Thursday, October 29, 2020

Olympics Postponement – A Double Edged Sword for Botswana

Faced with the unrelenting coronavirus epidemic, on the 24th of this month of March, the International Olympics Committee (IOC) finally agreed to postpone the summer games to July 2021.

The decision came as some major countries, among them Canada and Australia, had declared they would not be part of the Tokyo 2020 Olympics if the games were not postponed.

Along with other countries, they had called for the postponement to protect athletes and teams from the coronavirus epidemic.

For Botswana, the news of the postponement would have come as both a source of relief and apprehension.

Relief in that if the IOC extends qualification period, the postponement would allow for it to qualify more athletes. Apprehension in that the postponement means more monies will be needed for preparations.

With the cream of its athletes having struggled with injuries, the country was struggling to get its star athletes to qualify for the Tokyo showpiece.

Among those struggling with injuries were the country’s 400m men medal prospects, among them Isaak Makwala and Karabo Sibanda, while Baboloki Thebe had just returned to the track after an injury layoff.

The trio, who are ranked among the top 400m athletes in the world, also form the core of Botswana’s formidable 400X400m men’s relay.

It was more or less the same in the ladies 400m, where track starlets Christine Botlogetswe and the reigning African ladies 400m champion Galefhele Moroko were also struggling with injuries.

While the duo, along with the evergreen Amantle Montsho had already qualified for the individual women 400m event, their absence did not bode well for the qualification of the ladies’ 400X400m relay, which is a medal prospect at the Olympics.

With all this in mind, the postponement of the Olympics would have come as a relief as it gives the cream of Botswana’s talent to qualify.

“We can say that based on the assumption that the IOC would extend the qualification of athletes for the Olympics, the postponement came at an opportune time,” Botswana National Olympics Committee (BNOC) Chief Executive Officer (CEO) Tuelo Serufho opined.

“If these assumptions do in fact come to be and qualification period is extended, it will be good news,” he added.

Serufho however said while the news will be good on one side, it also comes as some bad news on the other side.

The postponement means the country will have to find more monies to prepare the teams for the games.

Given the BNOC’s long chronicled struggles to get the amount of monies it needs to fully prepare teams, the postponement means they now have to source more monies for the team.

“Our plan and budget were all made with the July Tokyo 2020 Olympics in mind. Now we have to sit down, reconsider then plan and budget again,” Serufho explained.

The BNOC CEO said with the games now postponed, the BNOC will need to have more monies to keep the teams in camp or in training up until July 2021.

“This means along with the sporting codes affected, we will now have to sit with the Ministry of Youth Empowerment, Sports and Culture Development (MYSC) as well as private entities and ask for monies to help us prepare,” he said.

However, given that finding monies to augment what the government gives towards preparations is difficult, this means the BNOC will not go all out in preparing athletes as it would have liked.

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