Saturday, July 31, 2021

Partnership or Ruse? Incentive partners surface as Olympics get close

It is a script that has become familiar in Botswana sport. Athletes struggling to prepare as partners shy away, only to make a beehive for them and offering ‘incentives’ after they qualify for major games.

For the Botswana Olympics team, preparations for the Tokyo Olympics, which are billed to start 23 days from today on 23rd July have been like no other before.

Whereas the country has always struggled to prepare well due to financial struggles, the advent of the Covid-19 has hit where it hurts the most.

The arrival of the pandemic meant more monies than before were needed for a safe return of athletes to the track.

With no partners forthcoming to help the athletes prepare well, a friction ensued as athletes, restricted by suspension of activities and travel restrictions, failed to make ends meet or qualify.

Now with the Olympics barely three weeks away, signs are that Batswana will see a repeat of history as partners are making a beehive and offering incentives for medals.

On the day qualifications for the Olympics were closed, Botswana’s largest retailer Choppies Botswana launched its ‘incentive partnership’ with the Botswana National Olympic Committee (BNOC).

But in a year where athletes have struggled to qualify for the Olympic games and some are yet to even reach their best, some believe the incentive partnership may just be a publicity gimmick for Choppies.

“For me, promising athletes’ huge incentives on the eve of major competitions is not right. E abo ele go ba konkometsa hela (it is akin to teasing them),’’ one administrator said.

“What these incentive partners know very well is that it is very difficult to win a medal at the Olympics. They deliberately offer these performance-based incentives fully aware they stand to win more publicity without losing any monies,” he explained.

Commenting on condition of anonymity, the administrator said such incentives should be extended to include qualifying.

“I believe that whoever wishes to give incentives should come on board very early when athletes are preparing to qualify for major games. They should offer such incentives to athletes just for qualifying as it is very difficult to prepare and qualify,” said the administrator.

He said it is bemusing that while athletes were crying for better welfare ahead of the games, the partners did not head to their cries.

“We have heard athletes crying out against the P50 per day allowance while preparing for the games. They could have come in to augment these allowances as they are not enough. Imagine an athlete who is a breadwinner being given P1500 per month as an allowance. This is ridiculous,” he said.

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