NAIROBI, Kenya, February 14 – Last Monday, the Beijing Olympics report prepared by the National Olympic Committee of Kenya (NOCK) was handed over to the Government.The 61 page document re-lived preparations, participation and performance of the national team to the 24th edition of the quadrennial Games and made recommendations as Kenya readies herself for London 2012.
Suffice to say, the report was deeply punctuated with the fact that Beijing was the most successful Olympics for Kenya, with 14 medals (five gold, five silver and four bronze medals) won surpassing the previous best tally of nine (five gold, two silver, two bronze) at the 1988 Seoul event.
However, it was not lost in the presentation that despite fielding in five disciplines, Kenya medal haul was harvested by only athletics with boxing, swimming, tae-kwon do and rowing representatives returning home empty handed.
"We need to invest and have good leadership in every federation and in youth games at the grassroots to national level. Other countries are catching up with us in athletics and it is important we explore other medal sources," NOCK chairman, Kipchoge Keino, urged.
"There is also need to invest in more facilities and the Government should reclaim the social halls grabbed for use in other businesses such as bars and shops. These facilities used to provide youth with an opportunity to develop their talent especially in disciplines like boxing, tennis, judo and tae kwon do among others that have gone
down," he charged.
At the presentation, it was disclosed that Sh82,302,992 was used for the Games, a drop in the ocean considering that Beijing Olympics, with $42b (Sh3.318trillion) used by China, were the most expensive ever staged.
"The Government, through its reward scheme for winners, has done well to motivate our sportsmen and women to aim for good performances at the Olympics and stemmed defections to other countries. However, more needs to be put into sports to realise its full potential as an industry," Kipchoge remarked.
As in previous reports of successive Olympic campaigns, the recurrent issue of lack of enough funding for the country’s sport and its continued perception as a social welfare function rather than a fully fledged industrial sector resonated heavily in the Beijing document.
Sports Secretary, Prof. Wilson Lagat, who received the report on behalf of the Government, disclosed that the state had spent Sh200m on the Beijing Olympics and Paralympics competitions that ensued.
"I promise before you today that the report will be fully, and I insist, fully implemented by the Government. However, each association should propose a strategic plan for the 2012 London Olympics for the Government to get direction on what needs to be done to improve performances," Lagat noted.
"The Government, corporate sector and associations need to pool resources together to ensure adequate resources are realised. A team headed by the Permanent Secretary in the Sports Ministry, Mburugu Kinuthia, has already begun strategising for 2012," the ministry official charged.
Despite the firm commitment, it remains to be seen whether the Government, that has emitted strong signals of its seriousness in uplifting the standards of sport as an alternate source of employment and fostering national cohesion, will spearhead the fund-raising
efforts for the country’s sporting sector.
The proposed national lottery modelled along the UK model that would be the key source of funds, is yet to take off eight months after President Mwai Kibaki, called on the speeding up of its set-up during the presentation of the flag to the Beijing team at State House.
Also visited in the report were a number of issues that blighted what was otherwise a successful outing for Kenya.
Among them, was the contentious axing of deputy overall team captain, Grace Momanyi, from the women’s 10,000m team on the eve of the race. Her place was taken up by Peninah Arusei who went on to finish 18th.
Keino said that NOCK made the decision after accepting the athletics team management recommendation to axe Momanyi due to indiscipline.
"Momanyi just sat there and slept missing the time trials thrice. Provisions are there to replace such competitor and even if her replacement performed poorly, it was a right move," said Kipchoge although his answer was not satisfactorily received by the huge
battalion of press present.
Chef de Mission for the Games, David Okeyo, had a difficult time explaining how athletics physiotherapist, Japheth Kariakim, managed to travel and work with the team despite not being in the list for officials.
"I don’t know how Kariakim got through the strict Beijing Airport. He was very lucky since they would have thrown him out. We do not know even how he travelled," Okeyo charged without explaining why Kariakim was allowed to serve the team in spite of being an ‘outsider’.
The report also confirmed the theory previously denied vehemently by the team’s management that reserves in the athletics team, who travelled supposedly to act as back-up in case of injury, illness or any other catastrophe befalling selected runners split the camp.
Athletics Team Manager, Joseph Kinyua in his observations, stated, "It (inclusion of reserves) may have been good thinking and it helped in the case of Robert Cheruiyot who was injured and subsequently replaced by Luke Kibet."
Reports of boycott threats in the team and a series of night meeting to quell the unrest at the team’s training camp at Kasarani surfaced regularly before the team departed to Beijing.
Kinyua recommended, "It should be managed cautiously right at the beginning and not midstream. As it was, it brought tension in the camp and overseas as uncertainty grew as who would be dropped finally."
The rowing team manager, Seifudin Patwa, was a bitter man in the report as he questioned how he was dropped from the travelling contingent at the 11th hour with NOCK appointing another coach to handle Kenya’s sole rower, Mathew Lidaywa.
Patwa, a pioneer rower and founder of Kenya Rowing and Canoe Association (Kraca) complained, "The decision by Kraca was overruled by the Steering Committee without any form of consultation and a coach was appointed to travel with the rower only a few days to departure," Patwa said in his report.
Lidaywa finished 31st out of 32 rowers in the competition a fact that Patwa attributed to the decision to replace him. "It disorganised technical preparations and strategy the rower was now receiving conflicting strategic advice and information hence the poor
This was a glaring case of inconsistency in determining who travels to major events since NOCK is expected to abide by appointments made by national bodies in constituting the Kenyan contingent.
While the report gave the number of Kenya’s party at 72, the total number of athletes and officials who travelled was 80 with 54 competitors and 26 managers making the group.
Okeyo strongly charged, "There were no joyriders in the team," even in the face of conflicting figures.