More than 250 joyriders have travelled to the Rio Olympics, hogging the resources meant for athletes, their coaches and managers. Some coaches were not accredited and had no access to training facilities, where their services are required.
Sports kits for athletes have been stolen, allowances have not been paid, Kenya’s world-beating champions are neglected and officials have complained about shocking incompetence in the management of the team.
Despite all this, athletes have continued to perform extremely well, driven by the love for their country rather than the appreciation and care of the officials, who are supposed to take care of them.
At the centre of what is being described as a stinking mess, which the government has announced it will investigate, is Team Kenya’s chef de mission Stephen arap Soi.
He has been aided in the mismanagement of the mission by the weak performance of Sports, Culture and the Arts Cabinet Secretary Hassan Wario and Principal Secretary Richard Ekai, according to complaints.
Mr Soi is the National Olympics Committee of Kenya (NOCK) deputy treasurer.
Mr Soi, sources said, was running Team Kenya in Rio as a little, personal fiefdom, presiding over the selection of athletes, and their travel arrangements, accreditation and stay in the Olympics Village.
Officially, Kenya is represented by 52 athletes, three boxers, 14 rugby players, one archery player, two swimmers, one weightlifter and one judoka, and 30 members of the technical team.
The list also includes 14 members of the Steering Committee, 13 from the NOCK central committee, seven administrative staff and two officials from the Treasury, bringing the total figure to 178.
However, even though the true list is a closely guarded secret, the Nation is fairly confident that the full complement, which is said to include relatives and friends, tops 250.
On Thursday, Government Spokesperson Eric Kiraithe said the government would investigate the mission and make public the identities of the people who travelled to Rio.
The Nation understands that the first signals about the mess were brought to the attention of President Uhuru Kenyatta by the rugby team. After reaching out to Dr Wario, to no avail over failure to pay the team its allowances, feelers were sent to State House and the President Kenyatta is said to have decided to dispatch Deputy President William Ruto to Rio de Janeiro. The DP arrived in the Brazilian capital last Thursday.
An early indication that all was not well, sports officials revealed, was that Dr Wario and his PS failed to turn up at the airport to receive Mr Ruto. He was met by Kenya’s Ambassador to Brazil, Mr Isaac Ochieng.
Athletes, who held a meeting with Mr Ruto on Saturday, complained that they were only issued with one kit for training and another for competing despite the team’s official sponsors providing adequate kits. Sources at the meeting said the athletes accused NOCK of stealing and selling the uniforms.
Representatives of Nike, who also held a meeting with Mr Ruto, reported that they had supplied 1,900 kits to NOCK well ahead of the games.
“Nike submitted 1,900 pieces of uniform both for training and racing to the 52 athletes who were in Rio. Nike had a different set for coaches, trainers and officials,” said a Kenyan Sports ministry official who accompanied the DP.
“Each athlete was given one kit for training and another for competing. The rest are understood to have been diverted to the local market here in Kenya.
"Nike were categorical that this was not the first time officials were failing to distribute uniforms to athletes and said they were fed up,” said the official, who did not want to breach the rules of confidentiality by speaking on the record.
On Thursday, NOCK’s long-serving treasurer, Fridah Shiroya, sought to distance herself from the Olympics fiasco.
“I don’t deal with training and competition kits. I only deal with ceremonial kits and nobody is complaining about that. You will have to wait for FK, who handles that,” she said, shifting blame to NOCK secretary-general F.K. Paul.
The team’s captain to the games and Cherangany MP Wesley Korir had first raised the complaints about shoddy preparations before the team left for Rio, accusing NOCK of failing to provide enough uniforms.
“It is very unfortunate that each athlete was given a pair of T-shirts yet according to Nike each was supposed to get eight pairs. Sandals and sunglasses, among others, were also missing,” he said.
However, NOCK chairman Kipchoge Keino maintained that all was well. “There is no problem with uniforms. All the athletes were given enough pairs of uniform,” he said.
The athletes, however, told Mr Ruto that NOCK still owed them allowances.
They also accused Mr Soi of selectively accrediting non-athletes and people who are not members of the technical team to the games at the expense of coaches like John Anzrah, who was forced to return to Kenya.
Even worse, Mr Ochieng, who is supposed to have unfettered access to the Olympic Village as Kenya’s envoy to Brazil, was denied accreditation.
“It is not known who Mr Soi accredited, he keeps the list to himself. Even Kenya’s ambassador to Brazil... was not accredited. It was clear that some officials were accompanied by relatives and friends. In one of the meetings, it was explained that Mr Soi runs the whole show with an iron fist,” an official said.
Dr Wario and Mr Ekai also came under criticism from the athletes and the DP’s contingent.
“CS Wario and the PS are not in the picture. They are incompetent and were not even aware of the DP’s arrival at the airport in Rio last Thursday. They were not at the airport to receive the DP,” said a member of Mr Ruto’s contingent.
“It is worrying that the CS and the PS are not aware of the list of athletes, coaches, trainers and officials who went to the Olympics except Mr Soi,” he added.
Mr Ruto has since ordered Mr Wario to open an investigation into the widespread complaints.
Additional reporting by Patrick Lang’at