Monday, August 13, 2012

The minister must act on mess that was Kenya’s Olympics

PHOTO | FILE | NATION President Mwai Kibaki presents the national flag to Kenya team captain to the 2012 London Olympic Games team captain, David Rudisha, and his assistant, Pamela Jelimo, at State House, Nairobi, on June 27. Kenya had one of its poorest Olympic performances in the London Games.

PHOTO | FILE | NATION President Mwai Kibaki presents the national flag to Kenya team captain to the 2012 London Olympic Games team captain, David Rudisha, and his assistant, Pamela Jelimo, at State House, Nairobi, on June 27. Kenya had one of its poorest Olympic performances in the London Games. 

By ELIAS MAKORI eliasmakori@yahoo.com

The Games of the 30th Olympiad are over and Kenya’s team departs London on Tuesday to arrive in Nairobi Wednesday morning with 11 medals to show – including two gold – down from Beijing’s tally of six just four years ago.

Kenya’s Games Management Team will then go through the motions and produce reports, as a matter of procedure, detailing the country’s preparation for and participation in the London Games.

The chef de mission and the general team manager, along with athletics, swimming, boxing and weightlifting team managers, will all file their reports, as will the finance officer in charge of the contingent.

I can bet they will all say something along the lines of “given the fact that over 200 countries were competing, Kenya did well to bag two gold medals, four silver and five bronze, considering some countries did not get a medal.”

They will go on: “We thank His Excellency the President, Hon Mwai Kibaki, and the Right Honourable Prime Minister Raila Odinga for travelling to London to cheer the team, blah blah blah.”

What they will not mention is the fact that the fighting between Athletics Kenya (AK) and the National Olympic Committee of Kenya (Nock) derailed Kenya’s campaign in London.

They will also not say that joy riders, some of them officials’ girlfriends recruited for “away matches”, were accredited as coaches, physiotherapists, managers, et al.

Also missing from the report will be the fact that essential service personnel – including double world champion Vivian Cheruiyot’s personal coach (who also happens to be her husband) Moses Kirui, along with team doctor Victor Bargoria and coach Sammy Rono – were locked out of the Olympic Village, while officials’ mistresses partied in the Village with Olympic accreditation.

The buck stops with Sports Minister Paul Otuoma, whose entire office, including the permanent secretary, commissioner of sports, sports secretary, assistant minister and several other officials, enjoyed front row seats to the action.

Well, there’s nothing wrong with the front row seats. What’s totally wrong is the fact that athletes complained about the high-handedness of Nock officials as much as they lamented poor distribution of training and competition kit.

This, they say, played a huge role in demotivating them ahead of competition.

It will be wrong not to apportion blame to AK for also playing a role in the mess, thanks to in-fighting within its executive and a questionable team selection highlighted by the farce of sending the 10,000 metres trials to Oregon, among other wrong decisions.

Wipe out the rot

AK chairman Isaiah Kiplagat and Nock’s head Kipchoge Keino must wipe out the rot in their respective organisations if we are to make an impact in Rio de Janeiro in four years.

I shudder at the thought of seeing the same officials leading Kenya’s team to Brazil; it will most probably be a replication of London 2012.

I can visualise these recalcitrant officials lying on the beaches of Copacabana and Ipanema, sipping away their caipirinha and ogling scantily dressed cariocas playing with the sand or admiring the Sugar Loaf Mountain or the huge Christ the Redeemer statue.

However, blame for Kenya’s poor performance – by the country’s enviably high standards – should also lie squarely on the athletes’ lap.

I’m not a trained coach, but even a layman will argue that burnout and poor tactics may have contributed to the failure to retain four on the medals Kenya won in Beijing in the men’s marathon, men’s and women’s 1,500m and women’s 800m.

The terrible pre-Games management gave the athletes leeway to travel to Diamond League competitions so close to the Olympics, the travel and energy lost in these trips ultimately costing them gold where it mattered most.

Kenyans will hope that Otuoma immediately releases – and acts upon – the probe into Kenya’s equally disastrous Maputo All Africa Games before digging into the London disaster.

One of the reasons behind Kenya’s perennial poor performance is the fact the post-mortems are never taken seriously and lessons never learnt.

While we congratulate captain David Rudisha and Ezekiel Kemboi for their gold medal performances and also pay tribute to the other medallists, we hope Otuoma will justify his huge perks by acting on the Maputo and London fiascos.

Meanwhile, all credit goes to London 2012 chief, Lord Sebastian Coe, and the hosts for laying out flawless Olympic Games that were brought to a fitting end on Sunday night by a huge performance by George Michael, the Spice Girls, Taio Cruz, Kaiser Chiefs, One Direction, Kate Moss, Jessie J, Pet Shop Boys, Naomi Campbell and Eric Idle, among other stars.

London 2012 will be a hard act to follow, but everyone can trust Rio to put on one huge samba party!