One issue that seems to plague a good number of African countries is a refusal to learn and improve from past mistakes. Such is the story of the angry Kenyan athletes who returned home quietly yesterday despite having achieved their best Olympic medal tally ever.
Kenyan athletes who went for this year’s Olympics managed to rack up six gold medals, six silver medals, and one bronze medal which put them in the esteemed position of having the most medals of any African team in the Rio 2016 Olympic games. Not only that, they also came 15th globally in medals, and were second only to the United States in track and field medals.
The Kenyan athletes returned home without any celebration, even going as far as declining government transportation to a luxury hotel in Nairobi. One of the athletes told a local daily, the Nation; ‘we don’t want people to hog publicity from our arrival when they have treated us badly’.
He could have been referring to any of the numerous frustrating events that took place in the course of the games including; two Kenyan coaches being sent home over doping scandals, Nike (who sponsored the team) raising concerns over uniforms that never reached the athletes, one athlete almost missing his flight to the games because Kenyan authorities hadn’t organized his travel or even the fact that Sprinter Carvin Nkanata was barred from competing over an accreditation mishap.
These are not new issues, a missing athletic kit, accreditation, and poor morale were also problems at the London Olympics in 2012 and Kenyan officials promised to do better at the time.
It is exactly the same promise that President Uhuru Kenyatta gave in a statement he issued to welcome the athletes on Monday. He said in that vein;
“The problems which frustrated many sportspeople on international assignment go a long way to erode incentives for our athletes to proudly turn up in Kenyan colors and win … They should be, and will be a thing of the past very shortly. We will ensure that lessons are learnt, questions are answered, action is taken and full accountability achieved,”
Full accountability may be a long shot seeing as Kenyan authorities are even now passing the blame around. The country’s Minister of Sports and Culture, Hassan Wario, whose resignation Kenyans are calling for on the charge of mismanagement of the Games has blamed Kenya’s National Olympics Committee, claiming that they were “chauffeured around in limousines” while he walked to most of the events.
The Kenyan athletes have every right to be angry, hopefully, their anger will actually cause a positive change this time.