LONDON — Africa Village
, the hospitality area set up by African nations competing at the London 2012 Olympics, has been forced to close because its French organizers allegedly have not been paying their bills. Competing nations including Ethiopia and Tunisia say the early closure will cost them hundreds of thousands of dollars.
Twenty competing African nations at the London 2012 Olympics had collaborated for the first time to create Africa Village at Kensington Gardens in central London.
With concerts, fashion, dancing, gastronomy and photo exhibitions, visitors to the village were invited to discover the "cultural, sporting and artistic richness of Africa."
Its total cost was estimated at $3.75 million, but it appears some of that money has not reached the village's suppliers.
With two days to go to the closing ceremony, the site has closed. The gates are padlocked, and plans are already under way to dismantle the site.
Jean-Claude Ablet is a consultant with Pixcom, the French company that organized Africa Village
“According to the local suppliers, there are some bills to be paid. But according to the organizers, that’s not true. Because at the time when the contract was made, the local suppliers said that they would not be able to provide all the services required. Therefore the organizer was forced to find another supplier or service provider in France,” he stated.
Pixcom's chief executive says the legal action that forced the village to close was an "excessive" reaction by its creditors, and also was "disrespectful" to the African nations.
The Concerto Group, a British firm, supplied catering and bar services to Africa Village. Its chief executive, Mark Greaves, says Pixcom owes his firm thousands of dollars.
“We’ve had countless discussions with Pixcom. I understand that many of the exhibitors [at the village] had paid money over to Pixcom, and that money wasn’t being paid over to the U.K. suppliers in accordance with the agreements that all those U.K. suppliers had with Pixcom," Greaves explained. "As a result of that I think various companies have taken legal action, of which we are not one.”
Since opening on the Games' first day, Africa Village had received over 80,000 visitors - among them athletes, dignitaries and famous faces.
Tunisia was due to hold a celebration there Friday with a series of live music concerts.
Ethiopia’s Ministry of Culture says a troupe of dancers from Addis Ababa has already been flown over to perform at the country's special day on Saturday.
The Association of National Olympic Committees of Africa
expressed its regret and called the closure “an arbitrary action beyond its control.”
“From my understanding, the ANOCA, which is the African Association of National Olympic Committees, said that they will take the matter further, thinking that the closure of the Africa Village has been unfair, so therefore they will seek reparations through legal procedures,” said Ablet.
Africa Village was also seen as a platform to promote a potential African bid to host a future Olympics. Three cities on the continent are being touted as possible bidders for the 2024 summer games - Casablanca in Morocco, Durban in South Africa and Alexandria in Egypt.