16 April 2018

Uganda: Lessons From Gold Coast Should Not Be Wasted

Photo: @UgTourismBoard/Twitter
Joshua Cheptegei after his 5 000m victory at the 2018 Commonwealth Games.

The Australian city of Gold Coast will, starting today, return to its normal routine as the quadrennial Commonwealth Games ended yesterday. Australia's economy has definitely benefited from the more than 4,500 athletes from 71 nations who have been visitors for a large part of the past fortnight.

Most of those benefits are as immediate as the medals Uganda has collected, five in total. These have included three Gold medals. Two of these were won by Joshua Chepetegei who blazed his way to 5000m and 10000m glory. The latter triumph makes it four victories in as many events for Ugandan male athletes.

Boniface Kiprop (2006) and Moses Kipsiro (2010, 2014) have previously won the track's most physically demanding race. To Cheptegei's total, Stella Chesang added Gold in the women's 10,000m that also had Mercyline Chelangat earn bronze, the same medal boxer Juma Miiro took in the flyweight category.

Celebrations are befitting and it's likely that over the next week or so, the victors and the Ugandan team will be hosted at State House for a luncheon.

Parliament will then appreciate the athletes' success. Private companies will join in the frenzy to use their images as public relations stunts.

However, none of these things that greet these triumphant athletes has a lasting impact on Ugandan sports. The lessons should be plenty, right from how preparations were conducted for this year's Games.

Financially, the 69-man contingent had no qualms as government has spent about Shs3.2b in supplementary expenditure to get this team ready. The success seen in Australia can be linked to this and preparation must become the norm. No one was complaining about the availability of air tickets or training allowances. Each athlete was entitled to Shs2m training allowance. Government, through the National Council of Sports (NCS), also announced the daily allowances prior and placed that fee at about Shs360, 000.

In all honesty, Cheptegei must start preparing for the 2019 World Athletics Championships and 2020 Olympics now as he will be the target of the other competitors.

He knows that and the support team at Uganda Athletics Federation should know it too. Uganda's biggest hope must be better than he was in Gold Coast.

Besides preparations, policy makers whose presence in Australia can forever be debated should pick something from the availability of facilities.

Sports facilities in Uganda are still few. Government should start with accomplishment of the high altitude training camp that was promised eight years ago as a gift for Kipsiro's dominance in India.


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