Paralympics is only medal hope in London

April 23 marks 94 days to the opening ceremony of the London 2012 Olympic Games. This summer the British capital will play host to the Olympic Games for the third time in history.
Bonnie Mugabe
Bonnie Mugabe

April 23 marks 94 days to the opening ceremony of the London 2012 Olympic Games. This summer the British capital will play host to the Olympic Games for the third time in history.

From July 27 to August 12, London will welcome 10,500 athletes representing 204 National Olympic Committees for the 27th edition of the Summer Olympic Games.

As the games draw closer, Rwanda seems to have no plans for a serious medal hunt at the world’s biggest sports event.

Last week, the Rwanda National Olympic and Sport Committee (RNOSC) announced a 214 million francs budget to facilitate the preparation and participation of the country’s 50-man Olympic and Paralympics contingent.

The Olympic Games alone will be comprised of 11 athletes withdrawn from athletics, boxing, cycling, judo, swimming and taekwondo plus 14 officials, who will accompany them totaling a delegation of 25 people.

Apart from Jean Pierre Mvuyekure, who smashed a marathon qualifying ‘B’ standard time to qualify for London Games in March and cyclist Adrien Niyonshuti, the rest are going to compete in London games on wild card invitations.

Rwanda started planning for the Olympic Games in 2011 unlike other countries with bigger ambitions, who begun their planning for Olympic medal hunt immediately after the last Games in Beijing four years ago.

By this time, you can’t even expect any of our athletes to be counting their medal prospects other than focusing on a better representation and improvement on their personal performances.

Since 1984, Rwanda has had limited Olympic achievements due to failure to have a deliberate national plan.

Top sports administrators in the Ministry of Sports, the local Olympic committee and federations are ordinarily supposed to spearhead such a plan. But in the absence of such a national plan, Rwanda again looks more interested in fulfilling the Olympic slogan of participation and not competition.

At the moment, no adequate preparations are being done to help athletes both qualified and those on wild cards enhance their competitive levels. This kind of attitude and planning can’t guarantee Rwanda any medal hope in London.

As things stand, it appears as though, once again, the country is going to send ‘tourists’ to go and support the more serious nations, fill up the numbers and enjoy the tasty meals to be offered in the 24/7 MacDonald’s in the Olympic village.

Yet, that can’t be said of the Paralympics teams, which gives hope. The National Paralympics Committee (NPC) has been working relentlessly since 2008 to have a decent representation at the London games.

The Paralympics Games begin August 29 to September 9 and NPC is currently preparing the national sitting volleyball and will be heading to Holland and Germany to engage in a series of friendly matches between May 7 and 18 before returning to Kigali.

The two qualified athletes Hermas Cliff Muvunyi and Theogene Hakizimana, in 400m T46 race and power lifting, are also set to begin their camp soon.

After winning gold in All Africa Games in Maputo, Muvunyi promises another medal in London and the APR athletics club runner seems ready to handle any threat.

Rwandans like to take pride in their national teams’ success at the global stage. Ordinary people, government officials, and company executives always celebrate such successes.

What role do these people, who celebrate whenever our teams perform well, play at preparatory stages? Why do the federations struggle to prepare teams for such international competitions?

The government has been constrained by budgetary limitations. But wouldn’t it be better for these issues to be factored in the budget for proper co-ordination of activities in the build-up to international competitions?

When teams participate in international competitions, it is Rwanda’s flag they are flying. And more often than not, our teams have disappointed.

This is why the government should consider taking full responsibility for preparing and entering teams for international competitions.

We are in an Olympic year and we will soon be starting a new financial year, so any sort of funding should at least be directed in the single most important and most prestigious sporting competition.

 

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