Why Kenya was in a hurry to drop medals in London Olympic Games
Posted Friday, August 17 2012 at 17:11
Nobody, not even an incurable fool, can eat an Olympic medal — gold, silver or bronze.
You could try to sell it, and still it would hardly fetch more than Sh37,800, seeing that less than a tenth of its total weight is really gold.
For all the 86 medals — 25 of them gold — Kenya has harvested from the Olympics since 1956, the country would be lucky to collect Sh3.2 million from their sale. And at what expense?
That is why, despite holding at least half of all the medals in athletics, Kenya is still a poor country. That is why Kenya went into the London Olympic Games not so much to win worthless medals as to cut business deals.
With the athletes doing just enough to provide cover for the country’s real intentions, Kenya was busy in the backrooms cutting deals for Vision 2030, the Kenya Tourism Board and the Kenya Investment Promotion Council, with Brand Kenya providing support.
Never has the country recorded such national economic success since the Olympic Games in Los Angeles in 1984.
In that year’s games, as Julius Korir was entertaining crowds by winning the gold medal in the 3,000 metres steeplechase, and two other bronze medals were coming in, Kenyans were selling kyondo, kanga, and Maasai beads like hot cake.
The proceeds were enough to see the country through that year’s drought and famine.
This time round, with a delegation of 40 athletics officials and hundreds of government officials talking and trading, and all based at a solid address like Kenya House in Stratford, the country will live off the economic pickings long after the event has been consigned into the archives of memory.
Kenya House, which was open for three weeks, attracted many people for its matchless elegance and beauty. And it attracted many tourists to the country for whom the games were only a distraction.
Throughout the Olympic Games, visitors wanted to trace the history of the athletes who had shone so bright in other competitions and suddenly declined in the summer of London.
Many were wowed by the exhibitions showing a replica of the Turkana boy, the most complete early human skeleton ever found dating back 1.5 million years, that they instantly booked a holiday in Kenya.
They sampled Kenyan dishes and met athletes who had won medals in other competitions before, and received autographs as Usain Bolt was busy making a cartoon of himself on the track.
Just in case the world thought the country was not spiritual, there were prayers on the first day at Kenya House – asking for blessings in vanquishing of our enemies.
And were they entertained! A few traditional medicine consultants should also have been brought along, but there is always another time.
As Kenya House commemorated “Kenya Day” in honour of the men’s marathon final, Kenya’s strongest ever field of athletes, the country was clear that this race had to be thrown to Uganda.
Since the two countries are good neighbours and strong trading partners of the United Kingdom, it was important that Uganda leaves London with a consolation prize.
So its athlete was fooled into winning the gold medal in the men’s marathon as Kenya took all the business and economic opportunities.