East Africa’s moments at the Commonwealth Games

By the time you read this, the Commonwealth Games hosted by Glasgow in Scotland will be coming to an end. The Commonwealth, as you may already know, is a grouping of nations that were formerly colonised by Britain.

By the time you read this, the Commonwealth Games hosted by Glasgow in Scotland will be coming to an end. The Commonwealth, as you may already know, is a grouping of nations that were formerly colonised by Britain.

As I joked the other day on Twitter, it is like a man organising games for his ex-girlfriends. But that is clearly beside the point actually. The grouping of these nations has more to do with cooperation on shared interests and goals. These games thus offer an amazing opportunity for the nations under this group to imbibe the beauty of sports.

If I may point out too, Zimbabwe and The Gambia pulled out of the games because they (or their leaders) no longer see why they should continue hobnobbing with their former colonial masters. USA was also colonised by Britain as well but it grew to be such a big nation whose ego cannot be contained under such an arrangement. It is like the ex-girlfriend/boyfriend who later moves so high up on the social-economic ladder that they never want to associate with the broke you.

Mozambique and Rwanda were never British colonies but they applied to join the group and were admitted. But since Britain did win the ‘Olympics of Colonisation’ more than half the world falls in the Commonwealth grouping. So although the games are without great sporting nations like USA, Ethiopia and China, they remain very competitive.

I did watch the opening ceremony and I particularly noted two things: the Rwandan team looked elegant in their traditional wear. The same can be said about the Ugandans who also wore traditional wear at a ceremony where many just donned tracksuits. Nothing beats showing off your unique identity at such a huge platform.  

With Kenya, Uganda, Tanzania and now Rwanda all part of the Commonwealth and represented at the games, you can’t help but feel for the Burundians being left out of an event where their brothers and sisters are taking part. In recent EAC lingo we have heard of the ‘coalition of the willing,’ therefore this might as well be referred to as the ‘coalition of the Commonwealth.’

What was shocking though is how East Africa probably on ‘humanitarian grounds’ allowed an Australian, Michael Shelly to win the marathon! Isn’t the marathon supposed to be like the infamous Migingo Island, something fought for by Kenya and Uganda?

I must admit that I was moved by a particular picture that was taken during this race showing the leading pack of runners consisting of a Kenyan (John Kelai), a Ugandan (Phillip Kiplimo), a Rwandan (Dieudonne Disi) and Tanzanian whose name I did not get. The message was clear; East Africa was at the games to compete.

As expected Kenya led by example scooping more medals than anyone else in the region including dominating races like more recent 3000m steeplechase. To prove their dominance, the Kenyans won all the medals in both the men’s and women’s version of the race.

Ugandans managed to savour a moment of joy when Moses Kipsiro became the first man to successfully defend the 10000m gold medal with a dazzling finish. Interestingly he had not been included on the team by the Uganda Athletics Federation thanks to local sports politics but was invited on a wild card to defend his title and he never disappointed.

When it came to rugby both Uganda and Kenya were humiliated thanks to the gulf in competitiveness between the East Africans and nations like South Africa, Australia, England and New Zealand. But it is always good to play with the best and learn some lessons.

The sports industry is now a $30 billion dollar one and we should be investing and planning to reap from it. Rwanda and Burundi may see themselves as small but Jamaica is has a smaller population but has stamped itself on the world map as a sporting nation.

The new Rwandan sports minister Hon. Joseph Habineza aka Uncle Joe has his work cut out. Setting a foundation for identifying talent, nurturing that talent and managing success is what is required. EAC is known to hold several conferences/summits on almost anything, it is time we held some on sports so we can learn from our Kenyan brothers on how to get things right. I am sure many other East Africans would love to learn a thing or two from the mercurial duo of Ezekiel Kemboi or David Rudisha.

Twitter: @ssojo81

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