National Olympic Committee of Kenya President Paul Tergat has described his late predecessor Charles Mukora as the man responsible for the firm entrenchment of Kenya into the Olympic movement.
Mukora, 83, died on Thursday after a long illness.
The former member of the International Olympic Committee (IOC) will also be remembered as one of the forces behind Kenya’s breakthrough into international track and field as pioneer coach, nurturing the careers of Kenyan legends Naftali Temu and Kipchoge Keino, among many others.
“Charles was one of the founding pillars of the National Olympic Committee of Kenya (Nock) and his tenure saw Kenya firmly established in the global Olympic movement,” said Tergat, an Olympic silver medallist and former world marathon record holder, in his condolences statement.
Athletics Kenya President Jack Tuwei paid tribute to Mukora, who also served as Laikipia East Member of Parliament, as a “dedicated sports leader.”
“This is one individual who served Kenya in different capacities internationally and in a very diligent manner,” Tuwei said in his message.
“Apart from serving his constituents as MP, he at the same time played several roles as a sports administrator locally and internationally.
“We are together in prayer and wish that God gives the family strength to bear the loss. Kenya has lost a dedicated sports leader and servant,” Tuwei added.
In his message, Tergat, who took over from Mukora’s successor Kipchoge Keino as Nock’s head in September last year, said despite great challenges, Mukora “remains one of the stalwarts of the Olympic movement locally and internationally.”
“Charles made huge contributions towards the development and solidifying of the Olympic movement and Olympism in Kenya, and his contribution, particularly in expanding corporate participation in our sports, is well known,” Tergat added.
The challenges that Tergat referred led to Mukora’s dramatic exit from the IOC after being implicated in financial impropriety in the build-up to voting Salt Lake City in Utah, USA, as hosts of the 2002 Winter Olympic Games.
Mukora maintained his innocence with the IOC dropping him as its member and suspending him from any involvement in the Olympic movement.
That effectively brought Mukora’s long, illustrious career in sports administration to an abrupt end, after which he withdrew from public life as he also battled illness.
The news of Mukora’s death was broken by Nock’s former assistant treasurer, Stephen arap Soi, on Thursday evening.
“It with deep sorrow and regret that death has once again robbed Kenya of a long time sports administrator, Hon Charles Mukora, which occurred a short while ago. Let us join hands in condoling the family of the late Mukora,” Soi said in a statement.
Mukora’s prominence in Kenyan sport dates back to 1968 when he took over as national athletics coach from Briton John Velzian who had, in 1965, led the country to the first ever African Championships in Congo Brazzaville.
Mukora took Kenya to the Mexico Olympic Games where Temu panned the first ever Olympic gold medal, winning the 10,000 metres race with Kipchoge Keino winning gold in the 1,500 metres.
Mukora enjoyed the rare distinction of having been an athlete, coach and administrator at the highest global level, representing Kenya in both football and athletics at regional competitions.
He competed in the long jump and triple jump before later taking up the decathlon, urged into sport by his British teacher John Cowley.
After a year’s studies at Loughborough College in England, Mukora was appointed sports officer upon his return, but was snapped up by the Coca-Cola Company and employed as a marketing trainee although he still took charge of Kenya as head coach at the 1972 Munich Olympics.
At Coca-Cola, he rose to the position of external affairs manager and was in 1976 elected into the Council of the International Amateur Athletics Federation (IAAF), the global body that was later renamed to present day International Association of Athletics Federations.
This was after he took charge as chairman of the Kenya Amateur Athletics Association (1972-1974), and, later, as chairman of the Kenya National Sports Council.
In 1989, Mukora was elected Nock chairman, taking over from Samuel Mbogo and, a year later, he was appointed IOC member, the same year he retired from Coca-Cola.
Mukora was a close ally of then Democratic Party leader, Mwai Kibaki, and was elected as Laikipia East Member of Parliament serving from 1992 to 1997.
But his star in sports administration was dimmed in 1999 when he was accused of taking a $34,000 bribe to vote for Salt Lake City’s bid to host the 2002 Winter Olympics after IOC whistle blower Mark Hodler raised allegations of impropriety in the Olympic movement.
“Mr Mukora accepted payments from SLOC (Salt Lake Organizing Committee) for his personal benefit. By engaging in such conduct, Mr Mukora has been unworthy of and jeopardized the interests of the IOC in a manner incompatible with the duties and obligations pertaining to his membership,” a report of the Lausanne-based IOC ad hoc commission to investigate the Salt Lake City scandal ruled on January 24, 1999.
“The commission, after full consideration of the facts and the applicable standards under the Olympic Charter and article 65 of the Swiss Civil Code, and upon careful deliberation, recommends that Mr Mukora be expelled from the IOC.”
In his defence, Mukora maintained the money was to finance sports development, but resigned from the IOC along with five other African members, namely Jean-Claude Ganga (Congo), Zein El Abdin Ahmed Abdel-Gadir (Sudan), Lamine Keita (Mali), David Sibandze (Swaziland, now Eswatini) and Bashir Mohammed Attarabulsi (Libya).
That episode apart, Mukora will be remembered for crafting the Kenyan track and field teams that shone at the Mexico and Munich Olympics, focusing his training in central Kenya.
In Swiss journalist Jurg Wirz’s book Run to Win: The Training Secrets of the Kenyan Runners, Mukora explains his strict training regime and preference for Nyahururu.
“I selected Nyahururu as a training camp because the altitude was more or less the same as Mexico,” he says.
“The training in Nyahururu was quite tough, three sessions a day with a lot of endurance and hill-work. We used a hill called “agony hill.” The team was selected after the trials. They were the best in the country.
“Nevertheless, we had some people who almost collapsed when they got right to the top of “agony hill.”
“People like Kip Keino and Naftali Temu were running up the hill many times.
“I put Keino in three events – the 1,500m, the 5,000m and the 10,000m because I knew how good he was.
“In Mexico, we usually sacrificed the slowest in the race to run in front. We were running as a team. Tactics already played an important role.
“If you ask me if I was surprised when Temu and Keino won their medals, I would answer I was sure that not many people had trained as hard as our athletes.”
LOST HIS WIFE
Dead at 83, Mukora will remain an integral part of Kenya’s rich sports history.
Mukora’s wife, Salome Wanjiru Mukora, died on May 21 last year.
The couple had four children – Patrick, Patricia, Beth and Susan.
“My condolences to the family and the entire athletics fraternity. RIP,” said Tecla Sang, a pioneer athlete whose late husband Julius Sang was coached by Mukora to a gold medal at the Munich Olympics in the 4x400 metres relay.
“Very sad indeed. Condolences to the family and may he rest in peace,” added another pioneer woman athlete, former hurdler Rose Tata Muya.
Others who sent early messages of condolences were Athletics Kenya’s branch chairmen Barnabas Korir (Nairobi), Dimmy Kisalu (Coast) and Joseph Ochieng (Nyanza North).