With the dust just settled over the Rio 2016 Olympic Games, we thought it appropriate to put Ghana's shameful and disgraceful performance under the microscope. It did not come as a surprise to me that Ghana came home with no medals nor were they likely to.
There are a plethora of reasons why team Ghana came from the Rio Olympics empty handed and the essence of this article is to examine some of the reasons why this was the case and to offer tangible alternatives as to how Ghana can rectify this for future Olympics.
Generally speaking the fundamental reason for Ghana's failure in Rio was down to investment and this investment manifests itself in 5 key areas. These are;
1. The first reason Ghana failed to win any medals in Rio is due to lack of first class infrastructure for its athletes at ALL levels. This comes in the form of inadequate training equipment/facilities, lack of highly professional trainers, lack of appropriate training centers and lack of good quality up-to-date training programmes.
2. The next reason why Ghana failed in Rio is due to a lack of a long term sports developmental plan that will produce the champions of tomorrow. This will encompass focusing on a few key sports that the country can genuinely compete in rather than doing everything – this plan and its implementation will be detailed in the way forward.
3. Another reason why Ghana failed to get any medal in during the Olympics is due to a lack of investment in sports science. Over the last 35 years sports science has played key role in producing successful athletes and research has shown that countries which devote the necessary resources to sports science have reaped enormous benefits – again this will be discussed in more depth in the way forward.
4. The next reason Ghana failed to deliver was due to poor preparation time.
5. The last reason for the abject performance in Rio and for me this is perhaps the most important one is Ghana's inability to develop a comprehensive system / developmental programme that will harness the next generation of talent right from the infant level through to senior level.
The way forward:
The way forward to improve Ghana's chances at future Olympics will consist of the following.
1. Adequate sports infrastructure – If Ghana is going to be successful at future Olympics it has to invest heavily in its sports infrastructure. Apart from the re-constructed Accra, El Wak and Kumasi Sports Stadia and the new ones in Tamale and Sekondi, Ghana's sports infrastructure is very poor indeed.
If governments of Ghana are serious about wanting Ghana to succeed in future Olympics, it must as part of national development plan, build more first class sporting centers from the grassroots level to the professional level. In addition to this, efforts must be made to ensure too that the facilities in these sports centers are excellent and properly maintained.
In addition to this, attention must be paid to have the best and most professional trainers in the market and coupled with this are first class relevant training programmes that will get the best of all the athletes that go through this programme.
2. Development of a sports development programme – This is at the heart of Ghana's success in the future. Huge investment must be put into this area by first identifying sports that Ghana will excel in, then putting in place a framework and a long term strategy to find the champions of tomorrow by incorporating the issues raised in point one and sticking to that plan.
As part of this plan there must be an implementation strategy, an exit strategy and should the plan be difficult to execute, an alternative strategy must be set aside – this will ensure continuation of the plan with the same objective which is to breed future champions.
3. Sports science - This is a crucial area of concern and is a key component if Ghana is to succeed in the future. By following the above sports developmental plan, the sports authorities will be best placed to implement as part of that policy a sports science component to it.
This will enable them to research into the latest techniques into the sports the authorities in Ghana deem as key to securing future success. In addition to this research will be done into issues like sports diet and nutrition, coaching techniques, sports psychology, developing a winning mentality and research into traditional sports medicine.
When this research has been extensively undertaken the fundamentals will be there to ensure that Sports Ghana develops a sports science framework that will yield positive results based on the objectives of the sports development plan.
4. Preparation time – It was evidently obvious from the performance of our athletes and even some of them had to pull out of the games due to niggling injuries that Team Ghana was not prepared for the Olympics.
In an event of such magnitude, considering one is competing against the very best in world, one needs at least a four year cycle to fully prepare taking into consideration some of the issues raised in point 3.
It is totally unacceptable that the authorities in this country did not realize this point and did not put in the necessary time, effort and resources to ensure that our athletes were adequately prepared for the Olympics. This inadequate preparation showed a lack of leadership and vision on behalf of the government – i.e. the ministry of Youth and Sports and the Ghana Olympic Committee (GOC).
The preparation for the next Olympics in Tokyo 2020 needs to START NOW! By implementing some of the above recommendations and this is crucial if Ghana is to win medals in future Olympics.
5. Comprehensive sports development programme - This is at the heart of the whole strategy to get Ghana winning effectively at future Olympics.
Incorporated into the whole sports development plan, this initiative will fundamentally look at formulating a nationwide sports framework that seeks to unearth potential talent up and down the country, then seeking to harness and develop that talent using the sports centers of excellence mentioned above, coupled with the sports science component of the plan to develop the champions of tomorrow.
The essence of this development programme is to initiate sub-sections for example an under 7's, under 10's, under 15's etc development programme by going into each of the 10 regions of Ghana to find talent by having a series of workshops, seminars and road shows each having criteria to find potential talent and then developing that talent.
When that talent has been found all the components in the plan especially the sports science component must be executed to guarantee the optimum target which is producing world class athletes that can compete on the global stage and win medals.
The authorities in this country must be serious if Ghana is to achieve success in Tokyo. They must not put their heads in the sand and expect results. They must be proactive, innovate and creative and use wisely the resources available to them and deliver for mother Ghana.
If a tiny Caribbean island like Jamaica which has less people living in it than Kumasi can produce Olympic wining athletes like Usain Bolt and Elaine Thompson, then why can't Ghana that has ten times the population of Jamaica. Food for thought!!.