Last month, the European Union (EU) ambassadors to Uganda from Austria, Belgium, Denmark, France, Ireland, Italy, Netherlands and Sweden had their first-ever retreat in Eastern Uganda.
Key among their four-day activities was a visit to the National High Altitude Training Centre in Teryet, Kapchorwa. YUDAYA NANGONZI was on the media team that accompanied the envoys to meet Ugandan athletes camping in Teryet to prepare for the Olympic Games due later this year in Tokyo, Japan.
On December 17, 2019 as envoys prepared to set off from Mount Elgon hotel, their drivers prayed for favourable roads and weather. They were wrong! The torrential rains had heavily damaged the 15-kilometre murram road leading to the training facility from Kapchorwa town.
Every now and then, vehicles rumbled on the bumpy road, leaving behind a whirl of mud. To get to Teryet, the envoys and scribes endured several stopovers, jumping onto police patrol cars to ease their movement. Meanwhile, the scenery in Teryet was stunning. Located more than 2,400m above sea level, the government found Teryet perfect for a training facility for various sports disciplines.
The envoys were welcomed by hundreds of locals and athletes led by Joshua Cheptegei, Stephen Kiprotich, Halimah Nakaayi, Winnie Nanyondo, Jacob Kiplimo, and David Emong. Uganda Athletics Federation (UAF) president Dominic Otuchet said the centre is soon becoming a reality.
"It has taken a bit of time but there is some progress now. This process should be expedited to have more talent from the region. Ugandaís problem is not talent identification but nurturing talent."
Construction of this training facility started in 2012 but has since dragged on. Speaking to The Observer during the envoys' visit, Uganda Olympic Committee president William Blick urged government to prioritize its funding and complete it as soon as possible.
"Personally, I am disappointed that little has been done on the side of infrastructure. Government should organise itself and inject more monies in the project," Blick said, adding the centre will not only benefit Ugandan athletes but is also an income-generating venture for the country.
However, the commissioner for Sports, Lamex Omara Apitta, is pleased: "Even before the centre is complete, we have largely achieved by scooping gold medals."
Overall, phase one of the project is now at 85 per cent. Facilities such as the hostel are at 99 per cent and ready to host athletes. Teryet primary school is complete while the secondary school is still under construction. This is aimed at ensuring athletes within the region pursue their sports and education careers.
The artificial turf for football and rugby is ready for laying. The 400-metre six-lane running track is almost complete. The three-kilometre running track has all the basic stuff complete and awaiting to lay the synthetic surface.
Electricity and piped water has already been connected from Kapchorwa. A water reservoir and pump have also been erected; the parking area and access road are at about 50 per cent. The fencing of facility is at 70 per cent but stalled when some locals complained that their land had been encroached on.
A government surveyor has been engaged to identify their boundaries. The road network, however, remains a huge challenge to the project. Apitta said they have started working on it after agreeing with roads agency, UNRA and ministry of works and transport.
ROAD TO OLYMPICS
The facility is expected to come in handy as Uganda prepares for the 2020 Olympic Games due July 24 to August 9 in Tokyo, Japan. It is against such background that Blick is optimistic Team Uganda will win at least three gold medals.
In the buildup to the 2024 Olympic Games, French ambassador Jules-Armand Aniambossou said France will host all African athletes for training.
"President Emmanuel Macron has decided to receive all African athletes for training in similar facilities with French athletes at the country's cost. It is now up to Ugandan athletes to organise yourselves to utilise this unique opportunity," Aniambossou said.
He said Uganda is gifted with athletes but government needs a strategy to develop their talents by providing adequate training facilities. He also urged fellow envoys to keep their doors open for Ugandans in various sporting activities.
3km jogging track
Artificial turf and 400-metre six-lane running track
One hostel block
300m-long site road and parking
Pump house and water reservoir/pond
Gatehouse and fencing
Physiotherapy and strength training centre
Natural grass field/Soccer practise field
Pavilion, one services block
Two dormitory blocks
Two more hostel blocks, staff housing (one block for senior staff, one block for junior staff and two blocks for support staff)
Sports hall, swimming pool and gym
Rest of accommodation (two suites and two deluxe blocks)
All walkways and the rest of external works