Thursday, August 18, 2016

Gold or gold-plated?

Why isn’t article 1 of the UN universal declaration on human rights, which says “All human beings are born free and equal”, qualified with the words, “depending on where they are born”.

Consider the Olympic Games and take the UK and Africa, for example. By Wednesday 17 August, the UK, which covers only 243,610 sq km with some 65 million people, had already won 50 medals, 19 of them gold. Contrast these achievements with Africa’s. Although it is the world’s second-largest and second-most-populous continent, covering 30.2m sq km and inhabited by about 1 billion people, it had won just 21 medals, five of them gold. To put Africa’s poor performance in perspective, one single US Olympian, Simone Biles, took four gold medals, while two British Olympians, Laura Trott and Jason Kenny, took five. With just days to go, Africa is unlikely to exceed the 31 medals it took in London in 2012.

Africa has perennially performed poorly at every Olympics due to poverty – which is not just about the lack of money in your pocket or bank account. Poverty also includes the inability to access quality water, food, housing, education, medical services and leisure and professional sports facilities. Not so in the G8 countries. UK Sport is spending over £300m to train British athletes each Olympic cycle.

British Olympians will start training for Tokyo 2020 as soon as they leave Rio. At the same time, potential African Olympians will be desperately struggling to stay alive, while looking for the first people-smuggler to take them on a risky journey in search of a better life in Europe.

Others, like the Kenyan-born Ruth Jebet and Eunice Jepkuri, and Ethiopian-born Bahraini Bontu Rebitu have been forced to take their talents to Bahrain.

Africa is so disadvantaged by the chronic lack of training facilities that the Olympic medal league table is meaningless.

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