Which Officials should Accompany Athletes to International Sports Competitions?

The State Minister for Sports, Peter Ogwang has questioned the huge number of officials who travel to international sports competitions at the expense of athletes. He told URN last week his investigations show that officials whom he referred to as “visitors” travel in big numbers to sports events and use resources that would have been channeled to facilitate the athletes during preparations, competitions, and after the games.   

“How can a human resource manager go to the event? How can a secretary also go to a sports competition? To do what?” asked the minister. He was responding to queries from our reporter on the huge delegation of officials that accompanied athletes to the 2022 Birmingham commonwealth games. Most officials failed to access the commonwealth village since they were not accredited. 

Officials from the National Olympic Committee and the National Council of sports have oftentimes been accused of taking their spouses and close associates who add nothing to the team. This has been the cry of athletes and sports fans, which Ogwang has vowed to stop. But who determines the number of officials attending the commonwealth games or the Olympic games? Which officials do athletes need to manifest an impeccable performance throughout the course of action? And perhaps where does Uganda go wrong?  

An official from the Uganda Olympic committee told URN that all officials that always go to international events are provided for. “There is a system that determines the number of officials you are entitled to which is called a team size calculator, that’s for Olympics, Commonwealth games, and all African games.  For every 1-4 duly entered male athletes in each discipline, but if there is a female athlete, she should have one female official known as chaperon,” said the official.

He, however, notes that “some sports differ on the number of officials needed each sport is different. For example in cycling, you can have one athlete, but he might need five officials, when you have a para-athlete who is visually impaired, he will need a guide and coach as well.” He notes that they always talk to the different federations that qualify athletes to nominate officials accordingly.  

According to the International Olympic Committee guidelines, if a country like Uganda qualifies 20 athletes from different sports associations, each of these athletes is always entitled to a coach but if all those 10 athletes come from the same sport, for example, athletics, they should be accompanied by three coaches. However, since association leaders are sometimes not provided for, they end up taking some of these slots.    

“There is what we call guests as the National Olympic Committee, they usually give us a slot for the guest we usually ask the government to appoint some people, or sometimes we get that person from within the National Olympic committee”, the source said.

These slots are always taken by the president of the national Olympic committee, the Director of Sport, the Minister of Sport, and other government dignitaries .“There is also another section of travelers which includes general team officials like the general manager, Chef De mission, team doctor, and a massage therapist”, he added    

However, URN understands that this arrangement is a little different when it comes to the commonwealth games because the Commonwealth federation meets the costs for the entire delegation that attends the Games as prescribed by the organizing committee. However, if the organizing committee exceeds the number required, the extra costs are met by the government.    

But how many officials does each sport need?  

Moses Muhangi, President of the Uganda Athletics Federation, says a boxer in the ring needs three officials with him by the corner side during competitions, and that’s the standard. Each of these officials has a role to play. The first official is an Aiba-certified coach with a minimum of 1 star. He is the one that is authorized to enter the ring during fight break, and his major task is to analyze the fight and is able to advise the competing boxer on what to do to win the fight.

The second official, who must be at least one star, is responsible for collecting up and washing the mouth guard if it falls in the ring during the fight. The third official, called a cut technician, manages the spit can and stitches minor injuries on the boxer’s face during the competition. 

Above all, Muhangi explains the team also needs a physiotherapist whose role is to offer massage to boxers/athletes before and after the games. When our reporter asked him whether the boxing team had the right officials to accompany the team during the commonwealth games, Muhangi said they only traveled with people who go to the ring.

Muhangi, who told URN that his air ticket was paid for by the commonwealth Federation alleges that while the commonwealth games have a designated number of officials they cater to, the local organizing committee has the mandate to equip athletes with officials who boost the welfare, health of athletes but rather takes officials who do not add anything to the team. 

“There are key officials who are traveling and they have nothing to with the team and that’s why they end up watching the games on TV”, you have a physiotherapist, a cut technician, a massage therapist, other teams have a nutritionist, and training coaches, but for us, we only use one person, so we just do the presentation for the sake of presenting a team not because you want to compete and win a medal,” Muhangi said.

  An athlete, who was part of the athletics team but never wanted to be mentioned told URN that officials who are taken are always determined by the Federation, which sometimes challenges individual athletes. He said athletics have different categories like sprints, middle distances, and long distances, and each of these has its expertise.  

“While a team of long distances runners can use one coach, and the same applies to middle distances runners, it is challenging when it comes to sprints because each athlete will need a coach attached to him who is always with him during training,” he said.

“As a sprinter, I always need a masseuse with me, but when we go to these games, we only go with one or two who work on the entire delegation which is a bit challenging, sometimes we go with a doctor, but we barely see them, we only see doctors provided by the Commonwealth organizing committee,” he added.  

He further said some Federations tend to ignore coaches who rise these athletes and are never given chance to accompany them, which also puts some of the federations in the spotlight.  Weightlifter Julius Ssekitoleko raised a similar complaint. Ssekitoleko, who had just returned from Japan, said the person assigned to him as his coach was not the same person who was instructing him.   

He said that his coach, Ivan, who had guided him through all of the training techniques that helped him generate the most power was never chosen. Instead, Hakim Musoke was appointed to accompany him.

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