Fiasco in Rio: The Nock, Sports Ministry list of shame
It is only in Kenya, a nation of paradox, where celebrations for the best ever performance at the biggest sporting carnival on the planet can be choked by stinking fumes of chaos orchestrated by team management that was labelled by one international news agency quite aptly as ‘world class corruption.’
Citizen TV’s Waihiga Mwaura, the award winning sports journalist who was dispatched to Brazil to cover the Rio 2016 Olympics found his name among the list of persons who were accredited and officially supposed to be part of Team Kenya prepared by the National Olympics Committee-Kenya (Nock) and rubber-stamped by the Ministry of Sport.
It meant together with colleagues from other media houses, Waihiga or Higz, as he is fondly known in the newsroom he has served with distinction was in line to travel and be accommodated under the budget mostly funded by Government to cater for the Games.
However, the respected TV and Citizen Digital journalist’s costs were met by Royal Media Services, the same applying to members of other media houses who coughed up loads of cash to ensure the exploits of a team that won six gold, six silver and a bronze were well documented for Kenyans back home and posterity.
The International Olympics Committee (IOC) allocates spaces for media covering the Olympics in the Athletes’ Village and as long as they have been accredited by their National Olympics Committees (NOCs) as part of official delegation and should be decked out in their national kit like athletes, technical and management officials for ease of identification.
So, the question remains, who travelled on Waihiga’s (and media colleagues) ticket, collected his allocated allowances, dressed in his Team Kenya kit and occupied his space at the Olympics Village since he could not even access the facility and was booked in a hotel miles away from the official housing for teams that graced the Rio Olympics?
That is just a single account that does not even begin explaining the magnitude of the scandal driven by the impunity of disgraced Nock officials, three who are in custody waiting being charged for mismanagement of the team, corruption and stealing kit from sponsors Nike abetted by top Ministry officials led by under-fire Cabinet Secretary, Dr. Hassan Wario.
Waihiga prepared a damning special report titled Fiasco in Rio that aired on Sunday Live bulletin on Citizen TV, reproduced below, that gave an inside look on a scandal that saw President Uhuru Kenyatta call for investigations, Wario disband Nock and the organisation’s secretary general, Francis K Paul, Chef-de-Mission, Stephen arap Soi and his deputy, James Chacha arrested by police inside the past week.
Soi was on Sunday, released on Ksh50,000 police bond ahead of his appearance in court.
The 2016 Rio Olympic Games are over and Kenyan’s will remember them because of two contrasting outcomes.
One is the excellent performance by the athletes who scooped 13 medals to top Africa and finish 15th overall in the standings from the 206 nations that took part as part of the Olympics family besides a number of competitors under the IOC flag.
On the flip side, the management of the Kenyan team in Rio was scandalous, to say the least.
Citizen TV’s Waihiga Mwaura was in Brazil for over three weeks and brought us an insider’s view of what exactly transpired in the Kenyan camp during the Olympics.
It all started with a seemingly minor incident where Kenya’s sprints coach John Anzrah was busted using a badge belonging to athlete Ferguson Rotich to access the Olympics Village for a free meal.
It was an incident that saw Anzrah banished from Rio and shamed the entire Kenyan entourage. But why would a coach who was officially on duty lack accreditation to the Village where the competing athletes reside?
On arrival in Nairobi after his disgraceful departure from Brazil, Anzrah lifted the lid on what would turn out to be a hot scandal in the Kenyan camp in Rio.
He claimed his woes were as a result of Nock officials sidelining bonafide coaching staff in favour of family, friends and even lovers that satisfied their carnal desires as deserving support staff of the team and competitors suffered.
“Catherine Ndereba is the assistant Team Manager of the team and we were sharing with her a rented house. We were put there and the answer was there was excess numbers of Team Kenya members and our places there could have been taken by someone else, even the athletes were being given their keys and when they got to their rooms they found them occupied by other people
“I don’t know how they did it; and we were forced to use our own money,” the retired sprinter who represented his nation at the 1991 IAAF World Indoor and World Championships claimed.
“Nock are very disorganized and I’m ashamed of how they have treated me,” Ndereba, a decorated Olympian with two women marathon silver medals and two world championships victories to her name said with regret as her colleagues in the NOC went as far as not sparing her from disgrace as she was reduced to live in penury despite her stature in the sport.
Armed with this tip off, we tried to verify the claims. Citizen TV obtained documents detailing who was in the official Kenyan Olympics entourage.
The documents in our possession signed off by Soi detail officially, Kenya had a team of 87 athletes and 97 officials in Rio.
The athletes’ list of 87 seems quite in order and it includes the rugby sevens men and women’s team, 46 track and field competitors, three boxers, two swimmers, a judoka, a weightlifter and a lone female archer.
But it is the list of officials with 97 names that raised eyebrows. It appears that some relatives of officials found their way on the list.
Number 66 on the list is Ian Kipkoskei Keino, a son to Nock chair person Dr. Kipchoge Keino who was conferred the first Olympics Laureate award during the opening ceremony.
Respected American track and field website letsrun.com lists him as the manager of the family’s High Performance Training Centre (HPTC) in Eldoret where incidentally, the track and field team was set to camp ahead of the Games. His role in the team remains unclear.
