To Ugandans familiar with the country's preparations for international competitions, this kind of story would never pass for an April 1 prank.
Most would recall events leading up to the 2012 London Olympics, where Uganda's only medal winner, Stephen Kiprotich, and others facilitated their training; and the 2014 Commonwealth Games, where half of the team's kit arrived after the event, and confirm it is just yet another true story.
The Rio Olympics opening ceremony does not happen until August 5, but it tells of something when with just two weeks to the Games, the Local Organising Committee (LOC) is still wandering in hope of the Shs355m deficit of the Shs755m budget.
"I have today asked commissioner (of physical education and sports) Omara Apitta to draft a letter to the First Lady (Janet Musevei)," State Minister for Sports Charles Bakkabulindi told Daily Monitor yesterday, "There is no cause for alarm." Janet is the senior minister of Education and Sports.
Shs400m of the Olympics team budget, knocked off the Shs3.2b allocated to the National Council of Sports (NCS) this financial year, has since been made available, albeit late.
All travelling athletes are entitled to Shs3m from government upon qualifying to facilitate their training, yet by press time only two boxers - who leave tomorrow for acclimatisation in Rio - had received their share in full.
Shs500,000 for runners
According to NCS general secretary, Nicholas Muramagi, Uganda Athletics Federation (UAF), which has produced 17 of the 21 Ugandan representatives in Rio, has been given Shs33m for preparations.
NCS is to give them an additional Shs18m. Yet, the runners we spoke with, said they received only Shs500,000 each from UAF after the recent National Championships. "I wouldn't know how UAF is disbursing but we have released that money to them," confirmed Muramagi, "I'm positive that everything will be okay and the balance for all athletes will be paid before the Games."
UAF general secretary, Beatrice Ayikoru, admitted they owe most of the athletes their Shs2.5m balance. "We got that money and paid for four tickets that we bought to facilitate athletes' qualification in Europe and South Africa," she said, without naming the athletes. "And some of the balance we gave to the athletes. When we get more, we shall cash up."
Of the Shs400m available, Shs240m is apparently meant for athletes' allowances, tickets and preparations for the games, Shs50m to Paralympics, leaving Shs110m for facilitation and allowances of government and team officials, which LOC say is still not enough.
Tickets for athletes are covered by the International Olympic Committee (IOC) grant of $40,000 (Shs134 million), which raises questions over why they are captured in the NCS money.
"The tickets you see there are perhaps (some of) the expenses resulting in late booking," said Uganda Olympic Committee (UOC) president William Blick, "At the time the grant was released, it would have sorted the tickets at $40,000, but it has since risen to $64,000 (Shs215 million)."
Our visit to Namboole, where Ronald Musagala, Winnie Nanyondo and Halima Nakaayi are training from, revealed that the athletes are providing food and water for themselves, and that no UAF official has visited them since the National Championships on July 7. "We are providing everything for the camp in Kapchorwa but for sure we are going to check on our team at Namboole," explained Ayikoru, "For water, we should deliver their boxes tomorrow. For the next two weeks we shall also be providing their lunch."
Source: The Monitor.