Veteran Nation sports journalist Elias Makori must have had a premonition of the fiasco that lay ahead for Kenyan athletes heading to Rio de Janeiro for this year’s Olympics when he wrote an article in the aftermath of the London Olympics four years ago.
In the piece published on August 13, 2012, Mr Makori warned of a possible repeat of the fiasco witnessed in London where coaches were left behind while joyriders, including girlfriends and bodyguards of team officials, travelled and took the place of coaches.
“They will also not say that joyriders, some of them officials’ girlfriends recruited for ‘away matches’, were accredited as coaches, physiotherapists, managers, et al,” Mr Makori wrote, referring to the post-tournament report usually prepared by the chief de mission and the managers of the various competing disciplines.
He went on: “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.”
Come last Sunday, Kenyans woke up to the shocking news that world javelin champion Julius Yego and athletics coaches, including team chaperone Catherine Ndereba, were stranded at the airport since they did not have tickets.
It took threats from other athletes to boycott boarding the plane and quick consultations among team officials and Kenya Airways staff to resolve the standoff.
Mr Yego, who enjoys a massive following on Twitter, shared the news with his fans prompting outrage. Users of the social media site lashed out at the Sports ministry and went on to call for the sacking of Cabinet Secretary Hassan Wario and other officials.
Even though they eventually travelled, Mr Yego had earlier complained about not having his coach Joseph Mosonik by his side in Rio, just like Ms Cheruiyot in 2012.
This came even as a man said to be Mr Wario’s bodyguard posted pictures posed in Rio’s famous Copacabana Beach — a scene Mr Makori had also predicted four years ago.
More than 10 MPs and senators – members of the Labour and Social Welfare committees of the National Assembly and the Senate – had also left the country for Rio well in advance, purportedly to oversee the welfare of the Kenyan athletes and prepare a report.
Senate Clerk Jeremiah Nyegenye said it is normal for Parliament to send a relevant committee to attend global games.
MPS RECEIVE SH50,000 PER DAY
“We do have a delegation of the Senate going to the games. I can confirm that. It consists of five senators and three staff members. These are members of Senate Committee on Labour and Social Welfare,” said Mr Nyegenye, who is also PSC secretary.
“They are travelling on parliamentary business and they will be expected to prepare a report and present to the Senate on the games.”
Going by the rates set by the Salaries and Remuneration Commission, each MP will receive Sh50,000 ($500) per day.
This means that for the 12-member delegation’s three-week stay in Rio De Janeiro, the taxpayer will cough up Sh8.4 million.
In addition to the daily allowances, a return ticket to Rio from Nairobi costs an average of Sh259,711, bringing the total for the 12 confirmed passengers to Sh3.12 million. The figure could be higher if MPs choose to fly business class.
The committees are expected to prepare reports on what they saw, heard and witnessed at the Rio games, which will then be debated in both Houses. It is, however, not clear what purpose the reports will serve since the Sports ministry and the Kenyan Olympics committee are also expected to come up with their own expert write-ups.
Incidentally, recommendations of previous parliamentary reports on the shambolic outings to the All African Games in Maputo in 2011 and the London Olympics have never been implemented.
Matungu MP David Were, who is the chairman of the Labour and Social Welfare committee and who is leading the National Assembly team, was quoted last week as saying it was not the first time that Parliament was sending a team to the Olympics, and that it was represented in London in 2012 as well. He said three members of the committee and a clerk would travel.
“When we go there, it helps us understand how those games take place. We were at the Special Olympics in Los Angeles last year and because we sat with the athletes, we found out a lot of things,” he said.
“We did a report and talked to the ministry and told them that the teams were not well treated and their allowances have not been paid.”
Mr Samuel Gichigi, who is a member of the committee but did not travel, said the expenditure was justified.
“As the committee that oversees sports, we have received many complaints from various stakeholders, especially sports men and women, that they have been receiving bad treatment during training and that the government only comes in at the last minute to pay for the travel,” said Mr Gichigi.
The MPs have since been joined by Deputy President William Ruto who arrived in Rio on Thursday.