Nationalism triumphs over ethnicity at Olympics

By , People Daily Digital
Tuesday, July 27th, 2021 00:00 | 2 mins read
A general view of the National Stadium during an athletics test event for the 2020 Tokyo Olympics in Tokyo. Photo/AFP

The Tokyo Olympic Games are on and the global community is focused on the world’s premier sporting event, uniting all nations under the banner of peace.

The games were postponed last year due to the coronavirus pandemic, plunging sports people into a period of uncertainty.

Hosts Japan have organised what promises to be a successful event, signaling that sports is picking up from the virus induced hiatus.

While fans are not allowed into the stadia or gyms  where the action is taking place because of Covid-19 precautions, billions of sports enthusiasts are able to follow the games virtually.

The legendary Japanese precision in technology and near flawless attention to detail, has ensured that the world can follow the action live on their screens.

For Kenyans, the Olympics offer a momentary opportunity to divert attention from the political rhetoric in the current high stakes succession race and power play. 

It also gives a chance for wananchi to briefly shed their ethnic identities and embrace nationalism as our sports heroes take the global stage. Ethnicity has pervaded every segment of the Kenyan society as witnessed in the formation of political parties and coalitions.

Whenever our world leading athletes shine at the Olympics, they provide the nation with a remarkable sense of unity that defies their ethnic biases demonstrated in the political sphere.

Most of the top athletes come from communities in the Rift Valley, but when they hoist the flag high, Kenyans cheers them on patriotically in solidarity regardless of their ethnic affiliations.

The remarkable nationalism displayed during events such as the Olympics where Kenya has consistently excelled, should offer food for thought to the political class.

For all their pretensions, the major political parties have been created with ethnic roots before attempting to reach out  to other communities to forge a semblance of “national outlook”. 

The current attempts by political leaders to forge coalitions in the power struggle ahead of the 2022 General Election bear the hallmark of this ethnic equation.

As Team Kenya competes with the top cream from the rest of the world supported by a united nation, politicians must use this Olympics spirit of peace and solidarity and imbue it into the national ethos.

While it is not wrong for one to be proud of their ethnic roots, the political class should inspire a spirit of nationalism among their followers by encouraging them to embrace this spirit.

Although the Kenyan boxers have been eliminated and the Malkia Stars volleyball team and Shujaa rugby lost their opening matches, there has been a significant improvement in their performances.

Kenya’s main hope however lies in the track and field events, where a medal haul is expected.

That’s when the patriotic nationalist fervour will peak, as wananchi abandon their ethnic streak.

Unlike the scandal-ridden Kenyan contingent to the 2016 Rio Olympics in Brazil, this time the team has been well prepared. 

Sports Cabinet Secretary Amina Mohamed and the National Olympic Committee of Kenya President Paul Tergat, who has been re-elected into the International Olympic Committee have made commendable efforts to ensure the athletes are well prepared and rewarded.

As we rally behind our world-beating stars, leaders across the political divide need to draw lessons from the nationalistic unity the sports people inspire at every Olympic Games.

The only way we can succeed in consolidating this spirit of nationalism, is for politicians to shun the ethnic tendencies that have dominated Kenyan politics for too long. [email protected]