GOC’s role is to take Team Ghana to the Games

Ghana at London 2012The Ghana Olympic Committee has, on many occasions, been unfairly criticised on issues pertaining to Team Ghana’s participation at major international competitions.

The local Olympic governing body has been made the scapegoat when issues pertaining to funding, kitting, and payment of per diems and bonuses have arisen.

Matters came to a head at the 2014 Commonwealth Games where Team Ghana’s competition kits delayed in arriving because of the late release of funds.

In an exclusive interview with the Ghana Olympic Committee’s official website, www.ghanaolympic.org, the Secretary General of the GOC, Richard Akpokavie explained that the GOC’s primary role is to lead Team Ghana to the Games.

“The Federations with the support of the National Sports Authority prepare the teams and we take the teams to the Games. That is our role,” he said.

“Maybe we have to communicate better so that people understand exactly what our role is.”

As an Olympic body, the GOC aims to develop and protect the Olympic Movement in Ghana, and to promote the ideals of the Commonwealth Games in accordance with the Olympic Charter and the Constitution of the Commonwealth Games Federation (CGF).

It is in the spirit of protecting the Olympic Movement from interference that National Olympic Committees are mandated to bring their national teams to the respective Games. No other national body can lead Team Ghana to the Commonwealth or Olympic Games.

But many people seem to confound the roles of the GOC and that of the Ministry of Youth and Sports (and the Ministry’s agency, the National Sports Authority) when it comes to Ghana’s participation in major competitions.

The GOC Secretary General said there are no ambiguities at all, as far as the roles of the two institutions are concerned.

“There are clear responsibilities in terms of the Ghana Olympic Committee (GOC) and the Ministry of Youth and Sports (MoYS) representing government. We’re collaborators to deliver Games.

“But sometimes there are a lot of misrepresentations such that we (GOC) are misunderstood. Sometimes when there are no funds, the blame is put at the door steps of the GOC. Meanwhile we don’t control funds, and neither do we bear the funding obligation for participation in the Games. What we do is that we simply take the team to the Games, because the IOC and CGF would prefer to not directly deal with governments in that arena.”

ghana at opening ceremony

Mr. Akpokavie was quick to point out that funding remains the biggest obstacle to sports development in the country.

“Sports in Ghana has challenges, the main one of which is the funding bottleneck. As a GOC, we have tried to encourage the Ministry of Youth and Sports to find other sources of funding because we need to have a funding regime that ensures that the funding is reliable, that the money is released timeously, and that it is adequate to take care of the camping and preparation needs of the team. In 2013, we presented a proposal to the Ministry in the hope of provoking a new funding regime that had an Olympic lottery and a selected tax component at its core.”

Having awarded scholarships to four young athletes through the Olympic Solidarity program prior to the Youth Olympics in Nanjing, 2014, Mr. Akpokavie insisted that Ghana sports has to move beyond developmental sports to high-performance sports, which are now essentially in the professional ranks, in order for the country to be able to compete on the world stage.

“We have moved from a developmental sports regime. Developmental sports is just about growing young people so that they will be able to develop to a certain level. But, international sports is now at a “High Performance” level. With high performance sport, there is no substantial off-season.

“Athletes are training eleven to 11 ½ months per year. Athletes are competing all year round and preparing for major competitions. It requires a lot of money for the athlete: feeding, paying their coaches, and a little stipend to take care of their everyday needs (including health and nutrition),” he summed up.

The local Olympic governing body has been using sports to positively impact the lives of Ghanaians and build career paths for hardworking sportsmen and women over the years.

The Ghana Olympic Committee has through Olympic Solidarity invested over $700,000 into Sports development in Ghana since 2012.

Over hundred people made up of athletes, coaches, journalists and administrators have directly benefited from training programmes embarked upon by the GOC through the Olympic Solidarity since 2012.

The training programmes included Technical Courses for Coaches, Sports Administration Courses, Coaching Development Scholarships, Athlete Development Scholarships, preparation Grants for Teams attending major competitions like the Olympic Games, Commonwealth Games and African Youth Games.