by Adeniyi Abdul
The hospitality house set up for African countries at the London 2012 Olympic Games has been shut down. The showcase in Kensington Gardens, known as Africa Village was put together by the National Olympic Committees of various African countries but has been forced to close early. According to London & Partners, the city’s official tourist body which played a loose co-ordinating role in the establishment of the National Olympic Committee houses, “logistical problems” were responsible for the closing of the village. “Sadly, due to logistical problems Africa Village has had to close early,” the body said in a statement
However according to Alain Barbier, chairman of Pixcom, the French company in charge of the £2.4m project, the closure was due to the non-payment of suppliers. He however went on to say that the amount involved was “minimal”. “We do not understand why this has happened with only days to go before the end of the Games, when we’re only talking about minimal sums. We are in the process of dealing with the problems.” he said.
Various African countries involved have expressed disappointment with the development. Morroccan staff stated that it was “appalling” and found it disappointing that such an action could be taken against an entire continent.
“We are disappointed. It’s really appalling,” said artisan Lahcen Bi Ghourbane. “If it doesn’t re-open we will do something, because it’s shameful to do this to a continent. It’s not just one or two or three countries. It’s an entire continent.”
Lotfi Labaied, Communications Director of the Tunisian NOC, said, “for the British public it’s a shame, and also for the African population here.”
“They’d been told to expect something here that would be a marvellous representation of their country,” Labaied said, adding that his country had spent as much as €400,000 (£315,000) on a stand. “They will think: ‘How in a country like England could they let this happen?'”
Ayele Gelaneh, Director of Marketing at the Ethiopian Ministry of Culture and Tourism, also expressed similar sentiments. “It’s a lot of time,” he said. “It’s a lot of money. We would have engaged ourselves in something different.
“We are here to exhibit, not to waste our time.” he continued.