While watching the IAAF tournament on the 13th day of August 2013, I posted this on my Twitter and Facebook timelines;
“The only reason Uganda participates in international sports events is to bring back unnecessary memorabilia for the National museum.”
A Kenyan friend of mine @owang33 replied saying that it (Uganda) puts her name out before the world to show its existence.
A Ugandan sportsman replied inquiring if I wanted them to be denied allowances, to which I replied by informing him that the country wants medals, not the knowledge that sportsmen have gotten allowances.
To a question as to what I have contributed, I responded that not being a sportsman anymore but a simple patroitic fanatic, I would set up an exclusive sports academy if I became rich. Only then would they ask me for what I’d have contributed. I recall adding that there is not so much investment in sports to talk about and that this is reflected by other countries winning numerous medals which we never get to share even having been particpants in the same event(s).
A day later, on the 14th of August, I shared a Robin Williams joke about athletes which I found rather quite interesting. At a stand-up comedy show in Washington DC, Robin said that;
“My favorite Olympic athletes are the African distance runners. You never have to drug test them, all you need to ask is ‘Are you on drugs?’ And the runners are most likely to respond ‘No. I am looking for food.”
This didnot go down well with one of my sport friends, a sports scientist by profession (yes, you guessed right. It is the darkling that is Zeno Othieno Owora). Thinking that it was just another stereotype from me, he rubbished it saying that African athletes dope as much as thier Scandinavian patners but if he said the same about the whites, he would be sued.
However, fortunately, all this opinion was rendered as idle talk on Saturday the 17th of August when Stephen Kiprotich united the nation in celebrating his success when he became only the second man in history to follow Olympic gold with a championship gold.
This got several people like @AyebareA promising that “Am not taking my kids to school. They are straight away going to Namboole to start running.”
and others like @cobbo3 predicting that “In 15 years, Uganda will be East African marathon kings.”
Even the President was not left out of all this jubilation. The Director of the Uganda Media Centre, @OfwonoOpondo said “The President was elated by Kiprotich’s gold win and would host him as he had done previously.”
To me, Kiprotich is representative of the current transformation, the “Kipro-formation”, in sport, particularly athletics that we are experiencing. He has proved to us that winning gold at the London Olympics was not a fluke, and indeed, like he told The New Vision before he left for the Moscow Marathon, it was an exam he had prepared for and would pass – which he did, and excellently too.
It is my fervent hope that more like him will emerge and be able to achieve more than what Akii-Bua, Inzikuru, and Kipsiro have done already.
The relationship between government and sport – before the medals.
The IAAF 2013 event got @onlyzeno and myself examining and explaining to each other how the government and sport happen to have a relationship before the part of winning medals. The following is the best I can recall.
The obligation of the government is to first provide a fundamental platform for growth and development of citizens (macro management). This it does through programmes like immunization, Universal Primary Education (UPE), Universal Secondary Education (USE) to mention but a few; and also, to create a favorable climate to induce opportunities through various investments.
So in the aspect of sport, the government, through its line ministry, because of draconian imperial laws, can only focus on sport as a component of education (amateur) as we do not have fully fledged sports academies like the magnificent ASPIRE in Dubai.
To increase the direct investment for sport, there must be a source of revenue for it. Unfortunately, according to our exchequer, there is no money that sporting activity brings to the table. So there is no way in which they (sportsmen) can be allocated an increased budget if they are in no way trying to generate revenue.
Elite sport is a different aspect, and fundamental business. So those athletes who win medals are not necessarily state sponsored rather, they have a good “system of law” that has made it possible for them to receive direct private investment (from companies like Adidas and Nike).
Reminds me of a @bkyeyune tweet; “Shame on these Ugandan companies that are already fundraising money to give to Kiprotich or it is Kiprorich. Where were they before?”
Unfortunately for us, five years ago the government was rudely awakened to this reality and in the ensuring mess, created a department for physical education and sport.
The only reality is that at the time, Uganda only had educationists hence the “technocrats” were primarily teachers with rudimentary approach to the elite sports. So in regard to sports, the state were clearly out of depth and assistance arrived from Germany but it was also limited to grassroots development.
The next wave of sports administrators were careerists who we all know can never make a meaningful contribution to their society unless the pay is as to their desire. The “job” at this stage requires less emotion which, unfortunately, is not what we have.
In the grassroots sector, a lot of strides have moved forward from the days in which we lacked boots to represent our country and shirts on our backs to play for our schools.
Sports, at least, the business end has become more appreciated in society and we have a positive but very slow growth pattern which is an appreciated form of development. (Examples include MTN’s promotion of an annual marathon, and several companies getting involved in the basketball and rugby leagues)
About the “law of sport”, it may not be the most effective but Uganda is currently in the machinations of creating a legal forum for sports revenue which, by the way, is a long process in itself. So don’t jump up tomorrow.
Now the least you can do is keep watching all sport, encouraging as many people to participate or else we are losing all our sports acreage to very bogus and valueless investments (such as invitation to a lunch or dinner at the State House on return from international events or monies and houses as gifts for the competitor’s efforts).