CAN 2021: the puzzle of the Olembé stadium, under construction for 12 years

Olembé Stadium

Published on : / Through Yannick Kenné

Seen from an airplane window, the Olembé stadium, located at the northern exit of Yaoundé, the Cameroonian capital, shines and reveals all its majestic charm under the effect of the night light. But under the diurnal rays of the sun during the day, this splendor is toned down in a construction site setting where hammer blows still resonate, where the roar of civil engineering machinery is still scathing, and where workers still devote themselves to last settings. This is because the floor covering work is continuing around this basin covered with pangolin scales, beyond the deadline of November 30, 2021 put forward by the Cameroonian authorities for the delivery of the site, to try to put the stadium on its own for good.

The 60,000-seat infrastructure has been chosen to host the opening match of the 2021 African Cup of Nations (CAN) football, which will kick off on January 9. Only about thirty days marks the countdown, the site is not delivered and the controversy swells over its ability to host this opening match. The African Football Confederation (CAF) plays the card of caution. She even recently mentioned the option of relocating the opening match to another site, to avoid any unpleasant surprises. The speculations are so nourished that this week, an Egyptian media indulged in predictive rantings, taking with it the exegetes of Cameroon, arguing that the CAN will be withdrawn again in Cameroon, and that CAF plans to relocate it in the Gulf. But the authority of African football very quickly defeated this heresy.

In Yaoundé, the Cameroonian authorities, although engaged in a race against time, display blissful optimism. They convince themselves, hidden behind a very popular maxim in Cameroon, that « impossible is not Cameroonian »! In short, the stadium will be ready, and the Head of State Paul Biya, will indeed preside over the opening match in this gem that its lauders quickly renamed in his name.

This stage appears over time as a dark task and tends to lower the level of preparations for this tournament. To the point of obscuring all the other organizational aspects already (almost) up to date. Despite the futuristic standing it exudes, it remains a stone in the shoes of the local organizing committee, a real Chinese puzzle. And to think that 12 years ago, the first stone was laid for this stadium, which is actually only one of the components of the sports complex envisaged on the site. It is included in the list of sites with supererogatory deadlines in the country.

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