How Kenya lost the London Olympics plot
Posted Saturday, August 11 2012 at 23:30
- Turf wars, ego battles and low morale hurt athletes in London
Kenya completes its bitter-sweet Olympic experience on Sunday when Wilson Kipsang, Emmanuel Mutai and Abel Kirui go for glory on the streets on London as the marathon programme completes 17 days of high-adrenalin action that will see the curtains come down Sunday night in what organisers describe as “the mother of all parties”.
But what was touted to be country’s greatest ever Olympics outing, surpassing the success at the last Games in Beijing four years ago, has ended up being one of the worst, the sporadic bright spots thus far being David Rudisha’s record-breaking run in the 800 metres on Thursday and Ezekiel Kemboi dancing his way to the steeplechase gold in the early days of the track and field programme.
Self-trained Julius Yego, shunned several times by Kenyan sports officials, was another bright spot here when he became the first African to qualify for the men’s javelin final that was being held last night at the Olympic Stadium, along with the women’s 800m and men’s 5,000m finals.
While the athletes fought gallantly to protect Kenya’s envious status as Africa’s undisputed top Olympic nation, National Olympic Committee of Kenya (NOCK) officials, charged with managing Team Kenya, have shamelessly thrown the spanner in the works with an arrogant show of impunity and mismanagement at its worst derailing the contingent’s bid to eclipse the six gold, four silver and four bronze medals that the country won in Beijing.
The chaos at Kenya’s Olympic Village camp unfolded in front of sports minister Paul Otuoma, who has since said a post-mortem would be done to dissect the unexpectedly general poor showing by Team Kenya, confirming that even government isn’t happy with the goings on here.
Dr Otuoma had, however, earlier thrown his weight behind the Olympics officials, warning national sports federations to keep off the management of the London 2012 campaign.
But with Kenya losing gold after gold, the minister and NOCK officials are now clutching at straws, riding on Kemboi’s and Rudisha’s performances to mitigate against the disaster in London and arguing that the important thing at the Olympics “is to compete, rather than to win”.
“As much as everybody wants to win, if all of the athletes who came here said that they wanted gold, there would be no Olympics,” the minister said in response to a question by the Sunday Nation over Kenya’s lacklustre performance.
“As a country definitely we expect more, but we have to say at this point in time that everybody who is here is trying their best... the rest can only be for post-mortem after the Games are over and an analysis has been made.”
Team Kenya’s camp at the Olympic Village in Stratford has been chaotic since the Games started with athletes complaining about high-handed management team officials who have denied them training kit and shoes provided by Kenya’s kit suppliers Nike.
There are close to 30 government and sports association officials in London, many of them serial joy riders unable to account for their $300-a-day (Sh25,000-a-day) which translated to Sh1.05m for their minimum 40 days’ stay here.
There was a near riot when the athletics programme was about to begin when some of the elite athletes, including double world champion Vivian Cheruiyot, gave NOCK assistant secretary Stephen arap Soi a dressing down over how he handled them, especially regarding the distribution of training and competition uniforms, ceremonial clad and running shoes.
Soi is the chief executive officer of Team Kenya and has come in for a series of attacks, along with general team manager James Chacha, over the way they have mishandled athletes here.
While US sportswear firm Nike, on a multi-million shilling deal to kit Kenya’s Olympics teams, delivered 200 bags containing an array of training and competition kit and shoes, only a package of 50 arrived at the Team Kenya camp.
But NOCK secretary, Francis Paul, maintains that nothing has been lost.
“Yes, we received the 200 pieces and I can assure you we can account for everything,” said Paul, a Kenya Amateur Handball Association veteran.
“We distributed the kit to Athletics Kenya, journalists, government officials and sponsors.”