PREPARATIONS FOR 2016 OLYMPICS SHOULD BEGIN NOW!

Indisputably, Ghana’s showing at the just-ended Olympic Games in London was one of the worst in recent times. Indeed, the country has not performed that woeful in modern Olympics. Ghana’s Olympians have not encountered major drawbacks like they did in London. Ironically, London (and its suburbs) is a city which habitates relatively plenty Ghanaians to the extent that in 2011 Ghanaian football fans broke the record number for a guest team at Wembley. However, we should not deceive ourselves! Fan base plays just a significant part of a team’s success. Winning in sport requires consistent training and our 2012 Olympians lacked that. Worse still, administrators in the sport had their own scores to settle in the lead-up to the Games. Those were the bane to Ghana’s performance in London.

Needless to point out, the Olympic Games is staged every four years. Within these four years, qualification for the 35 disciplines begin. Fortunately, qualification championships for some disciplines are multiple so that a sportsman or woman who fails to qualify for the Olympics at one championship is always proffered a second bite of the cherry.

Pre-London 2012

Unfortunately, the typical ‘last minute’ attitude of the Ghanaian has always taken the better side of sports administrators, and the build-up to the London Games was no different. For example, at a time when athletes like Churandy Martina, Michael Frater and Ryan Bailey, to mention but the less popular sprinters, had already beaten the qualification time for the 2012 Olympics Games, Ghanaian sprinters were sprawling to make it in qualification B. When a couple of qualification championships for amateur boxers had already been organized, Ghana laid back and later rushed into the last one in Morocco, and they were lucky to have four boxers qualify for London. I am sure you will agree with me that the cost they paid by rushing to qualify for London 2012 was felt when they were needed most to lift high the flag of Ghana.

Wrangling in GOC

Having mentioned that, let me talk about the major drawback to Ghana’s preparations for London 2012 – wranglings within the Ghana Olympic Committee. No reports were given by officials after Beijing 2008 Games but a resounding chorus of ‘We will try and do better at the next Olypmics’, was sung. This was compounded when the NOC was plunged into an internal power play at a Congress held in 2009. The Congress appeared to truncate the reign of then Chairman, Benson Tongo Baba. That Congress in Kasoa in the Central Region did not see its end as BT Baba argued that the then members were illegally elected into office and consequently staged a walk-out. Nevertheless, the ‘quorum’ went ahead with the Congress and elected Prof. Francis Dodoo to lead the ‘new’ executive. This ‘new’ executive stayed in office concurrently with the ‘old’ executive for well over a year. The ‘Cold War’ between these two executives had a remote toll on the various sports bodies as everybody did not know which executives are in charge of the release of funds. Thus, most tournaments stalled. Within this period, Ghana Olympic Committee was banned from the International Olympic Committee for failing to keep its house in order. On a lighter note, it was the first time that I heard Jacques Rogge, IOC President, talk about Ghana in his many international press briefings. Fast forwarding, the current executives were elected into office in November, 2011 less than one year to a tournament which takes four years to prepare for. Obviously, to perform well, and let alone to podium, was going to be a Herculean task under such circumstances. Even the night of the Congress that elected the current executive did not pass without problems. Feuding parties staged walk-outs while respected sports administrators insulted one another in the full glare of television cameras. It was disgraceful! While sitting in the hall of the Miklin hotel-East Legon, where the Congress was held, I was lamenting and simply thinking of the ordinary street boy I see every morning walking from Kaneshie to Osu to play table tennis at the Accra Sports Stadium; the girl I see at the DG Hathiramani Sports Hall emotively flexing her muscles in taekwondo; the promising Takoradi badminton player, whose dream it is to play in the Olympics one day. Honestly, I knew these young sportsmen and women would venture into something else had they seen how their leaders were fighting and trading insults at one another. In my candid confession, the National Olympic Committee (NOC) would have faced severer sanctions but for the forbearance of the IOC representative form Sao Tome e Principe.

Black Meteors

The camel that broke the camel’s back regarding any dreams of Ghana making London 2012 a dream Olympics was the failure of the Black Meteors to qualify. With wrangling in the various sports bodies, the Ghana Football Association was regarded as the most stable association with prospects of easy qualification. But this was not the case as Ghana was ditched by lowly-regarded Sudan. An Olympic Games in London was beginning to be a fairy tale to some of us then.

Athletics

There was little to write home about for the athletics team. Fewer, if not little, tournaments were came their way from the governing body and the last one they felt determined to make a mark in came with its own problems. They were crammed in a bus for well over 12 hours to Benin.

2012 Olympics

Indeed, the effects were glaring for all to see in London. Out of the four boxers presented, one was declared unfit for the Games while the rest, bar Duke Micah, failed at their first bouts. The athletes also had their fair share of a pull-out and first-round failures. Heptathlete Margaret Simpson pulled out of her event while Ignisious Gaisah and Vida Anim failed to progress in their respective qualification events. Judoka Emmanuel Nartey rather enjoyed his defeat as he claims it was a learning tournament for him. Goodness!!! Alberta Ampomaah chalked some successes mauling the national record in +75kg weightlifting, yet there was no medal to show for.

Rio 2016

Another Olympics is around corner! It is going to be held in Rio de Janeiro. It is in 2016 but for goodness sake preparations better start from now. The Ghana Olympic Committee has no excuse now with regard to preparations. There is no in-fighting for power and I expecte none to be there till and after 2016; there is now a plush suite of offices to help in the running of the day-to-day affairs of the Committee. With these at their disposal, I expect the GOC to press upon the various sports associations to open their nets wider to get more sportsmen and women and since sports is not a preserve of the urban dweller they should travel hinterland to unearth more talents. There should also be a good rapport between the GOC and the National Sports Authority since they are the only two umbrella sports bodies. Fortunately, their functions are well-defined so that there should be regular interdependence. The GOC must endeavour to make the Olympics a part and parcel of the ordinary Ghanaian like it is in South Africa where they regard a medal at an Olympics a national affair.

In my candid opinion, the crop of sportsmen and women, especially athletes, springing up tells me Ghana will do well in Rio but it will take a concerted effort from the GOC to make it happen.

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By Kwame