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Ride on Kenyan talent to tap into sports billions

Sanna Nuutinen
Finnish golfer Sanna Nuutinen during the Magical Kenya Ladies Open Tournament at Vipingo Ridge, Kilifi on December 6. PHOTO | KEVIN ODIT 

Next year is an Olympic year, and the great nation of Japan will for the fourth time, be playing host to over 10,000 athletes from over 200 countries. It will be the the 33rd Olympic and 22nd Paralympic sports, including golf, across 43 venues.

The venues are located in two main clusters, the Heritage Zone which primarily includes venues used during the 1964 Games and the Tokyo Bay Zone which includes the Athletes’ Village and the broadcast centre. The Olympic games, a summer extravaganza, will take place from July 24 to August 9, 2020 in venues around Tokyo.

And whilst the International Olympics Committee (IOC) has in recent times campaigned for more affordable hosting, it is estimated that the government of Japan will spend over $12.5 billion for the Games. The Tokyo Metropolitan Government is reportedly contributing part of that total cost.

So, what is my point here? And what does all this have to do with how you play your golf this weekend? Let me attempt to explain myself, stay with me kindly. Japan recently hosted the 2019 Rugby World Cup and the thinking of World Rugby was simple – to expand the game globally. According to an article by Bloomberg’s Kurumi Mori in the Washington Post, June 21, 2019 – Why Japan is Hosting the Rugby World Cup – “Asia is the world’s most populous and youthful continent,” Mori wrote, and awarding the Rugby World Cup to Japan could be “a powerful game-changer for sporting and social change in Asia.”

Before you question Japan’s rugby credentials, consider this; “There are 123,000 rugby players in Japan as of 2016, making Japan the largest rugby playing population in Asia!” Mori goes on to say that whilst the Rugby World Cup would contribute about $4 billion to the economy – not significant in a nation with a GDP of $4.97 trillion, accoding to World Bank 2018 report, “the biggest impact would be in promoting the country as a tourism destination during and beyond the tournament.”

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The 1964 Tokyo Olympics were hailed as an opportunity “to build a new Tokyo and a new Japan”. This was postwar Japan and the Games would transform Tokyo’s infrastructure and the nation’s identity. Fast forward to 2020 and Prime Minister Shinzo Abe is keen to see the 2020 Games “vitalizing the whole of Japan”. The Games are hailed as the most innovative in history, with robots and fuel-cell cars and 100 percent renewable energy at official venues.

What can we learn from Japan?

Kenya has failed on numerous occasions to host international football events – and whilst the failure has been largely attributed to the concerned federation, the host cities and the government are not without blame. The campaign in Japan is led by the government of Japan and the Tokyo Metropolitan Government for example.

Kenya is a major rugby nation, why aren’t we hosting international rugby tournaments? We are also a major volleyball nation – where are the volleyball meets? And don’t talk about athletics and in particular marathons; we dominate all marathons in the world and yet we don’t host a single big global marathon!

However, all is not lost, Kenya is now home to some global sporting events in golf and rally. The Magical Kenya Open is a full European Tour event and the recently held Magical Kenya Ladies Open is a full Ladies European Tour event – both these events are broadcast live to global audiences giving Kenya priceless publicity.

The Karen Masters, another international event, is a full Sunshine Tour event. The Safari Rally in July, 2020 will be a full World Rally Championship event. The success of these sporting events depends on full government support, host venue support and host city support – not sure the latter applies in Nairobi or elsewhere.

Like Japan, Kenya has demonstrated that it can be done in golf and rally. Can we now do it in athletics, football, rugby and volleyball? Can the golf federations help? Perhaps lend some consultancy services to the other federations – especially in matters governance?

Enjoy your golf weekend.

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