Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Kenyan Olympic Outing in London: Did Kenya have two missed chances?

The general sentiment in our country is that we had a disastrous Olympic outing in London. These sentiments are partly based on the high hopes we had prior to the London games. We’re of the opinion as a country that we would better our previous Olympic outing in Beijing. A post mortem of the Olympic outing has been ordered by the executive to find out why we performed below our par. Also, some insights are publicly available [Elias Makori’s blog] as to what may have constituted our dismal performance. All indication leads to weak leadership from the sports officials accompanying the athletes. However, I will disqualify myself from having the last word on this because I was not privy to the happening in London and I am NOT a sports analyst.
Fundamental Questions
However, that said I will seek to raise some fundamental questions on the subject of sports and national building. If you looked carefully at the London games you will notice the British used the Olympic Games to;
  1. Re-introduce London back to the world centre stage [For two weeks London was at the centre of the world]
  2. Come up with a national narrative of unifying the country #teamGB
  3. Showcase Britain’s new economic narrative [creative economy]
  4. Carry out diplomacy with the rest of the world. The British used this occasion to reset their strained relationship with Russia.

This was London’s chance to shine and surely they did. So what lessons can Kenya lean from this?
In my opinion if we had clearly planned for the games both on track and off track we would have been able to come up with; 
David Rudisha after his win in the olympics
  1. A nation building narrative. It is pretty sad to witness clashes in Tana River in the wake of Olympic Games. Given the fact we are going to stage an election in 6 months we might just have thrown a golden chance of creating a more coherent society
  2. Sell ourselves to the world. Here credit must be given to the authorities for setting up a Kenyan House. However, I have reservation when you had a delegation of government upstaging the private sector in making contact with investors. There is a famous quote that ‘the government has no business being in businesses’. It should only provide a conducive environment for business persons to carry out their trade. Therefore, it was preposterous to have a huge delegation lead by the prime minister made up entirely of government bureaucrats going out to London at taxpayers’ expense to ‘source foreign investments’. It would have been sensible to have the government subsidizing the private sector to attend the games because they have the motivation and desire to see and carry out these contracts.
  3. Avoid embarrassing ourselves. Going by Elias Makori’s accounts, the Kenyan sporting officials lacked some basics. If we have a rigorous process of selecting our sporting officials the way we select our athletes then we can save ourselves some embarrassment in future. I have spoken to colleagues who are of the opinion of ‘vetting’ our sports officials.
  4. Invest in Sporting infrastructure. One of the stories that came from London was Julius Yego used YouTube to train for Javelin Throw because he did not have a couch. Also, we have missed chances since we do not make efforts to participate in certain sporting disciplines.  [The jokes going around the tech community was that we could tech ourselves a new discipline say diving before Rio!]

Despite my pessimist look I must give credit to our athletes who did us proud in London lead by their captain David Rudisha.
Julius Yego, Kenyan Javelin Throw athlete

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