Our meeting today is unique in both its composition and its size, and I welcome this initiative, which is currently of particular relevance. I am standing here as a sportsman.
Do not be misled even if I have put on more weight and cannot boast to have your careers, medals and performance, but still, I am a sportsman and a fan.
Sport is increasingly becoming an activity that unifies hearts and represents hopes, dreams, emulation, performance and individual and collective achievement.
It fascinates and attracts people and crowds, captivates stadiums and playgrounds, and enjoys immense popularity among readers, listeners, viewers and on-line surfers.
In Africa, sport has allowed somehow to overcome a complex of inferiority. It remains a means for social empowerment, international recognition and respect.
Our sportsmen and women stand alongside our artists as celebrities and ambassadors of our continent, to which they bring real positive exposure.
They were the first to put Africa on the map.
The recent Olympic performance of my fellow countryman Anthony OBAME, silver medallist at the London games for taekwondo, allowed viewers around the world to witness the sporting emergence of Gabon.
Similarly, Daniel Cousin, who is present here today, captain of the Panthers, Gabon's national football team, is more famous among the Gabonese people and sportsmen and women than most of our politicians.
Everyone has heard of Abebe BIKILA, Samuel ETO'O, Didier DROGBA, Hicham EL GUERROUJ, Akim OLAJUWON, Tegla LOROUPE who is here today and many other African celebrities and performers.
These living legends are real-life success stories, symbols of what we can achieve through perseverance and good performance.
For decades, football leagues around the world have been opening their arms to a legion of top African players.
Our continent also successfully hosted the FIFA 2010 World Cup in South Africa.
The entire sporting world is welcoming more and more high-level African sportsmen and women. Your Highness, Ladies and Gentlemen,
In January and February 2012, Gabon co-hosted the 28th edition of the Africa Cup of Nations (AFCON), alongside Equatorial Guinea.
This major tournament is one of the five largest sporting events in the world. It is by far the largest and most popular on the continent.
I would like to share with you this experience that presented such huge challenges for us at a national and regional level.
We had a vision, goals and plans. This was not just about the organisation of a sporting event but also about the various needs and aspirations of the people.
In addition to competition venues, we had to create multi-purpose infrastructure that will continue to benefit the greatest number in the future. It involved work on roads, telecommunications, water and electricity supplies and urban development. Furthermore, several sites were constructed for training purposes.
A dozen hotels were built, like Nzeng-Ayong, which now houses the Samuel ETO'O Foundation, in partnership with the Barcelona team.
We created the projects and entrusted their ownership and management to a national Major Works Agency, using the services of some of the most experienced and renowned companies in the world, like the American company Bechtel, while ensuring cost control and value for money.
In terms of health, our objectives included much-needed infrastructure, such as incorporating medical facilities and strengthening emergency services.
As money plays an important role in sport, the Organising Committee published a financial report containing all the statistics and key indicators in April 2012 in partnership with an international audit firm.
But sport goes far beyond money.
Sport virtues such as spirit of effort, perseverance and excellence match with management, leadership and success. These apply to many aspects of life.
As a Statesman, I have learned a lot from these noble and strong universal principles. I do know that sometimes I can win and sometimes I can loose… even if I don’t like it. This is all about good sportsmanship!
Sport brings out the inner best of each individual, whatever his or her social status, rich or poor, black or white. Personally I talk sport, I think sport and I live sport.
One thing I have learned is that as a sportsman you get prepared for any competition psychologically and physically. These values and assets from sport such as strong mind-set, confidence, thorough preparedness and courage help to overcome any other challenges in life.
We shall build on them economically to join the rank of emerging nations.
With the African Cup of Nations, we gained immense experience in organisational engineering, administration and planning, promotion and marketing, the creation of infrastructure and event delivery, in addition to cost control and good governance.
The restructuring of the National Football League is an outcome of this experience.
New opportunities were created for our youth and new curricula are being designed and put in place in science and sports education.
We trained thousands of young Gabonese volunteers and staff and learned key lessons, which we think will have a sustained impact in many areas of our national life.
Ladies and Gentlemen,
We have come a long way since 4 September 2006, when Gabon and Equatorial Guinea submitted their joint application.
Looking back, we can appreciate this souvenir, forever etched in the individual and collective memory of Gabon: how the country took up the challenge of organising and participating in what is considered by the Experts as one of the best tournaments to date in the history of African football.
Your Highness, Ladies and Gentlemen, Dear Friends,
Sport should help harmony, friendship among people and union, even though, understandably, certain disciplines often arouse great passion.
Sport can be a cement for national unity.
All Gabonese were just fans of their national team during the 2012 African Cup of Nations, when our ”Panthers” were playing and facing tough competition. These were moments of unprecedented climax.
We owe thanks to all sportsmen and women for all great moments and joys shed into our hearts. We owe them better conditions during their career and after.
This is why I would like to congratulate the Doha Goals’ team and partners, for having provided this platform to bring together sportsmen and women, politicians, businesspeople and the media, with the purpose of better meeting the needs of a growing public eager to experience the emotions, sensations and records of sport shows.
I would also like to acknowledge the efforts and ambitions of the State of Qatar in the sports world. We harbour the same hopes for our continent and athletes.
Nations that succeed in the sport and cultural spheres are those who commonly end up knowing social and economic success.
Our work is underpinned by faith in this belief.
Fortunately, his Highness Sheikh Hamad Bin Khalifa AL THANI has understood this idea and integrated it into his strategy for this great country, which is a friend of Gabon and has taken its rightful place in the international sporting calendar.
We share his ambition.
Aspire should be an inspiration and source of dreams as well as a breeding ground, a receptacle, a place of convergence and exchange for all sporting talents.
This notably applies to Africa, which provides the rest of the world with a large number of sportsmen and women.
By doing so, by the time the Football World Cup in Doha takes place in 2022, the efforts will be bearing fruit.
May Sport continue to be this unifying force that creates peace in the world and promotes cultural exchange!
ASSALAMOU ALEIKOUM WA RAKHMATOULAH TALA WA BARAKATOUHOU!