Commonwealth Games torch dark spots in Ugandan sport

Jacob Kiplimo takes the gold in the 10,000m final CREDIT: GETTY IMAGES

Jacob Kiplimo worn gold in the 5000m final

KAMPALA — About 20 years ago, it was almost impossible to imagine that Ugandan sports would get the kind global attention it gets today. This has changed over the years with wins from sports personalities such as Dorcus Inzikuru, Stephen Kiptrotich, Halima Nakaayi, Joshua Cheptegei and 2022 commonwealth games wonder Jacob Kiplimo among others.

Uganda’s wins on the global stage are scattered in different competitions such as the Olympics, the World Athletics championship and Commonwealth Games.

In the recently concluded Commonwealth Games, Uganda garnered five medals, three of which were gold medals and two bronze medals. The medal collection put Uganda at the 16th position on the table behind Kenya, Singapore and Trinidad and Tobago.

Despite Uganda’s improvement in international sports competitions, some still feel that Uganda needs to up her game if the East African nation is to perform better.

Dennis Bbosa, a sports observer in Uganda, says that a lot needs to be done if Uganda is to perform better in global sports competitions. He says the country needs to use such competitions to give her sports men and women exposure.

“Uganda is not at the level where she can object to participate in the Commonwealth Games. We are a poor country that needs to participate in such games because they give our sports men and women exposure which wouldn’t get back home,” he says, adding that, “the small wins Uganda is getting in competitions like this are reminding us and those in power that Uganda has the potential to turn the tables if certain things are done right.”

Bbosa further says that the authorities back in Uganda need to look at what needs to be done to improve the performance of Ugandan sports men and women on the global stage.

“Wins such as these ones mean Uganda has the potential to tap into the sports sector which I think can become a good revenue stream for the government. We need to look at other sports like boxing, tennis, badminton, netball, football and others that would help propel us to the next level in global competitions. The only problem is that we don’t have the facilities and necessary support for our sports men,” he argues.

Is it really lack of government support?
It is clear that for anything concerning the national outlook, the government has to play a central role. Has the government played its part? It’s evident that little attention has been given to the sports sector. For instance, to date, Uganda has no internationally recognized football stadium. Namboole National Stadium was once the only internationally recognized stadium. It currently stands in ruins with little being done to refurbish it.

The Ugandan government, according to David Lumansi, a sports observer, hasn’t put in place a support system for most sports personalities.

“I feel we need a support system for our sports sector. The government needs to put in place different sports academies and programmes across the country to help support young and talented sports men and women,” he says, adding that, “funding in the sports sector by government is little despite being increased.”

Government during the drafting of the 2022/23 allocated sh47.81b to the sports sub-sector, a record sh29b increase from sh18b.

Despite the increase in the sectors’ budget, the football administration takes the biggest chunk of the money – sh20b – leaving other sports to share amongst themselves sh27, 81b.
Some analysts are however skeptical whether the increase in the budget will help improve the sports sub-sector.

“Firstly, sh47.81b is very little money to transform a huge sector like sports. Of course there’s a beginning to almost everything, but I we also need to deal with corruption if these budget increases are to be of any impact,” a sports observer, who prefers anonymity, says.

Our efforts to reach the Peter Ogwang, State Minister for Sports, were futile as his known numbers were off.

Tracing Uganda’s global wins

Uganda got her first global sports win in the 1972 Summer Olympics when John Akii-Bua won a gold medal in the 400 meters hurdles despite not being the favorite.

In 1982, Peter Kanath Rwamuhanda competed in the Commonwealth Games in the 400 meters hurdles race and finished second winning a silver medal.

In 2005, Dorcus Inzikuru helped end Uganda’s 33 year wait for gold medal winning the inaugural women’s 3000 steeplechase in the World Championships in Helsink, Finland. Uganda has since won major global athletics competitions with wins from Stephen Kiprotich, Peruth Chemutai, Halima Nakaayi, Boniface Kiprop, Joshua Cheptegei, Jacob Kiplimo and Victor Kiplangat.

Away from athletics, Uganda also had wins in other competitions such as net ball. The she cranes, Uganda’s national net ball team, amazed crowds in the most recently concluded Commonwealth Games finishing fifth. The team has also had an impressive performance in other net ball competitions such as the Net Ball World Cup in 2019.

Relevancy of Commonwealth Games today

The games have been criticized by sports pundits across the world saying they are no longer relevant in the sports world. Some have gone on to state that they are only a reminder of the British Empire’s dark history of imperialism and all that came with it.
The game’s history, some believe, has led to some former British colonies such as the United States of America, Egypt and Japan from participating.

On the flip side of the coin, some analysts look at the games as a good platform for developing countries to improve their performance in sports competitions.

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