I have participated in competitions representing the country and followed many sports events in Uganda and abroad where our athletes have participated.These sportsmen and women should be honoured and applauded.
They are the true heroes and heroines because they work around thousands of challenges to compete at the various levels. We only get to see them on television representing a country that cherishes them when they win.
According to Simon Kuper, “Other than sports, only war and catastrophe can create this sort of national unity.” This has always been the case as people amid our polarised politics unite to support our national teams and athletes.
As John Carlin connotes: “Sport has the power to change the world. It has the power to inspire, the power to unite people that little else has…It is more powerful in governments in breaking down racial barriers”.
Countries such as Ivory Coast and Liberia have benefited from the power of sports and sports personalities to forge peace. I always wonder if our government cares about the role of sports in the social, cultural, political, and economic development of the country.
The industry generates $700b (about Shs2.4) annually which is 1 per cent of the global GDP. Therefore if Uganda needs a considerable share of the fruits of the sports industry, there must be a considerable and deliberate investment. Sadly, we do not see any signs that the investment is about to increase in terms of policy, facilities and financial resources.
In the financial year, 2020/2021, government reduced National Council of Sports funding (sports budget) by Shs8b.
Current funding to National Council for Higher Education is Shs18b a year, this figure has not increased in years. In comparison, Kenya has allocated more than KShs15b (about Shs490b) to sports, arts and social development fund showing serious intent to promote the sports industry unlike the case for Uganda.
We continue to struggle with the management of sports as the National Council Act is obsolete and needs to be amended or repealed, and a new Act enacted. The few available sports facilities are dilapidated, and many are not to the standards to enable international competition of our athletes. The other facilities have remained just unfulfilled promises.
Our athletes struggle to train and prepare for international competitions, they struggle to find funding to participate in many championships, and some have opted to train outside Uganda. Nevertheless, athletes do everything against all odds to fly our flag high up.
According to Vin Scully “Good is not good when better is expected.” We can have many gold, silver, bronze medallists if only we invest substantially in our sports but “If you fail to prepare, you’re prepared to fail.” – Mark Spitz.
I have always watched public relations stunts when political leaders devote considerable time and resources flagging national teams amidst complaints about poor facilitation/welfare of the sports women and men. Many state dinners or banquets have been organised upon any success, some individual stars have received promotions, cars, ex cetera. Whereas these are appreciated, glorifying such amid the least investment in the sports industry is majoring in minors.
It would be nice if such events would be for purposes of hearing from the athletes and officials to account for the management decisions. A national action plan on revamping our sports industry should be a top priority.
We thank you for the congratulatory messages on social media to all athletes. However, we need action to support the sports industry and our athletes.
Ivan Bwowe, is a lawyer and swimmer.