Wednesday, 16 July 2008

Kenyan Athletics : What is Wrong ?

The year 2008 has been a bumpy ride for most sports given the sort of start we had with all the political and social issues arising. For one of Kenya's main sports heritage, this year's has had some hard questions raised concerning the game.
In the height of the skirmishes taking place at the heart of the matter in Rift Valley, athletes were put on the spotlight and some reports indicated the involvement of former athletes in recruiting and co-ordinating the perpetrators of some of the most heinous acts against fellow countrymen since colonial times. There were 2 former athletes who even lost their lives in the midst of all these. With most of our athletes having been recruited through the disciplined forces either police, army or prison guards, the suspicions and claims were bound to be raised.
Also given the information(or misinformation) in that period, anything flew !
A few weeks ago, the investigative journalists of one of the Kenyan dailies reported the allure of money that is making miserable lives out of teenage girls in the Rift Valley. This wasn't a wild allegation and top athletes have come out and condemned the acts carried out by the male athletes.
Along with this has been the issue of non-remittance of monies won to athletes by their agents (mostly foreign), as well as scholarship programmes for athletes to run in USA coming from Kenyan high schools.
What is going on ?
I will not offer much remedy(ies) here for now, but I truly feel it's time the sport had more spotlight shining down on it.
First things first. It's time most top Athletic Kenya officials called it quits. These guys have reached the zenith of their achievements and its time they enjoyed their trips around the world as pensioners. We should have more representatives not just for athletic bodies but also active athletes and retired ones too.
Coupled with retirement of these officials is the diversification from long distance events to short sprints and field events too. Over 50 years wealth of experience is good enough to fish is something good out there.
Make the sport more open and professional by consulting with professional corporates both local and international to raise the stakes in the sport.
Can the AK body and Govt look to develop youth academies with athletics being one of the main sport in every region ?
I raised this question and some issues are coming regarding the Kenyan athletics scene. Now another hot potato's been handed to a local firm which has been alleged not to have handed prize money meant for athletes during the Tusker Sport Athletics Meet last year. I'll not draw any conclusions but it's important for athletes to know that as they prosper there are many out there who would want in on their winnings.
It's also important for media people to stop using their leverage to incite people into rumour-mongering & also provide a way out of these messes. Though you love to sell your papers,it might do more damage than development!


Anonymous said...

I'd like to give my thoughts on the state of Athletics in Kenya especially on the youths and the high schools issue. I was involved in some initiatives to help high schools get opportunities to develop their talent in the past two years and I must say that I am very demoralised bywhat has happened. The recent "expose" by some dim-witted journalist who didn't get his facts right has made me rethink why I should bother with this noble initiative at all.
In the past two years I organised a high schools only cross country invitational that brought together all the top schools. It was very successful and the winning boys and girls teams got to win an all expense paid trip to compete against the best US high schools in America.
It is a tremendous opportunity for anyone especially athletes from a rural school many of whom were coming to Nairobi for the first time ever, let alone board a plane.
The students had the time of their lives of course and along with getting a slew of Nike products for free!
However, I must stress that students do NOT get paid any money to compete in high school only events. Especially when their passports, visas, plane tickets, hotel, food and transport to and from their homes are catered for.
The top two athletes from these two schools were then selected by Samsung to be part of their Dreamtree scholarship programme. This scholarship deal meant that their school fees, uniforms, insurance and any other upkeep would be catered for the year. ALL scholarship monies were paid directly to the schools.
In return for this, Samsung would use the students for any promotional opportunity.
But the head teacher of the schools thought they ought to get more...for themselves. And then decided to write to the media to cry about it.
The end result of all this that I will not bother organising any more high school events that help students get opportunities such as these as my name has been dragged in the mud because of the greed of a few small minded individuals. Samsung will probably not renew the scholarship programme again because of the unfounded negative press.
So who loses now?

The Figure said...

Thanks Anon for your interesting insight. I had not delved that much into the schools sponsorship deal with Samsung and again I never take the Press too seriously with most issues until I confirm my stories....sensationalism sells !
From what you've said, you seem quite versed in the athletics industry.
We have so many vested interests in almost any sport and most officials let alone school administrators always look out for anything extra for their pockets.
Most don't invest in the future and in for the quick buck. There's also a major disconnect between most sports disciplines and corporates.
It's time we got level-headed and professionally trained sports officials. That way some of these vested and short-sighted bumps won't make their way into our disciplines.