Thursday, December 5, 2019

A Dream Deferred – Botswana’s Olympic dreams in tatters

It was not a matter of if but a matter of when, and this past Thursday, the Botswana National Olympic Committee (BNOC) finally threw in the towel.

Faced with continued or perceived ‘hostility’ from the Botswana National Sports Commission (BNSC), BNOC finally acceded that meeting their target of sending fifteen athletes for the Tokyo 2020 Olympics had turned to what it was, just a pipe dream.

“To be realistic, in our view, the fifteen is not attainable anymore. Our estimation is that at best, we will get eight individual athletes. And if we are lucky, we may get one or two relay teams, if we are lucky because the odds are heavily stuck against us especially in one of the two relay teams. Even with the other one we have to do a lot more than we did in the past to ensure that we can attain qualification,” BNOC Chief Executive Officer (CEO) Tuelo Serufho informed the media.

After months of diplomacy, hoping the BNSC would finally give it monies to prepare teams for the Olympics, the BNOC seems to have finally given up and the BNSC has won the power battle, all at the expense of a nation’s dream.

The BNOC CEO also confirmed the committee had not received any funds from the Government towards the preparation of team Botswana.

“In the past, we used to receive monies from the government of Botswana. What happened is that we would write to the government requesting funds. The government would then give the money to the BNSC who would in turn give it to the BNOC. This has not happened this year,” he said.

For this year’s preparations, the BNOC CEO said as per the norm, they followed all the processes needed.

“We wrote to the Ministry of Sports requesting financial help. The norm is that the Ministry would have given us the money through BNSC,” Serufho explained.

He said while the BNOC has since come to know that the government has committed P15 million towards preparations, the monies are allegedly in the coffers of the BNSC.

On whether this has happened before, Serufho said it was the first time that monies for the Olympic preparations were not forwarded to the BNOC.

Asked whether the BNSC had liaised with the BNOC on how to disburse the funds as the latter had drawn the budget specific to how it wants the preparations carried out, Serufho said the BNOC was never consulted.

“We do not know how the monies were disbursed or to which sporting codes it was given. We were never consulted,” he explained.

Asked to verify whether there is any truth in the allegations that the BNSC is now in control of the Olympic preparations, a diplomatic Serufho said the BNOC is only responsible for the preparations of athletes who are under the Olympic Solidarity Scholarships.

“As for the athletes who are not under the Olympic Solidarity scholarships, we cannot give any updates as we are not in control of their preparations,” he said.

Serufho was also diplomatic whether there were any truths on the allegations that the BNOC had been relegated to just technical support, but said ‘the BNOC will provide support to ensure athletes who qualify are duly registered to compete at the Olympics.’

Reached for comment, BNSC acting CEO Bobby Gaseitsiwe confirmed that the BNSC had indeed been given P15 million towards the Olympic preparations.

He went on to say that as the body tasked with disbursing sports funds by the government, the commission had duly disbursed the said monies to ‘codes which are Olympic sporting codes and had potential to qualify athletes for the showpiece.’

Asked whether the monies have been given to the BNOC as the ones responsible for managing Olympic qualifications, Gaseitsiwe said the monies were not given to the BNOC.

The acting BNSC CEO was at pains to explain why the sports commission had not given the BNOC monies to prepare for the Olympics, but was adamant that ‘it was the mandate of the BNSC to disburse the funds.’

Gaseitsiwe could also not explain why the BNSC had all off a sudden departed from the norm and disbursed the funds instead of giving it to the BNOC.

“I do not know how the monies for the Olympic qualifiers were previously disbursed and I cannot comment on the matter,” he said.

Asked whether there was a problem between the BNSC and the BNOC or whether there were clashes of roles, Gaseitsiwe said this could not be.

“There is no duplication of roles or confusion between the two bodies,” he explained. “The Olympics are the remit of BNOC and they are currently the ones responsible for the Olympic qualifications,” he added.

While agreeable to the fact that the BNOC as the custodians of the Olympics in Botswana should have been given the monies to oversee preparations, Gaseitsiwe said not giving funds allocated for Olympic preparations to the BNOC was not a sign of any bad blood between the two.

“There are absolutely no problems or issues between us. We have not refused to give BNOC the said monies,” he said.

When asked whether they consulted the BNOC as the ones who made the budget and requested funding as to how the monies should be disbursed, Gaseitsiwe said he could not comment.

“I cannot comment on who requested the monies and I cannot counter what the BNOC said. I cannot tell whether we consulted with the BNOC or what we discussed as it is a matter between the two and cannot be shared with other parties,” said Gaseitsiwe.

The acting BNSC CEO concluded by adding that as the ones who are tasked with disbursing sports monies from the government, they have a responsibility to account to the government.

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