President Akufo-Addo in a historic pose with six Ghanaian athletics legends at the just ended African Games in Accra. From left E. C. O. Addy, Mike Ahey, Hannah Afriyie, Alice Anum and Ohene Karikari

By Ken Bediako

One great side attraction of the just ended African Games was, in my view, the special invitation to some of the nation’s legendary sporting personalities to grace the occasion. It was

particularly refreshing for some of us, the oldies, to see former great performers like Mike Ahey, Alice Anum E.C.O. Addy, Hannah Afriyie, Ohene Karikari and Ethel Jack’s recounting stories of their g olden days.

What tickled me most was their almost unanimous call for the nation to establish a Sports Hall of Fame. Incidentally, it is my favourite topic for two main reasons.

Firstly, as a young sportswriter, six decades ago at the then mass circulation Daily Graphic newspaper,

I was an active participant in the sports performers fields of endeavour. Their hard work and fruitful results made coverage of sporting events a fulfilling assignment.

Secondly, I was an active member of a seven-member committee set up in June 2003 (that is more than two decades ago) by then Minister in charge of sports, Mr Kwadwo Baah Wiredu, to recognise outstanding sports personalities in Ghana. I won’t be modest to say that Mr Baah Wiredu (May his soul rest in peace), congratulated our committee for the excellent work done in 11 months.

Veteran Sports Journalist Ken Bediako-The Writer

It is the outcome of some of our recommendations that we now have Baba Yara Stadium in Kumasi, Azumah Nelson Sports Complex, Hathiramani Sports Hall, Theodosia Okoh Hockey Stadium etc all in Accra.

The Committee headed by veteran sports administrator Dr Owusu Ansah painstakingly traced the history of Ghana’s participation in international meetings like the Olympic Games, the Commonwealth, Games African Games, Afcon etc from the year 1952 and identified the sportsmen and sportswomen who represented the nation at such Games.

There was a major recommendation for a sports hall of fame, sports museums possibly in all the regions and the naming of sports facilities after sports heroes.

It was noted that the list of honours should be continuous but since the initial response nothing has been done. My suspicion is that the report might be gathering dust at the Sports Ministry. Obviously they have much more lucrative businesses to consider than this committee report.

More on this at another time. My concern now is to show reasons why athletics hero Mike Ahey and his invited colleagues for the just ended Accra 2023 African Games deserve honour. For starters

Ahey hit the international sporting scene as far back as the 1962 Perth Commonwealth Games in Australia with a leap of 26ft 5in in the long jump. The lanky military man took gold with a

Games record. He also run the sprints relay with B K. Mends, Bukari Bashiru and M.F. Okantey to share a Commonwealth Games record with England. It was an extremely tight race. The modern day VAR, then known as photo finish, however indicated England won by hairs breadth and were given the gold medal. Ghana had to contend with the silver.

Tall, lanky and extremely jovial Mike Ahey made his Olympic Games debut in Tokyo 1964 where he ran the 100m, plus the sprints relay with Stan Allotey, J.A. Addy and Mike Okantey. Ahey was at the 1st African Games in Brazzaville 1965 and he won bronze in the sprints quartet with E. W. K. Donkor, B.K. Mends and M. F. Okantey. Ahey was at the 1968 Mexico Olympics where he ran the 100m in his penultimate Olympics event. He was in Edinburgh 1970 for the Commonwealth Games where he won the sprints relay silver with J.A. Addy, Emmanuel Owusu and George Daniels before his last Olympics in Munich 1972.

My next focus on the legends list is Alice Anum affectionately called Baby Jet who made a grand debut at the 1964 Tokyo Olympics, as “a tiny tot”. She beautifully used the experience gained in Tokyo to shine in the very first African Games in Brazzaville 1965 winning long jump gold and silver in the sprints relay with Ivy Lamptey, Felicia Agyei and Rose Hart.

Not much was seen of her at the 1966 Commonwealth Games in Kingston Jamaica where Stan Allotey, E C.O Addy, B.K Mends and J.A. Addy stole the show, but she showed remarkable improvement at the Mexico Olympics in 1968 being the only. Ghanaian female athlete at the Games

Still on the rise, Alice Anum in 1970 became the first Ghanaian female athlete to win a Commonwealth Games medal when she won silver in both the 100m and 200m at the Edinburgh Games in Scotland.

Alice showed dexterity at the1972 Munich Olympics where she scored another feat being the first Ghanaian female athlete to reach the final in both the 100m and 200m. She placed a modest 6th and 7th positions respectively.

From Munich Alice went into top gear at the 2nd African Games in Lagos 1973. The Baby Jet won gold in both the 100m and 200m and the sprints quartet with Josephine Ocran, Rose Asiedua and Elizabeth Bruce.

Come 1974 Commonwealth Games in Christchurch, New Zealand and Alice at her twilight won bronze in the 200m and another bronze in the sprints quartet of Hannah Afriyie, Josephine Ocran and Rose Asiedua. After the New Zealand Games, Alice had apparently handed the baton to Hannah Afriyie, her junior mate at Accra Girls Secondary School. Hannah followed the Accra Girls tradition supervised by affable Headmistress Mrs Gloria Aryee of blessed memory by winning gold in both 100m and 200m at the 3rd African Games in Algeria 1978. Hannah was also among the sprints golden quartet of Janet Yawson, Grace Bakari and Janet Ofosu. She was also part of the 4x400m quartet of Helena Opoku, Grace Bakari, and Georgina Aidoo.

So much to write about the legends I have to end here and continue next week. Ohene Karikari, E. C.O Addy, Ethel Jacks et al.

Cheers everybody and keep loving sports.