'Africa Village' closes amid bills row
OLYMPICS DISPUTE:THE HOSPITALITY house displaying the culture of 23 African nations in London during the Olympics has had to close due to a dispute about unpaid bills.
Africa Village in Kensington Gardens near the Royal Albert Hall, which was due to stay open until August 12th, has attracted thousands of visitors since it opened, but closed on Wednesday.
The company supplying tents and other materials said “significant” funds had been promised but had not been forthcoming, while other contractors complained that they, too, had not been paid.
Africa Village is organised by the Association of National Olympic Committees of Africa (Anoca), which represents mostly French-speaking African countries. The village is split into several sections, with one, Africa Land, holding stalls displaying the culture and attractions of individual states, along with a TV viewing area.
The dispute is an embarrassment for the African Olympic councils, which had hoped the village could play a role in a campaign to have the 2024 Olympics held in Africa, possibly in Kenya.
Together they had spent £3 million (€3.8 million) on the village but the Moroccans, who were due to take centre-stage there on Wednesday, were turned away when they arrived to set up.
Anoca last night said there was a dispute between the French contractor it had hired and English suppliers over nearly £400,000 (€510,000) of bills.
“The closure . . . has impacted our continent most adversely, especially as our only desire, when we initiated this project, was to exhibit Africa’s rich cultural diversity,” said the African Olympic councils in a statement.
“We wish to make it clear that Anoca reserves the right to seek redress for damages caused to our public image and to the exhibitors who were even barred access to the exhibition ground.”
Lotfi Labaied of the Tunisian Olympic committee, which had a stand at the village, said he was “absolutely furious” about the closure: “We feel hurt. We spent a lot of money in getting people to come over from Tunisia.”