OPINIONPeople Daily

Let’s learn critical lessons from ‘Gold Coast debacle’

Alberto Leny

Last week, this column dwelt on the state of sports in Kenya, urging the authorities to put in place policies and legislation aimed at imploring sector standards. This week, it is compelling to return to this topic, following the ‘Gold Coast debacle’ at the just-ended Commonwealth Games in Australia.

Once again, remedial action is needed to right wrongs in the sector. The sequel is also a tribute to Kenneth Matiba, an icon of the struggle for multiparty democracy and a sports enthusiast, who uplifted the sector when he was chair of Kenya Football Federation and as Minister for Culture and Social Services. In the Gold Coast, Kenya performed below expectations—winning only 17 medals (four gold, seven silver and six bronze).

This is below the 25-medal haul (10 gold, 10 silver and five bronze) it managed during the games in Glasgow, Scotland, in 2014.

Kenya topped the medal table standings in athletics then, but this time round lost some traditional “home races”, ceding ground to fast-rising African rivals Uganda and Botswana, let alone the elusive sprints dominated by South Africa and Nigeria.

But what went wrong in Gold Coast? Despite the gallant efforts of the track stars, it is evident shoddy preparations, poor selection, favouritism and the elite athletes’ boycott of the games contributed to the drop.

How else can one explain the fact that Kenya’s globally-acclaimed marathoners (including the world record holder) who dominate the road race in the world’s capitals were nowhere in the 2018 team whose performance was disastrously ‘Down Under’?

Obviously, there is lack of accountability in sports federations and they must be put to task in the aftermath of the Australia fiasco, where out of the 16 disciplines (each with three medals) the country was represented in, we only managed 16 medals in athletics and one in boxing.

Why, for example, was the Gold Coast contingent not hosted in one camp? Because Moi International Sports Centre, Kasarani, is undergoing renovation, were those concerned not aware of the climatic conditions in Gold Coast so that the athletes trained at the Coast to acclimatise?

No wonder the temperatures appeared to overwhelm our runners in Australia. Preparations for the games were characterised by complaints of unpaid allowances and lack of kit, equipment and training gear. But the federations are not solely to blame.

Government bears responsibility for the woes affecting sports, chief among them the apparent lack of seriousness and direction of an activity that has raised the country’s profile and image internationally.

The leaders are quick to cheer sportsmen and women when they conquer adversaries on the world stage, but treat sports with indifference when they are expected to strongly root for policies to uplift the wanting standards. The laxity and apathy with which sports is treated in government should come to an end.

A taskforce should be set up to review the current situation and chart the best way forward. It is high time the Sports Act was updated and implemented. Parliament needs to enact legislation for the Executive and the National Treasury to adequately invest in sports facilities and attract the private sector, which has already shown willingness to support.

Further, the National government should partner with the counties to nurture sports talents and develop facilities in schools, villages and wards.

Schools are the pool of talent from where heroic sportsmen and women emerge. Other than the government building six world-class stadia across the country, all counties must strive to build decent stadia with facilities for indoor games. [email protected]

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