Q&A With Sports CS Amina Mohamed: ‘We’re Better Prepared for Tokyo Olympics’

February 24, 2020

Sports Cabinet Secretary Amina Mohamed responded to questions from the public via Sunday Nation.

1. As we head to the Tokyo Olympics, we cannot forget the mess at the Team Kenya camp in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, four years ago. Our athletes were made to stay in low-class hotels and, sometimes, even went hungry. All the while, the mandarins in your ministry and their mistresses and relatives were enjoying what was meant for athletes, including uniforms. What will you do differently to lift the spirits of Team Kenya? Peter F. Amonde, Nairobi

The Ministry of Sports and the National Olympics Committee of Kenya (Nock) are working collaboratively to ensure that there is no repeat of the challenges that our teams faced during the 2016 Olympics.

I have set up steering and organising committees that include all key stakeholders to lead the preparations.

We already have proper plans in place for travel, accommodation, pre-training camp and for the actual competitions to shield our sportsmen and women from any inconveniences and difficulties.

We will unveil the Olympic kits in April and have signed an MoU with officials from Kurume City, a serene and tranquil city in Japan, where our athletes will set their pre-training camp for three-weeks before the games.

An initial inspection team from the ministry went to Kurume City last year.

I will be sending another one soon to establish the status of preparations for hosting Team Kenya. Starting with the 2020 Tokyo Olympics, the ministry has institutionalised the preparation of the Olympic Games with the aim of focusing on Olympic training throughout the four-year cycle.

This will be championed by the Kenya Academy of Sports across the country to enhance our teams’ capacities and establish a pool of young competitive athletes.

2. Wrangles in cricket continue unabated. In 2003, we were on top of our game, reaching the semi-final of the World Cup. Since then the sport has deteriorated mainly because of poor administration, resulting in demotion from Division One to Division Three in World Cricket. The demotion has further hit us as the funding from the International Cricket Council has been slashed. What are you doing to save cricket in the country? Zoeb Tayebjee, Nairobi

There have been a series of behind-the-scenes engagements to ensure we resolve the deep-seated issues challenging cricket in the country.

I will not divulge details on the level and stage of the resolution process for now, because doing so may jeopardise the efforts and progress we have made so far, but we will be making an official statement in this regard in due course.

3. The government promised to develop sports stadiums across the country. How much has been spent on these projects and what is the status of these facilities? Shem Onderi, Kisii

The government has not reneged on its promise to build stadiums across the country; this is a vision that President Uhuru Kenyatta is committed to achieving as an enabler of the Big Four agenda.

The President’s commitment to support sports is affirmed by his decision to establish the Sports, Arts and Social Development Fund, which has ensured more national teams, across sports disciplines, participate in international competitions than ever before.

We have set a March deadline for the completion of Nyayo Stadium and will continue renovating sections of Kasarani stadium in preparation to host the inaugural World Athletics Continental Tour, World Under 20 Athletic Championships, World Safari Rally Project and other major competitions.

4. Even as plans are underway to send our athletes to the Tokyo Olympics, we cannot forget our pioneer athletes who set the pace. Sadly, many are now living in squalor. What is your ministry doing to help these heroes? Njeri Aseneka, Thika

The government is in the process of setting up a Contributory Medical and Pensions Scheme that will cater for the medical needs and well-being of active as well as retired sportsmen and women.

We are also at the tail-end of developing a comprehensive Cash Awards Policy which will cover both active and retired athletes.

5. In about four months from today, on July 7, the 2020 IAAF World U20 Championships will be kicking off in Nairobi. What is the level of preparations for the event? What are the plans to have as many Kenyans as possible watch the events at the stadium? Kiptur Morris, Kericho

The Steering Committee of World U-20 are meeting every Monday while the Local Organising Committee is engaged on a full-time basis.

We have the funding to cater for all facets of the event. All preparations will be complete before the next inspection by World Athletics.

The ministry is continuously checking the preparations to ensure smooth flow of operations.

The procurement process will follow the due procurement laws and by the end of March, all suppliers and services will have been engaged.

We have engaged Athletics Kenya on ticketing, and I can confirm that tickets (scheduled to go on sale in April) will be fairly priced to encourage Kenyans to throng the stadium and be part of the live audience.

We also plan to erect large outdoor screens in some parts of the country and engage local media houses to allow for live broadcasting and give Kenyans who cannot access the stadium an opportunity to be part of the action.

