The team at SportsKenya decided to take a deeper look at #TeamKenya’s participation at Australia’s Gold Coast Commonwealth Games. This post is also a response to an article by former athlete and Chef de Missio for the Gold Coast Kenya team – Barnabas Korir titled Gold Coast was stepping stone to 2020 Tokyo Olympics. Striking while the iron is hot, let’s indulge you for the next few;
The Commonwealth Games down under in the Gold Coast have come to an end. The 21st edition aptly labelled as XXI CWG saw one of the poorest showings by the Kenyan team. While the National Olympic Committee-Kenya (NOC-K) – the body charged with preparing and kitting the national teams for multi-sport events such as this – exuded confidence touting this as ‘the best Games ever’, they were forced to eat humble pie at the end of the 12-day(10 if exclude the opening and closing ceremonies) extravaganza.
For the uninformed, the Commonwealth Games are a colonial heritage from Great Britain. It started off in 1930 as a confluence of countries with British heritage or colonized by the British. The Commonwealth Games Federation is mandated to run the Games including identifying the host country, reviewing and approving sports disciplines to be featured among other Games-related activities. The Games have had various monikers as follows;
- 1930-1950: British Empire Games
- 1954 – 1966: British Empire and Commonwealth Games
- 1970 – 1974: British Commonwealth Games
- 1974 to date: Commonwealth Games
For Kenya, the Commonwealth Games represent the first time Kenyan athletes ever participated in both individual and multi-sport events at a global stage – in 1954.
The true ‘coming out party’ though happened in 1958 when Kenya – then participating as a colony when it collected two medals in athletics through
- Arere Anentia – Bronze in 6 mile (present-day equivalent of 10,000 m )
- Bartonjo Rotich – Bronze 440 yards hurdles (400 m hurdles)
The Games of this magnitude have usually been used to showcase the best of budding talent from the wealth of Kenyan sport. For a multi-sport event who’s participants include top sporting nations such as Australia, England and South Africa. A shift ought to have occurred by now from your usual attendance and filling the numbers.
The Games need to used by Kenya’s athletes more so the team sports to gain exposure and perform at a fairly competitive global stage. The disciplines such as basketball,hockey, netball, rugby and volleyball need to set themselves for the challenge of playing their counterparts in the Commonwealth.
A cursory look for example in rugby shows that 80 % of the top rugby 7s teams are represented in the Commonwealth – from Fiji, England, New Zealand to our erstwhile peeps South Africa.
Before the team left for Gold Coast- Australia, the respective sports bodies made a beeline of ensuring the players are paid their allowances – not too sure theirs was athlete’s driven or a need to procure monies in their usually depleted accounts. All in all, the Government
managed to pay off was forced to pay pending allowances and bonuses in time.
Comparing previous outings such as the Rio Olympics fiasco in 2014, the athletes were adequately kitted by the NOC-K and official sponsor Nike. This was a departure from the joke that has been our athletes complaining not having the prerequisite gear for training and participating while on national duty.
While the selection team may have fluffed by selecting youthful and novices to participate especially in athletics, this can help build up for the next major meets at the World Athletics in 2019 and Olympics 2020. In Wycliffe Kinyamal, Stacy Ndiwa, Samuel Gathimba there is still rich talent in our midst…far-fetched but possible.
What went Wrong?
Starting with the preparations, the NOC-K put out an ambitious budget of KES 450 million. Though it’s not clear whether they managed to secure the full amount, what boggles the mind was how this figure was arrived at and how much was eventually going to reach the athletes.
Secondly the selection process for some of the disciplines was not to par. This was especially so in athletics (marathon) and where elite athletes gave the Games a pass. Given the shift from August to April, the disruption on the athletics calendar was not taken well by a number of seasoned runners (and their agents). Other disciplines such as squash, shooting and archery were reduced to hand-picking of participants by officials.
Third, reduced corporate sponsorship and Government dependence. While the overall role of the team is to represent the country on national duty, there was little to no corporate sponsorship or support. Sports associations have not endeared themselves to local corporate firms and most have become indifferent to demands for sponsorship. Lack of accountability and transparency in use of secured funds plays a major role in this. Little to no use of funds for developmental purposes has affected most sporting disciplines.
Fourth, no sense of national pride and duty. Majority of athletes going to international events in the last couple of years have become disillusioned with doing duty for the country. Delayed allowances, bonuses, poor handling at athletes’ village and no sense of national recognition has meant athletes giving the Games a wide berth. Where were the Rudishas, Kipchoges and Kiplagats? Is it the agents’ to blame or our national officials lack of commitment to the cause?
Fifth, promoting and featuring our sports athletes on both traditional and social media. While not all of the athletes may have been featured, the national officials of the respective sports disciplines sent to Australia would have been propped up. The team had no less than 15 disciplines represented! What would it hurt to have the captains or favourites of say athletics, archery, boxing, cycling, swimming and weightlifting featured and social media presence enhanced? The prominence this would have had on their respective sports and also the athletes’ brands would have been a dollar notch higher.
The GoK has been shouting ultimatums to sports officials for the longest time. It’s time they acted on their words. If a sports association doesn’t provide a full account of its participation and corrective measures, there’s good enough reason to send them home. Lock a few and banish others for life. We have seen it happen at FIFA and IOC, I don’t see why Kenyan sports should be held ransom by a few individuals and their selfish motives.
Sports associations need not be run like kiosks and personal fiefdoms for rewarding mediocrity. If the sport discipline doesn’t provide a viable youth development and business case to the Ministry of Sport and soon-to-launched National Sports Lottery, it can kiss any other support goodbye.
Competitive leagues – national and county levels. These are already happening in some team sports such as football. However there is no cohesive effort from the national associations and branch level activities. Even worse is the disconnect between sports associations and county governments where each should be leveraging the others capabilities to muster community support and the other utilizing county funds to develop infrastructure at the lower levels.
National selection and preparation – a deliberate effort must be made in future selection and preparation of our national teams. Beyond the national trials for such sports as athletics, historical data and scientific training practices need to be incorporated in preparing our athletes. Some of the disciplines such as rugby are making these steps. It ought to be a collective effort across all sporting disciplines represented at any multi-sports event – be it the All-Africa Games and Olympics.
Interesting Facts about CWG2018:
#There was an equal number of events for both men and women medals awarded.
#Gold Coast 2018 incorporated the para-athletes to see a complete Games as opposed to separate Games as Olympics and Paralympics – 7 para-sports and 18 sports disciplines
#Gold Coast was the 5th Australian city to host the Games after Sydney, 1938; Perth, 1962; Brisbane, 1982 and Melbourne 2006.
For more reading on Kenya’s performance at the 2018 Commonwealth Games, check these links below:
- Gold Coast was a terrible, unpatriotic outing – Elias Makori – Daily Nation
- Optimism, despair and relief for Team Kenya – Kimathi Kamau – The Standard
- Why Kenya disappointed in Gold Coast – James Magayi – The People Daily