By Botlhale Koothupile
The Botswana National Olympics Committee (BNOC) has taken a leaf from the old age Setswana spirit of boipelego or self reliance as preparations for the Olympic glory hunt begins.
In an attempt to get Batswana to own their Olympic teams, the BNOC has initiated a campaign for the locals to be part of the country’s Olympic sporting success and send their own athletes to the Tokyo 2020 Olympics.
Conceptualised along the tried and tested spirit of ‘motho le motho kgomo,’ which saw Batswana build their own University, locals can now contribute towards local stars preparations and qualification to the Olympics.
As one of the many initiatives by the BNOC to generate funds for local athletes towards Olympics preparation and qualification, Batswana will be expected to donate at least P5 each through the SMS P5 campaign.
With just a year left before the Olympics, the Government is yet to avail preparation funds for local athletes while the private sector seems as ever not keen to help athletes prepare.
Speaking in an interview, BNOC Chief Executive Officer (CEO) Tuelo Serufho said for this initiative, they have partnered with VIB mobile as well as the country’s mobile providers, whose platform will be used.
Through the initiative, Serufho says the BNOC hopes to raise at least P2.5 million towards athletes Olympic preparations.
“These monies will solely be used to cover the daily needs of our athletes as they start preparations to qualify and compete for next year’s Tokyo 2020 Olympics,” the BNOC CEO explained.
The monies will among others go towards accommodation of athletes, daily meals as well as stipend to cover other needs such as transport. He said each athlete will need a minimum of P4000 a month to cover such.
“In these amounts, we have not included other important necessities such as medical care, competition funds and High Performance Centre (HPC) training, just to mention a few,” Serufho said.
According to the BNOC CEO, having knocked at various doors of private entities for funding and failed, all hopes now lie on ordinary Batswana.
“Over the years, Batswana have always sought to help their own athletes to excel in international arena. Through this initiative, we are now giving Batswana a chance to do such,” he said.
With the BNOC seeking to help at least 30 athletes qualify and compete at next year’s Olympics, Serufho said if successful Batswana will be part of a new chapter in the history of Botswana sport.
“Through this initiative, Batswana can be proud of the local team’s achievements and have a sense of ownership,” he said.
“In fact, if the team meets all the targets set before them at next year’s Olympics with the help of Batswana, as sponsors, they will then have a voice and demand that the team be presented to them ahead of any corporate,” he continued.
Meanwhile, Serufho has intimated that aside from established stars who are not under any scholarship or programme, a number of future stars are among those who will directly benefit from the funds.
Among them will be Judo’s rising star Given Mogopa, young swimming sensation James Freeman, 800m track athlete Boitumelo ‘Samachana’ Masilo, just to mention but a few.
The intention of the BNOC, according to Serufho, is that all the 30 local athletes they want to make the Olympics team should directly qualify. Should they fail to meet the target, the BNOC said the team should consist of no less than fifteen (15) athletes, all of whom would have had outright qualification.
“The highest number of athletes we have sent to the Olympics as a country stands at twelve (12). This number included athletes who had qualified as wild cards. This time around, we want to help our athletes to have an outright qualification,” he said.
The BNOC CEO said as another first, they also seek to have a team sport qualify for the Olympics. As such, he said funds allowing, they want to help the women football team and the softball national team to qualify. BNOC is already helping the Botswana women Volleyball national team in attempt to help.
To donate towards the initiative, an individual should send the SMS ‘TEAM BW’ to 16789. The SMS costs P5 across all mobile networks.
As a way to ensure transparency, Serufho said a special account where all the monies will go has been set up.
“The public will be able to access this account to see how much has been contributed. Also, each time someone donates, they will have a number given to them indicative of the number of people who have donated, including the donor,” he said.