Now that the dust has settled around the local 2018 Commonwealth Games medalists, I think it is time to address the elephant in the room. The past weeks saw pomp and fanfare as the nation celebrated and hailed of the local track and field heroes from the recently concluded 2018 Gold Coast Commonwealth Games.
The Commonwealth Games is a competition comprising of 71 nations and territories which once formed part of the British Empire. The Games which are now on their ninth decade were staged in Australia and graced by 28 participants from Botswana. The athletes who secured podium finishes at these games have been hailed by different private entities for making the nation proud. The question now is what does making the nation proud mean and what does it not entail? How do we get to differentiate those who did and did not represent the nation well? If Botswana sent 28 athletes why was it that everyone now wanted to rub shoulders with only eight athletes and most importantly, why now when they are back from Gold Coast and not prior to that?
Where have these organizations been? Where were these private enterprises during the team send- off ceremony or did they miss the memo because it seems they only received the news about the medals at the end of the competitions. The national team was made up of athletes from lawn bowls, boxing, weight lifting, swimming and athletics. Why do we now see only a portion of the athletics squad being crowded by good Samaritans if Botswana was represented by 28 athletes? What message were these entities trying to communicate to the rest of the team that went to Gold Coast as well as to the upcoming athletes? If we can boldly say we are proud of the team that represented the country in Australia and in the same breath only call upfront eight athletes, I think we then have a serious problem. I am not saying reward everyone with the same token of appreciation as those that had podium finish but their participation and non-participation should not be overlooked nor belittled in any way. Instead all the team should be fully acknowledged, appreciated and celebrated. They made up the team and that helped to increase the numbers therefore we should be proud of them for reaching such a high level of participation and standing in the gap for our nation.
Their presence there even made Botswana to look good as compared to other African nations such as Tanzania, Lesotho and Malawi that had a small representation. If the country did not have for example, weight lifting or boxing delegation, there would not have been a mention of the name Botswana at the weight lifting or boxing events. Well, of course the athletes did not bring home medals, but they did represent the country in different sports and events and that on its own carries weight. Not just everyone gets to participate at the mega sports events or elite levels as there are certain standards that needs to be met, therefore the hard work that the athletes had invested in order to represent the nation at these events should not be taken for granted. We cannot now sideline those who did not bring home the medals and glorify the medalists only.
On the same breath, I wish to commend Orange Botswana for their solidarity gesture of acknowledging the effort of all the 28 athletes by awarding tokens of appreciations to all of them. This here is a symbol of true sportsmanship spirit as it capsulate the spirit of unity, team work and mutual interest. In track and field events, we see athletes giving each other a pat on the back or a hand shake after completing a race to signify solidarity and sportsmanship. Even the athlete who finished first would wait to congratulate the athlete who came last. That is what sports is all about and if companies are to jump in they should dance to the music of sports.
The athletes live to inspire and to be of good example to others, leading a life shaped by the spirit of Olympus. If we are to sing their song, we should sing it right. We cannot now divide the team because others did not bring home medals. That is not setting up a good example to up and athletes. Not only does it put pressure but it is also make representing the country a dreadful and daunting endeavor. We were represented by Team Botswana and it should remain thus and be acknowledged as thus. The other disturbing element is the overall silence of the private entities during the training and team send -off stages. The athletes are left to struggle alone during training and then crowded when they bring home medals. These athletes work tirelessly with nothing when preparing for major events and local private companies don’t come forth and jump on board to acknowledge they are preparing for such an event and provide tokens of assistance as they are on the way to represent the country.
The lack of support during training symbolizes a lack of confidence on the capabilities of the athletes and a lack of allegiance. Sharing in the glory of the athletes when they now come with medals is like wanting a share of profits in a business that you refused to invest in. If they are representing us as a nation as we claim in these international competitions, why not walk the journey with them? Why not partner with them all the way up to the medal stages and not only when there is a medal and then treat those who didn’t bring home medals like they have leprosy? Are we saying only those who brought medals were the ones representing the country? It seems that we don’t want to do the dirty job and only want where the job has been done for us, we only want to associate with those who are shinning yet we don’t want to do the dirty work of polishing them. If companies could have stepped up and invested in the training program of the athletes, I believe we could have send even a bigger delegation to the Commonwealth Games as well as bringing home more medals.
Throughout the season the athletes are left at the mercy of the coaches who sacrifice their personal resources to train the athletes and I think we can do better than awarding the coaches the little pennies that they have been given and to equally give them a befitting VIP treatment during the welcome ceremonies bearing in mind that these coaches offer free services throughout the season using their personal resources. I think we can do better than this as a nation and I hope companies will start now to come forward towards assisting with the preparations for the next edition of the Commonwealth Games and not wait for the athletes to come with the medals. Sports is a business and just like any business endeavor, for there to be returns there should have been an investment first. The private entities should stop the coward mindset and gain the courage to invest in this viable and lucrative market.
It is time now for bold decisions. We need to shape the future of Botswana sports that we as Batswana want to see. We cannot let this one pass and slide like other issue. If we want change, deliberate interventions should be made and lest anyone should have an excuses of missing the memo, the next edition of the Commonwealth Games will be in 2022 in Birmingham and I hope in the spirit of true sportsmanship, we shall see companies coming forth now to prepare for this major event and not to wait for 2022 when the athletes return from the Games.