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Wednesday, September 8, 1999 Published at 18:29 GMT 19:29 UK

World: Africa

Africa's sporting stars head for Johannesburg

Athletes board a bus in the "Village of the Stars"

Africa's top athletes are converging on Johannesburg for the seventh All Africa Games with organisers keen to play down security fears in one of the continent's most dangerous cities.

The competitors are being housed in cottages in a compound dubbed "Village of the Stars" which neighbours the vast black township of Alexandra.

[ image: Maria Mutola of Mozambique is set to participate]
Maria Mutola of Mozambique is set to participate
Up to 5,000 troops and police have been drafted in to help protect an estimated 5,200 athletes and the compound is surrounded by razor wire and armoured vehicles.

Johannesburg has a staggering crime rate with daily reports of rapes, muggings and carjackings.

But games chairman Mthobi Tyamzashe has played down concerns about safety.

"The athletes will not die during their stay here," he said.

Real threats

However a member of the delegation from the island of Mauritius was more cautious.

"The threats are real. We are giving strict instructions to our athletes and officials not to venture alone anywhere," said Harold Munro of the National Olympic Committee.

Among the top stars competing in the games are South African swimmer Penny Heyns and Christopher Koskei of Kenya who won the 3,000 metre steeplechase gold medal at the World Championships in Seville.

Maria Mutola of Mozambique and Namibian sprinter Frankie Fredericks are also expected to take part.

Bus crash

A bus carrying athletes from Malawi heading for the All Africa Games crashed in Zimbabwe, killing two people and injuring 35 team members.

The bus driver and hostess were killed in Tuesday's accident, and many of the athletes sustained bruises and sprains, South Africa's Sports Minister Ngconde Balfour said.

"The athletes are continuing to come to South Africa and we are calling for Godspeed in their recovery and hope they will participate in the All Africa games," he said.

One athlete, who suffered an ankle fracture, and a physiotherapist have been admitted to a Harare hospital and are not expected to arrive with the team in Johannesburg on Wednesday evening.

The bus, which was carrying 40 team members, was reported to have crashed into a stationary truck on the shoulder of a road about 120 km south of the capital, Harare.

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