Everybody will agree that, our athletics team, to the just-concluded Commonwealth Games at the Gold Coast in Australia, have done us proud. Going back in History, it was again that, in 1952 at Perth, that Uganda’s athletes brought us the first Commonwealth Games medals from Australia.
Then, it was two Bronze medals; now it is three Gold, two Silver and one Bronze. It is a significant haul of medals’ achievement. And it put Uganda 15th overall in the medals bracket of the 53 Commonwealth countries. It has not been since 1978 that Uganda has had such a medal harvest, in any global sporting competitions, as now, let alone the Commonwealth Games.
This has given us a collective sigh of relief and pleasant feelings at a time when Ugandans are facing multiple problems in the socio=economic fabric. There are the: political palpitations from the age-limit debacle; the unsolved murders; impending strikes from wages and salary structure disputes; the biting economic position, made worse by the spiraling fuel prices; and, on and on.
Many commentators are rightly saying that this athletics achievement represents a non-tangible economic asset, that patterns tourism that can be used as a springboard to take a second hard look into solving the country’s economic problems.
For the athletes themselves, after the immediate pats on the back, the promises they were given, as they set off for the Games, must be settled with integrity. We do not want to hear of complains from them as to those promises. This should not follow the pattern of the ever-made and unfulfilled pledges!
Equally, if we agree that this is part of the national economic assets, then the country should quickly move to set up all the sporting infrastructure facilities necessary for the potential and up-coming athletes, to train and gain their sporting calling. There has been mere talk on this score before, without corresponding tangible results.
On this point, coming from our neighbours, Kenya, who have been usually dominant in the long-distance Track events, they are said to be looking over their shoulders as to how they have been bested in the long distance events that they had previously considered as their games’ preserve.
But the athletes’ success has to be put at the grit and determination of these individual sporting youngsters themselves. What if there was a concerted national attention put into this? Would we not be recognized as a global sporting nation bringing in both diplomatic and economic gains?
This was brought to sharp focus when a media report was done by one of the outlets when getting a comment from Joshua Cheptegei’s father on learning that his son had got the first Gold medal in the 5,000 meters.
Apart from the video capturing his unrepresentative residence as a school headmaster, the main road to his home in Kapchorwa was nearly impassable, also as a result of the incessant rains. But it showed more of national neglect than environmental disaster.
Once, again the athletes’ success is a wake-up call to our politicians and planners to diligently do their part.