6. It is in the public domain that when SportPesa folded its operations, many sports teams were left in disarray in terms of sponsorship. What became of the much-talked-about Sports Fund? Komen Moris, Eldoret

As a ministry, we are aware of the financial constraints that our local clubs are facing following the decision by SportPesa to withdraw sponsorship.

We have been in discussions with various stakeholders with the intention of finding a workable solution to the problem.

We are glad that some corporate entities are sponsoring different sports organisations and events. We are talking to others to invest more in sports.

There are tax incentives provided for in the Sports Act for corporates that commit resources to support more sports clubs.

The Sports, Arts and Social Development Fund has strict regulations and a limited budget that can only facilitate the activities of national teams.

We are, however, open to forging new partnerships with the private sector to resource the sports and arts ecosystems.

7. Many Kenyans were not pleased by the designs of the Olympics kits. Were Kenyans’ views sought before settling on the design? Jaylene Abiero, Ngong’

Nock President Paul Tergat has already spoken on this matter and explained that the decision to settle on the new design was not made unilaterally, but after a two-year-long consultative process that brought together Nock, Nike, Athletics Kenya and Kenya Rugby players, and involved extensive research and revisions.

The request to revise the design was actually made by the athletes who wanted something new and different.

Those who have spoken publicly on the matter, including Eliud Kipchoge, are really excited and satisfied with the new kits.

The fabric used wicks away moisture 55 per cent faster than previously used fabrics, making it the best fit for this Olympics, owing to the hot conditions expected in Tokyo during that time.

8. What measures have you put in place to ensure joyriders do not travel to Tokyo for the Olympics? Githuku Mungai, Nairobi

We have set a meticulous vetting process that will ensure only essential personnel travel to Tokyo, as a way to ward off joyriders.

Similarly, we have established an ironclad process to avoid the irregular allocation of funds to people who are not in the travelling team.

I will unveil an Olympics Travel Policy for the ministry as we approach the games to serve as the benchmark for all international travel.

9. For a while, Kenyans thought doping among our athletes was the biggest challenge to our sports. The recent Fifa decision banning Kenyan footballers brought to the fore another sporting malady: match-fixing. What is your ministry doing to ensure our sports remain free of match-fixing cartels who want to mint millions at the expense of sportsmanship? Vitalis Kirwa, Nakuru

Doping and match-fixing are misdeeds that must be condemned and addressed in equal measure.

The same way we have worked with Athletics Kenya and the Kenya Anti-Doping Agency to arrest doping, we are working with the Football Kenya Federation (FKF) to ensure the issue of match-fixing is tamed.

We are in discussions with FKF on the measures to be taken, which will include sensitisation of football players, coaches, club officials and other football stakeholders, and the establishment of punitive rules against match-fixing.

10. Though the Sports Fund is up and running, we still hear sports federations complaining about lack of funds and accusing your ministry of failing to release funds on time. Why is this so? Mercy Maritim, Londiani

There is a vetting process that every requisition has to go through before funds are disbursed to federations, and that takes time.

Federations that have put in their requests in good time have received the requisite and approved funds on time.

We are currently working on a digital system that will fast-track the requisition-making process, the vetting process, and disbursement of the funds, while at the same curbing bloated budgets, unnecessary expenditure and misappropriation of the funds.

11. Kenya has hosted the IAAF World U18 and will from July 7-12 host the 2020 IAAF World U20 Championships. What next for Kenya? Bob Musungu, Machakos

First, I must say that acquiring the rights to host such high-profile events is in itself a confirmation of the confidence that the sporting world has in Kenya and its national and sports leadership.

We already have world-class infrastructure in terms of stadiums, transport systems and accommodation, and are in the process of increasing the number of stadiums that will enable us to bid for bigger continental and global events, turning Kenya into a talent hub and ideal sports tourism destination.

Before the World Athletics Under 20 Championships, Nairobi will be the first stop for the World Athletics Continental tour (Gold level) in May, making us the first African country to host the series and the only one in this first edition.

Next, we will be making a bid to host the World Athletics Championship in 2025.

12. Our athletes are known to travel a lot as they compete in various races. With the surge of the coronavirus, the concern of many athletics enthusiasts is if our athletes are safe. Komen Moris, Eldoret

The government, through the Ministry of Health, has put in place control measures to monitor and step up surveillance on the spread of the coronavirus.

Before travelling for any competition, sports organisations have to contact the ministries of Sports, Health and Foreign Affairs to make sure they are briefed on the state of the host country and measures put in place to prevent the spread of the virus.

As a global problem, we are approaching the solutions in a globally consultative manner.

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