzstan and learn from the pros.

n.b. Bribes were taken in the awarding of this event…

Final Medal Table & Closing Ceremony

1st – The Gambia (2 Gold)
2nd – Liberia (1 Gold, 1 Silver, 3 Bronze)
3rd – Nigeria (1 Gold, 1 Silver)
Tied 4th – Ghana (1 Gold)
Tied 4th – Guinea (1 Gold)
6th – Togo (1 Silver, 1 Bronze)
Tied 7th – Burkina Faso (1 Silver)
Tied 7th – Guinea-Bissau (1 Silver)
Tied 7th – Mali (1 Silver)
Tied 10th – Cabo Verde (1 Bronze)
Tied 10th – Sierra Leone (1 Bronze)

No Medals – Benin, Côte d’Ivoire, Mauritania, Niger & Senegal

Well, that concludes the inaugural, penultimate and final West African Olympic Games! The Gambia came out winners, with Liberia and Nigeria trailing far behind, and it was the relentlessness of their street sellers that made all the difference – how many times have we said that before? No doubt, all other nations will take note of this performance and return with even more unremitting touts in two years’ time.

As for the losers, five nations came away without any medals at all, with sackings and all the repercussions you would expect after a great failure, imminently due. Although, it might be best to visit these places now before they start pulling their roads up and encouraging those pesky police officers even more – just a thought. We hope you’ve had a blast, and enjoyed being a part of these games, just as much as the world-class competitors. I’ve been Jack Rees, and will remain so. See you at the next games in Banjul, The Gambia!

If you can get past the dogs…

J

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One Response to “The West African Olympics

  • Brilliant report Jack and very funny. I think the concept was very clever.

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