The 1,000 km Desert Race, which crosses the vast Kalahari, is one of the best known events on the annual sports calendar in Botswana. The race is held in July and attracts in excess of 500 entrants representing the world’s leading car and motorcycle manufacturers.
More than 100,000 spectators flock to witness this tough race as it crosses some of the toughest terrain on earth.
At the other end of the scale, the annual Donkey Races are held in the village of Kumakwane on the outskirts of Gaborone, paying homage to Botswana’s plentiful donkey population.
Sport in the country is overseen by the Botswana National Sports Council, which
has more than 33 affiliates representing a wide cross-section of sporting activities. This includes martial arts, athletics, badminton, tennis, table tennis, darts, rugby, softball, golf, gymnastics, basketball, hockey, horse riding, netball, cricket, volleyball, weightlifting, boxing, dance sport, bowling, cycling and swimming, and many more.
All of these sports are offered at primary and secondary school levels and competitions are held at a very high level.
Athletics is one of the higher profile sports in Botswana with many of the country’s elite athletes making an impact and earning a living on the lucrative European circuit.
The country’s first professional athlete was 800m runner, Glody Dube, who rose to prominence during the Sydney Olympics in 2000 and turned professional soon after. Others followed closely in his wake, including 400m runners California Molefhe, and Amantle Montsho, long jumper Gable Garenamotse and high jumper Kabelo Kgosiemang.
Rugby has grown in popularity in recent years and the Botswana national team, known as the Vultures, has become a major attraction for spectators, rivaling the support enjoyed by the National football team. The Vultures compete in the annual zonal championship of the African Rugby Confederation, and has won the Castle Trophy twice in recent seasons.
Botswana has produced champion boxing and karate teams which have dominated competition in the region.
Botswana has become the number one Nation in volleyball in the region and it is not uncommon to find two Botswana teams competing against each other in regional finals.
Another sport at which Batswana athletes have excelled is bowls. The National men’s and women’s teams qualified for the 2012 World Championships in Adelaide, Australia after performing well during the African States competition in Swaziland in 2009.
Whilst softball has dwindled in other African countries it continues to thrive in Botswana. League matches take place every weekend and the National team often participates in the World Championships.
Cricket is one of the fastest growing sports in Botswana. Its development has been driven by Batswana of Indian origin whose efforts have seen the sport introduced to several of primary schools in the country. The Gaborone Oval is a popular venue for league matches and tournaments.
Whilst the Botswana National cricket team does not yet enjoy Test status, it is an associate member of the International Cricket Council (ICC) and is presently ranked joint 29th in the world by the ICC, the 5th highest ranked non-test team in Africa.
Tennis is played widely in Botswana with players of all ages taking part. The Botswana Tennis Association has a nationwide Youth Development Programme, whilst tennis is also offered in schools. At professional level, the country’s leading men’s and women’s players regularly take part in the Davis Cup and Federation Cup team events.
in Botswana and is very popular amongst the youth. This is, in part, due to the Youth Programme that was introduced five years ago and came at no cost to young players wanting to learn the game. The Programme is to cultivate an interest in golf amongst Primary school pupils.
Bostwana has a host of world class golf
courses, among them are Gaborone, Grand Palm, Phikwe, and Francistown golf courses.
Whilst there are many recreational players, Botswana’s National teams play regularly in youth and senior events in the region.
Two-wheel sports are also very popular. For the more energetic, cycling is a popular activity, often attracting cyclists from as far as Zimbabwe, South Africa, and Namibia to take part in local races.
Motocross and motorcycle racing have become one of the more popular recreational sports in Gaborone, but top Botswana racers often compete in events in South Africa and Namibia.
Despite its small population, Botswana has achieved notable success in chess. In 2002, Botswana’s World Chess Association Master, Boikhutso Mudongo became the first-ever African woman to win a medal at the International Chess Olympiad. The country also boasts Africa’s only woman Grand Master, Tuduetso Sabure.
Gymnastics and swimming are relatively new to Botswana but there have already been some significant milestones achieved. In 2005, Kutlwano Mothibi became the first Batswana gymnast to take part in international competition, competing at the Melbourne Commonwealth Games.
Meanwhile, towards the end of the last decade, a team of swimmers began competing in regional and continental competitions under the Botswana National Sports Council.
Horse racing remains an elite activity but this is beginning to change due to the involvement of cellular network Mascom, which sponsors races at circuits in Maun, Tlokweng and Francistown. Here local riders are able to compete with their own farm horses, giving enthusiasts a rare opportunity to enjoy a day at the races.
Botswana’s wide array of international sporting activity is underpinned by the country’s cultural games that have become popular among locals and tourists alike.
Sport in the country is overseen by the Botswana National Sports Council, which has more than 33 affiliates representing a wide cross-section of sporting activities.