WITH five days to go before the London 2012 Olympic Games come to a close, Zimbabwe finds itself at the basement of the games medals tally with nothing to show for our presence although we still have three athletes who are yet to compete.
Triathlete Chris Felgate is in action today, while Cuthbert Nyasango and Wirimai Zhuwawo are set to complete Zimbabwe’s misery in the men’s marathon on the closing day of the competition on Sunday.
With all due respect to the three athletes, there is no hope of them getting a medal. Even though other participating nations will come out equally empty-handed, the alphabetical order still condemns us to the tail end. So much pressure had been placed on swimming queen Kirsty Coventry, especially after sensational performances in Beijing four years ago when she scooped two gold medals in the individual medley and her favoured 200m backstroke.
The nation’s hopes weighed so heavily on her shoulders that she ended up with nothing despite her heroic performances. Coventry did all she could and we give her a bow. We should now demand some answers from local sports administrators, particularly the Sports and Recreation Commission (SRC) and the Zimbabwe Olympic Committee (ZOC).
Just who are the SRC and ZOC? All we know is that the SRC was formed in 1991 and has a website under construction. It remains an opaque organisation with a similar mandate and commissioners whose knowledge and interest in sport doesn’t go beyond their wallets.
According to the SRC website under construction, part of the mandate of the SRC is to facilitate the accessibility of sport and recreation programmes for the people of Zimbabwe and to oversee the general running of sport and recreation programmes by the national sports associations.
Really? We beseech the SRC to tell us what it has done for sport in this country since its formation.
We only hear about the SRC when it’s scrounging for its mandatory 5% of gate-takings from poor national associations such as Zifa. It’s now also demanding US$16 000 from organisers of the testimonial match for former Warriors captain Benjani Mwaruwari. For what? The ZOC and SRC will obviously blame the lack of medals on a shortage of government funding, but what have they done to ensure government is involved?
Inviting government officials on free jaunts will not change our sporting fortunes. The SRC must ensure that national associations are professionally run to attract necessary sponsorships as is done in neighbouring South Africa. Zimbabwe athletes who have won Olympic medals from the hockey “Golden Girls” right up to Coventry have done it through hard work and resources they pooled on their own. Our athletes train in conditions unacceptable to American livestock and yet the ZOC has the nerve to send 18 officials to the London Games. It’s ridiculous that 18 officials accompany just seven athletes. The cheapest flight to London from Harare is £1 630 on Ethiopian Airlines and with an average room costing US$ 181,79 a night, ZOC spent £29 340 on flights for officials and is coughing up US$3 272 a day on accommodation for officials excluding food and daily allowances.
With such extravagance and arrogance, we will continue to languish in the sporting wilderness until radical steps are taken to shake up the ZOC and SRC.