Thursday, April 18, 2024

Botswana’s London 2012 Olympic Adventure

Last night (12th August 2012) marked the end of London 2012 Olympic Games. With it we witnessed lavish celebrations around the UK and the world at large. Indeed, the British had every reason to celebrate. Apart from hosting splendid games, the British team (Team GB) performed magnificently.

They finished third behind the United States of America and China, respectfully. The British Prime Minister, David Cameron, summed it up the mood following 16 days of games noting that ‘Britain has achieved’.

In this instalment, I will look at our performance in the just ended London 2012 Olympic Games and suggest what needs to be done to raise the competitiveness of our compatriots in future competitions. Honestly, how can I not comment on such a spectacular event that managed to attract a global TV audience in millions? London 2012 was a great sporting event, a memorable one for that matter.

Unlike its former colonial master, Team Botswana’ performance at the games cannot be termed exceptional. We just had a mixed outing considering what the nation was expecting. To many of us this was the best team we had assembled in over three decades of participation in the Olympic Games.

Yes, we had a very strong team. In it we had the reigning world 400m champion Amantle Montsho, the 800 junior world champion in Nigel Amos and 2011 All-Africa boxing champion Oteng Oteng. We therefore had all the reasons to expect better result this time around than have been the case in the past.

Unfortunately, Oteng did not last in the London games. He was narrowly defeated in the first round of the competition by Puerto Rican Jayvier Cintron by score of 12-14. But he should be proud for taking part in an event of such magnitude.

Unexpectedly though Amantle failed to reach her best ÔÇô finishing outside the medals in position four. We could not believe as a nation when she failed when it mattered most. She was later to give an interview to Gabz Fm radio station where she made it clear that she received very little support from her principals ÔÇô In this case the BNOC and their superiors at the ministry of sport and culture. I could not believe what I heard from her! Here was our best bet for a medal but little was done in terms of bringing in her trainer (coach) to London. Not only that, she did not get any professional assistance while preparing for the finals. Talk of doing things at a global event ‘setswana ways’.

The Olympics are by nature a very competitive and, therefore, expensive sporting event. For instance, some countries spend million to achieve a single gold medal. Others, for example Australia, blames slash in funding for their poor showing at the Games. Hence, while it is clear that developing countries were going to find it difficult to compete financially with their affluent Western counterparts they could have reduced such imbalance by improving on simple things which are not that costly such as better management of their promising talent. Thus, Amantle could have done much better had proper management team been in place. Hopefully, nothing of this nature will ever be allowed to happen again.

The whole Amantle debacle was not helped by the minister in charge of sport, rre Kgathi. On his return ÔÇô which somehow happened before the end of the Games ÔÇô the minister sought time in parliament to provide clarity on his mission to London. He did a horrible job, if I may say. We still want to know as a nation why the minister opted to come home when we still had another athlete to compete. Sadly, the minister also refused to give an interview to Gabz fm after the heroic performance of Nigel Amos. We are told that his response was that he could not take the call because he was sleeping. The Minister ought to be reminded that he is there to promote the interest of Batswana as far as sport is concerned.

We were then left with Nigel. For most of us who are not so much into sport Nigel’s name did not ring any bells in our heads. That he was a reigning junior world champion was something we did not know. Interest in this 18 year old began to increase once Amantle fell by the side. And last week Thursday he delivered in the final by coming second and, in the process, won a silver medal. The significance of his exploits cannot be undermined. This was the country’s first Olympic medal. But more telling was the circumstances under which he captured the medal.

It was a historic race in many ways. The Kenyan gold medal winner, David Rudisha, set a new world record which was under the 1min 40sec mark. Not only was the race won in a record time, all competing athletes achieved personal best times. To put the race in perspective, the last athlete clocked a time which would have secured him gold medal in past Olympic Games. We were a jubilant nation. Sadly, there were visibly not much of his countrymen/women at the stadium. He was the ‘lone-wolf’ but that didn’t matter much to many of us. We sleep with a strong sense of achievement….and hoping that his exploits lay the strong foundations to carry our flag high in future sporting events.

I have earlier alluded to the cost of Olympics. Yes, they are too costly particularly to us in developing countries. However, we have an abundant of raw talent at our disposal. All that is needed is proper leadership and management to nurture such talent. Sadly, this is an area where we have not been so lucky. Put differently, we are facing a leadership deficit of greater magnitude.

Simple things such as proper planning prove to be non-existent. But if we are to compete internationally we will have to improve on many things. Some of those key areas include improvement on existing acrimonious relationship that exist between teachers and ministry of education, increased funding for sport and recognition of our sporting heroes to act as role models to many of our kids. Otherwise if we don’t leverage on this success we are likely to go the same route of other previous successful African countries – whose heroes and heroines of the past – once they left the stage – there was no one to build on their legacy.
Well done Team Botswana!

Molefhe teaches public Administration at the University of Botswana

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