18 August 2012

Kenya: How We Should Treat Our Sporting Heroes


On page VII of our Siasa pullout this week, our Photo of the Week shows President Yoweri Museveni of Uganda, hosting his country's sole gold medal winner at the just concluded Olympic games. This is the marathon runner, Steven Kiprotich, who beat two Kenyans to the finishing line to secure Uganda's first gold medal in decades.

What is impressive about this photo, is that Kiprotich's wife and children also accompanied him to this presidential reception. In all, the image shown here is of a national hero being celebrated by a grateful president, on behalf of a grateful nation. Kenya has something to learn from this.

It is true enough that many of our top athletes are really more of international businessmen, who are determined to make the most of their athletic gifts while yet they are strong enough to compete with the best in the world. For many of them, the Olympics are but an opportunity to showcase their skills, so as to bring in yet more money when they next compete in an international track meeting which offers serious prize money as "appearance fees" quite apart from the bundle of cash they will get if they win.

This is fair enough. But the fact remains that when and as the Kenyan national anthem is played at the Olympic stadium, it is because of some such athlete's prowess on the track. The fact that it was only played twice, while we had expected it to be played five or six times, is not the point.

Financial gain to an individual athlete who wins a race is one thing: national glory is another. And if we expect our athletes to cover our country with the glory of Olympic gold, we need to do much more to recognise and celebrate the successful efforts of our top athletes. Hosting our gold medal winners to a State House reception - along with their familes - would be a good place to start.

Quote of the day: A lot of presidential memoirs, they say, are dulland self-serving. I hope mine is interesting and self-serving.William J. Clinton Us President was born onAugust 18, 1964.

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