Independent reports and accounts from the track and field athletes say the Centre that some opposed vehemently for the proximity to home hence affecting focus and claims it did not have the required facilities to cater for a cross range of competitors from sprinters, distance runners and the country’s only field exponent, Julius Yego who won men Javelin silver.
This saw the athletes opt for sporadic appearances to sate the officials yet it was fully paid for by the County Government of Uasin Gishu.
Then Nock secretary general, Paul was also accompanied by his son Vincent Kinyili Paul whose name is also on the list at number 68. The young Kinyili who posted these pictures on Facebook is a football player with a local club and his role in the team remains a mystery.
When quizzed on Thursday, Paul who has clocked almost 30 years at Nock was categorical he is allowed a guest by virtue of his position and paid for his son’s trip claiming he had evidence to back it up.
A delegate, Peter Ekai Ejore, who is believed to be a close relative of the Principal Secretary for Sports, Ambassador Richard Ekai, also made the Rio party.
However Ejore is also listed as a bodyguard in the Ministry of Sports and could have travelled on official duty. Nonetheless his pictures on the sandy beaches of Copacabana gave credence to the claims he was having a whale of fun times in Brazil as opposed to guarding whomever he was assigned round the clock as officers fitting his description do.
The biggest question mark is at number 36, Juliet Chepkorir Maritim who happens to Head of Mission Soi’s wife.
While a spouse accompanying top officials in their tour of duty overseas is not alien, one wonders whether Soi fits the cadre to be accorded such privileges since he is not even an IOC top honcho or a Government chief that would entitle State money to be splashed on having his significant other.
And if all this was curious, imagine the shock when my name appeared among the list of journalists that had allegedly been sponsored by Nock to cover the Rio Olympics?
Yet my employer, Royal Media Services, had fully catered for all my expenses and I ventured to find out from Soi.
“I have a list of media personnel. A list meant for procurement of tickets only. Well if you purchased your own ticket then I’m afraid I don’t know why you did that. There were provisions for journalists,” he replied.
On quizzing him further whether this was a peculiar occurrence, Soi quipped in his usual braggadocio, “Maybe to you but to me no because this was an arrangement that had been made.”
The Chef-de-Mission’s take on why some relatives of Nock and Sports Ministry appeared in the official Team Kenya list while the provisions for them ought to be catered by their sponsors was equally baffling and evasive.
“I don’t know. I signed a list for purposes of acquiring the tickets for them. This is a list I officially signed. How you got this list, I don’t know.”
He was categorical there was no one in Rio to enjoy the sandy beaches and carnival atmosphere that has made the Brazilian commercial capital a magnet for fun lovers.
“Well in the list that I have signed everybody has a role. No joy riders there,” he replied without flinching.
“This was an approved list. Any other person that was on another list is not correct. That is my signature,” Soi said on the contentious list presented before him for verification.
He was dodgy on the Team Kenya duties his boss, Keino’s son and his spouse were supposed to be conducting in Rio.
“This list is for travel purposes. Not for those who were on the accreditation on per diem (allowances) list. There are different lists. (On Chepkorir) She is my wife. But was she given a ticket or not?
“Why are you asking and she has not been given a ticket. She did not travel. This is the first list that was sent here. The people who actually travelled. These are all ministry officials,” he dismissed further probing while shifting blame on the Ministry in what was now shaping to be a game of ping pong.
According to the list, that Sports CS Wario was accompanied by seven aides including three bodyguards, two communications staff and two personal assistants.
Wesley Maritim and Twaha Dhida are the personal aides while Monica Sairo and Richard Abura were slotted as communications staff.
The three bodyguards are listed as were Ali Guyo, Lamech Oriku and Abdulahi Omar with questions arising whether the Minister required three officers at a Games where security was tight as well as Brazil having an Embassy that should make such arrangement for visiting dignitaries.
“We had heard reports about insecurity in Rio so we needed to make sure our CS is well protected.He is an important man in this country,” PS Ekai responded.
The PS was accompanied by his secretary, Maurine Mutuku. Also on the list of officials is Sports Registrar Rose Wasike. Heads of various sports parastatals including Sports Kenya, Sports Fund, Kenya National Sports Council, Anti Doping Agency of Kenya also travelled to Rio and their role there since the Games are organised under IOC remains unclear.
In total 24 people travelled from the Ministry and other related parastatals, 11 of whom travelled on business class. Our source claims that there were also officials on this list who did not travel but could have drawn allowances.
“Waihiga it does not operate that way. Government has ways of operating. There is no way you can replace one person or the other. If there is any proof show me,” Soi challenged.
And the Parliamentary Committee on Labour and Social Welfare where sports is under who travelled chose to overlook the issue
Honorable David Were, Chairperson, Labour and Social Welfare said, “I think there is a lot of exaggeration and what we are looking for is facts.”
“Are we many? Count how many we are here. We are barely four; there are a lot of rumours.”
We established that there was no problem of funding with Team Kenya in Brazil.
A document in our possession shows that the Ministry of Sports through Principal Secretary Stephen Muthuma had written to the Director General Sports Kenya, Gordon Oluoch, requesting for 1.5 million dollars or Ksh150 million for facilitation.
East African Breweries gave Ksh71m while a local betting company also chipped in Ksh40m rounding the total to Ksh216m.
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