SASCOC president Gideon Sam has hit hard at critics that the All Africa Games are irrelevant. 

But something that Sam cannot argue with is fact that they have lost their shine. 

As the continent prepares to start in the 12th edition of the Games in Marrakesh, Morocco on Friday, Sam insists: “They are relevant.” 

The countries olympic body has dispatched 153 Team SA athletes to compete in 11 sporting codes. 

Among them is Thapelo Phora will use the games to prepare for the International Association of Athletics Federation (IAAF) 400m World Championships in Doha, Qatar next month.

Hopes are high that Team SA will this time around collect more than 122 medals which they lifted in Congo Brazzaville in 2015 – 41 gold, 41 silver and 40 bronze – to finish third on the medal table. 

“This is the highest pinnacle of competitions in Africa,” said Sam. 

“This is a benchmark for our athletes as these games come a year before the Olympics in Tokyo, Japan.

Well, to answer your question, the All Africa Games are still relevant. It is a great platform for young athletes to launch their careers.

To be the best in the world, you have to start by conquering your continent.” 

Sam sent a big team of 300 athletes four years ago, but due to the economic meltdown, the list has been trimmed with 147 athletes less. 

Athletics (38) and swimming (24) dominate the number of the athletes that will fly the Team SA flag high. 

Big name athletes such as javelin queen Sunette Viljoen, rising star and 400m hurdles sensation Zaney van der Walt, 2012 Olympic Games canoeing bronze medallist, Bridgitte Hartley and swimming star Michael Houlie, are carrying the country’s biggest hopes in Morocco.