President Yoweri Tibuhaburwa Kaguta Museveni yesterday gifted Uganda Olympic medalists – Joshua Cheptegei, Jacob Kiplimo and Peruth Chemutai new luxurious vehicles and in his rhetoric as usual, he promised them monthly stipends from government and building homes for their parents.
That the trio collectively won four medals amidst hurdles faced by sport in this banana republic such as dilapidated training facilities, administrative shortcomings, corruption and inadequate funding etc shows what a great show their performance was as per standards of our doomed monarchy. It was a fantastic moment as medalists grinned from ear to ear as they received keys for the monster rides.
But now that they have got these multi million wheels, what next?? history suggests the giver and his government will forget them even before fulfilling all the pledges and they and many of their counterparts will struggle to find better training facilities to prepare for future competitions and their lack of them may compel some to either seek refuge from neighbors Kenya or depend on their foreign based management companies to find them modern training facilities in European countries.
Limited facilities or lack of them in our country leaves a huge number of athletes sidelined, hopeless and their skills not honed and in most cases many of them quit the sport or participate only for leisure purposes and stall at an amateur level.
In his speech, the president bragged that the trio’s success was bred by peace in the country and his UPE programs and even advised athletes to join his armed forces so they could get the leverage to train with freedom. I was stunned by his hollow claims.
Indeed if peace and his UPE programs alone were enough and key ingredient to athletes performance at international stage, why then did we win only four medals? why only three of the 25 competitors the nation fielded touched medals? and why only 25 participants from a nation of more than 46 million people qualified for the Tokyo Olympics?
That was absurd and deceitful of him.
Government to award individuals because of their excellency is a good deed but for Uganda’s case, and in sports, its unsustainable. The country has more than 51 sports disciplines and some with around six national teams. It’s unfathomable to believe this government can award every individual sportsman that excels if the 51 or so disciplines coincidentally produce participants and they shine at international competitions in a space of two or three years.
Immediately after getting the goodies from the president, Cheptegei is running a fundraiser for his high altitude training ground in Kapchorwa which he believes will produce more Cheptegei’s, Chemutai’s and athletes across the country.
His speech and actions were intended to hijack sporting success that his government entirely failed to father. Ideally, awarding individuals should apparently not be Mr. Museveni’s (government’s) chief priority or undertaking in sports.
As it has been exemplified elsewhere, sport has the potential to make its own money and pay its main actors and all their disciples handsomely if supported. All our industry needs is a jump start in form of big funding and therefore, should be rewarded as a whole for the benefit of the entire population and also enable it produce more CHEPTEGEIS, CHEMUTAIS , or even a MAYWEATHER, a SERENA WILLIAM, a NADAL, a JOKOVIC, a GAUCHO or a MESSI or a RONALDO senior.
Globally, sport has become a vibrant commercial and economically profitable industry. It is a vital sector of economic activity and spans from organization of sports events, sports tourism, sale and trade of sport products, construction and maintenance of sports venues, medical treatment and rehabilitation, research and development, and marketing and advertising.
It also hatches numerous job and business opportunities for example trainers/coaches, sport doctors, civil engineers, sport journalists and commentators, transporters, referees, retailers of sports goods and equipment, administrators, stewards etc.
It is also part of the budding important leisure industry and as such, has a wide scope of benefits such as boosting productivity, individual and community development as well as reducing the burden of ill health on society.
Additionally, it has far reaching positive effects on national economy due to its close relationship with other sectors including tourism and hotelier, education, manufacturing and real estate etc and this boosts gross domestic product and income per capita.
Therefore, it deserves the space and support from the government just like any other traditional industry, not mockery and scornful speeches.
Please the government should adopt a clear futuristic sports policy, create an independent sports ministry or authority with sound heads to spearhead Uganda’s sporting ambitions.
Recognize sports as an industry, collaborate with respective sports federations to empower learning institutions – both government and private to promote industry-based Sports Education Programmes or even establish model schools to nurture talent in specific sports.
Explore the idea of giving tax holidays to sports related entities and tax exemptions on sports equipment.
Allocate fat budgets to the industry and invest in sports infrastructure through Public-Private Partnership (PPP) model.
This is a chorus that has for long been sung by a host of sports aficionados. Unfortunately, it has been heard but not listened to, and therefore, we should drum it louder than before until they listen.
Uganda is a rich country. Our greatest undoing is poor allocation of resources, corruption and lack of vision.
We can also mobilize more money if we slice a percentage from the huge funds spent on our useless MPs, inept ministers and presidential ill advisors and apportion it to this sector after all our super talented president can effectively run this block without them.
Sports industry in Uganda will never develop without government will and it’s big input, and there is no such a time than this for the rulers of this land to appreciate and realize the huge impact that sports can have on our economy.
Written by Hambari Jojo. The writer is a Sports Journalist
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