SAFFIYAH EDOO

For a period of ten days, citizens of this country have moved as one, in the spirit of unity, behind the formidable athletes who constituted the Mauritian delegation for the Indian Ocean Island Games 2019, and who propelled the country at the top of the scoreboard for the first time. The first set of congratulations goes to the athletes and their families for it is thanks to their years of sacrifice and perseverance that Mauritians can today celebrate. Their utmost dedication and performance have allowed for a whole nation to come together, for 10 days. Secondly, the Mauritian citizens deserve a huge congratulations and more importantly, a realisation.

For ten days, a majority of Mauritians have flown their flags proudly: on the side of their cars, rearview mirrors, houses, wristbands, false hair, to mention just a few. We were all praise for the Mauritian athletes who were seen simply as Mauritians; their religious communities, sexual orientation, way of dress, and residential address did not matter at all. All that mattered was the maximum support that we could lend them, as fellow citizens. We cheered, held our breaths, cried of frustration or disappointment, and finally exploded with joy, as one. However, the big question remains: what will the aftermath of these games bring? 
Political leaders should not lure themselves in believing that the people are so euphoric by the victory and one public holiday that they will not seek accountability for the numerous things that went haywire in the preparation of and during the Games. The episodes of pre-Games mismanagement as well as the total fiasco regarding tickets should be addressed, the hefty sums allocated to contractors that have not delivered to the level of the Games should be called in for proper accountability.

The athletes who are being celebrated today should not become the forgotten ones of the current and succeeding governments. While a reward of Rs50,000, Rs30,000 and Rs20,000 depending on the medal received is commendable, the support from the government should not be limited to a one-off basis. A number of our athletes who have raised us to the top of the scoreboard are young school goers, who have juggled their studies and training. Current and subsequent leaders should ensure that these athletes do not have to come asking for support. Rather, similar to students being rewarded for academic performance by scholarships, our young athletes should also benefit from a specially conceived program to allow them to keep excelling in their respective fields and paths that they choose, without them having to ask, even beg, as has been the case. Football, which has long been declared as good as dead as a national sport, has proved to be one of the biggest crowd and fan pullers. Due consideration should be given to this fact and acted upon.

These Games have also allowed us to witness the scope of talent that is present locally. Aside from the formidable demonstration by our athletes, the artistic talent displayed for the opening and closing ceremonies should not be dismissed. From the event concept to the stunning performance of the singers, dancers and musicians, the ceremonies were literally a feast for the eyes and the ears. 
Recognition should be given where it is due and nobody, not the government body as a whole, not one organisation or one ministry has the right to recuperate this win from athletes. They are the first and foremost winners of these Games and need to be recognised as same. Secondly, by now, the Mauritian population should have realised its potential to stand as one and should do its utmost to perpetuate this attitude in testing times to come in the form of upcoming general elections, where subliminal division lines will be created.

The true Mauritian force resides in its unity. Any threat to that, whatever be the nature, political or otherwise, should be faced off collectively, as one. We have stood as one during the last ten days, let’s start standing together, to face our future, without falling prey to division, for as long as it should take.