When Zimbabwe forked out pounds 31m to stage the All Africa Games, it probably thought it was a fair price to pay for the prestige of hosting the continent's largest sporting championship.
What it got was a public relations nightmare involving four medallists caught taking drugs, a sex-test shambles, "winners" who did not run in races, an announcer sacked for racist remarks, absent stars, call-girls in the athletes' village and fights on the football pitch.
The Games in Harare, which end today, brought together 6,000 competitors from 46 countries. They were supposed to promote unity, but instead repeated rows between black Africans and Arabs disrupted the harmony.
"In general, North Africans don't want to accept defeat and always think they are superior to black Africa," Olatunde Fakuade, a Nigerian squad official, said.
Sporting conduct sunk to a low in the football match between Algeria and Guinea which ended with police dogs restoring order and a one-year ban from football for an Algerian player.
The handball competition was marred by by an off-court brawl between women players from Zimbabwe and Egypt over allegations that one of the Egyptians - who was nicknamed "Boy George" - was in fact a man and should be forced to take a sex test.
Some of the disputes have been petty. The lace sleeves worn by a South African woman gymnast were deemed too sexy, but an Egyptian protest led to the disqualification of gold-winning South African hammer thrower Rumen Koprivchin because he did not satisfy naturalisation requirements.
A Nigerian sprinter and an Egyptian wrestler were both stripped of their gold medals and banned for four years after they tested positive for performance-enhancing ste-roids. South Africa was ordered to hand back two medals after the relay runner and long jumper Karen Botha, wife of the former Springbok rugby captain, Naas, was found to have taken a banned stimulant in pain- killers that she used for back problems.
A British doctor, Richard McGown, found himself dismissed as an announcer after insulting a Nigerian official at the swimming competition.
He had earlier introduced the Mozambique leader Joaquim Chissano as president of Angola and told spectators that he could not pronounce the name of a competitor from Madagascar.
The Games showed that African sports federations had little hold on their leading athletes, with Nouredinne Morceli of Algeria, Haile Gebreselassie and Derartu Tulu from Ethiopia, the Kenyan Moses Kiptanui and Frankie Fredericks from Namibia skipping the event.
What they missed was 15 prostitutes - "identified by their attire" - being arrested as they left the athletes' village after an all-night show of unity playing games of a horizontal nature.
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