29 November 2016

Kenya: Preparations for Rio Games Mired By Poor Planning and Financial Impropriety

Photo: Martin Mukangu/Daily Nation
President Uhuru Kenyatta poses with Kenya's Rio Olympics team at State House (file photo)

Kenya team's preparations for the 2016 Rio de Janeiro Olympics was mired by serious management inadequacies, poor planning and financial impropriety.

A probe committee appointed by Sports Cabinet secretary Dr Hassan Wario seen by the Daily Nation concluded that participants in all disciplines were ill-prepared for the games and some were left to their own devices ahead of the games.

The report was handed over to President Uhuru Kenyatta three weeks ago.

The damning report places the blame on Dr Richard Ekai, Sports Principal Secretary and the chairman of the Rio 2016 Olympics Steering Committee.

The steering committee did not rise the occasion and probably cost the country more medals and a more prestigious position that the 15th overall it managed in Rio.

The Steering Committee was scheduled to meet 12 times. However the committee only managed to meet thrice (March 30, April 28 and July 15), with two of the meetings being chaired by the Sports Cabinet Secretary, Dr Hassan Wario.

"The lack of regular meetings inconvenienced many sub-committees and it led to the chairs of these various committees having to meet with the Principal Secretary Dr Richard Ekai in person for consultations and policy direction that would otherwise have been deliberated upon during regular committee meetings. These private consultation meetings made many Steering Committee members feel left out in the Games' planning, therefore lowering their morale" reads the report.

The report notes that a review of the Steering Committee's minutes revealed that there was no official list of the members of the committee, and that the representatives of the various sports bodies involved in the planning of the Games kept changing.

Some members felt that the reason the Steering Committee was ineffective was because it lacked proper working procedures and guidelines and that it lacked good representation from the various stakeholders. For instance, there was no representation by the various federations that had qualified to send athletes to the Games.

Kenya qualified to participate in a record seven disciplines at the Rio 2016 Games, namely, Archery, Athletics. Boxing, Judo, Rugby, Swimming and Weightlifting.

The probe report documents the troubles that members of each discipline underwent at the hands of the Steering committee.

In archery, the sole athlete Ms Shehzana Anwar who travelled to Turkey and South Africa as part of her preparations only money for her South Africa air travel. She paid for her own accommodation and airfare to and from Turkey.

"She received training but not competition clothing at the Olympics and had to print her own competition uniform for the Rio Games. Shehzana had to buy her own competition equipment having not received any feedback from the National Olympic Committee of Kenya on the budgetary requirements needed to prepare for the Games," notes the report.

Though NOCK was lauded for choosing Kip Keino Stadium in Eldoret to hold the Olympic trials for track and field events, the stadium was not ready to host championships of such a magnitude.

"The stadium has no proper warm up track - athletes warmed up by the roadside. The stadium has no field events facilities like high jump landing foam. This led to the event being cancelled altogether. The javelin runway is short by 7 meters at 23 metres.

The stadium has 10 washrooms and during the trials, they were not only inadequate for an approximately 30,000 crowd but had no water and they are also dirty. It lacks terraces. It has three big gates and three small ones, totally inadequate for a 30,000 capacity crowd. The stadium has no emergency evacuation gate for use by ambulances and lacks a media centre.

The steeplechase water area has no drainage and hence it is hard to change the water once it is dirty, noted the report.

The report took issue with selection of Cherangany MP Wesley Korir to run for marathon.

"On May 29, he left camp and proceeded to run as a "pace setter" for his wife who was chasing Olympic qualifying time in the Ottawa Marathon."Korir played the role of pace maker for 41km out of 42km, which was equivalent to running a full marathon. With only a few weeks to the Olympics, the athlete could not recover enough to run the marathon in Rio, considering the distance he had covered and the long travel in between. He dropped out of the Rio Olympic race citing a "water mix-up" problem along the course," notes the report.

The decision by the athletes' selectors to award Geoffrey Kamworor and Bedan Karoki two "wild cards" in the 10,000m men's event was a breach of athletics selection rules. The two did not finish the trial race in Eldoret.

Charles Yosei Muneria, who was second during the trials in the 10,000m, was moved to the 5,000m event at the Olympics, an event he had not trained for.The rearrangement cost the team dearly since for the first time in the history of Kenyan participation in the Olympics, there was no athlete in the 5,000m final.

LACKED TRAINING EQUIPMENT

In Boxing the team's official training camp was at the Nakuru Amateur Boxing Club. The team lacked training equipment like skipping ropes and stop watches. Their sparring partners had no training gear which was not ideal. The boxers and officials were not paid their local allowances.

Kenya took one judoka Levy Kiplangat Sang for the men's middleweight category (90kg) at the Games.

"Mr Sang, was eliminated in the first round for committing fouls. His basic fouls seem like he was not conversant with the latest Judo rules," reads the report.

The probe team noted that there are two federations running the sport, Kenya Judo Association which is recognised by International Judo Federation and Kenya Judo Federation, which is silently supported by National Olympic Committee Kenya.

"Kenya Judo Association believed Samson Wambi, who had gone through the qualifying rounds in Kenya and Tunisia, would have been a better choice but was short changed.

Kenya Judo Association boss Shadrack Maluki wrote a protest letter to the International Judo Federation,' the probe team heard.

Both rugby teams held their training camp in Nandi Hills at the Nandi Bear Golf Club.

The club had no gym, it took the Kenya Rugby Union three days to ferry the gym equipment from Nairobi.

The club did not have enough accommodation for both teams and therefore the women were accommodated at Nandi Blues Hotel, some few kilometres away.

The strength and conditioning coach, Mr. Geoffrey Kimani, was not at the camp and so the players had to make do with whatever they knew.

Mr. Kimani only joined the team as they were traveling to Rio, and that point he could not do much to raise the team's strength and conditioning levels that late. The rugby team also had no nutritionist at the camp.

TEAM CONSTANTLY CHANGED

"The team spent three weeks in Nandi Hills (high altitude) and then came to Nairobi for one week before traveling to Rio, which is at sea level, where they stayed for two weeks before playing.

This plan of three weeks at high altitude and three weeks at low altitude rendered the high altitude training futile since by the time they were playing their first match in at the Olympics, their red blood cells count was normal and thus not ideal for a tournament of that status," concludes the report.

Surprisingly Men's Head Coach, Benjamin Ayimba was given the additional responsibility of doubling up as the women's head coach at the camp, this not only made the women's coach Michael Shamiah distrusted, but it made him lose valuable time that would have been used on the men's team.

In Rio, as the team was preparing for the Games, the programme and schedule of training was constantly changed by the team management.

"After a while, the Rio Games' Local Organising Committee could not tolerate it anymore and took a drastic measure of reporting the Kenya Rugby women's team management to the IRB and Kenyan Rugby Union. This was an embarrassing moment for the team and the country," notes the report. At one point Women's coach Mr Shamiah and team manager Sarah Ogola had two conflicting team lists .

Swimming was also characterised by utter confusion. Kenya Swimming Federation's does not have a national ranking system which should be the basis for an open selection of the national team and solving related disputes.

Lacking some recognised selection criteria, deserving swimmers are at the mercy of KSF´s officials.

This led to two swimmers Issa Mohammed and Emily Muteti to contest the decision to award the Olympic slots to Hamdan Bayusuf and Talisa Lanoe) because they rank higher in the FINA (the sport's global governing body) rankings.

The Weightlifting team James Adede as the country's representative and coach, John Ogolla were the only ones whose preparation was smooth.

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