Opinion

Use Paris Olympics stage to rebuild Kenya’s image

Wednesday, July 10th, 2024 01:00 | By
Sports CS Ababu Namwamba (second right) with PS Peter Tum (left) join Nock president Paul Tergat (centre) and Secretary General Francis Mutuku in marking 200 days to Paris Olympics at a function in Nairobi on Monday. PHOTO/David Ndolo
Sports CS Ababu Namwamba (second right) with PS Peter Tum (left) join Nock president Paul Tergat (centre) and Secretary General Francis Mutuku in marking 200 days to Paris Olympics at a function in Nairobi on Monday. PHOTO/David Ndolo

Today marks exactly 16 days to the opening ceremony for the much-awaited 2024 Olympic Games in Paris, France. And slightly over a fortnight after the Summer Games, the Paralympic Games will start in the same city.

The Olympics are a global stage, a platform that transcends athletic competition. Shrewd sports journalists can leverage this platform to become image architects for Kenya.

Kenya has been in the headlines in local and foreign media for negative reasons that have seriously dented the country’s image in the past two to three weeks, owing to the anti-tax demonstrations that turned violent and resulted in several deaths and damaged properties.

But with the Summer Games around the corner and given that Kenya is one of the powerhouses in the Olympics and the most successful African country in the history of the Games, the government must seize the opportunity to leverage the platform and redeem the image of the country. This would certainly play a big role in more than even 80 percent of global perceptions of Kenya.

The key players in this campaign would certainly be journalists accredited to cover the Games, who will be tasked with relaying firsthand information about Team Kenya and also market the country to the world.

During the Games, journalists should weave stories of triumph into a broader narrative of national pride. They should profile underdog athletes who overcame adversity, or celebrate dominant teams that embody the country’s spirit. They should look beyond the medals. Uplifting stories of athletes overcoming personal challenges of cultural exchange between competitors can soften a country’s image.

The scribes should focus on the unifying power of sports by highlighting moments of sportsmanship in Team Kenya, camaraderie between athletes from different parts of the country and the joy of wearing Kenyan colours.

While sports journalists play the role of shaping the country’s image, they should avoid blatant propaganda. Transparency and honest reporting are crucial for maintaining credibility. In cases of athletes’ key challenges or mismanagement, the scribes have a responsibility to report on them, as it was witnessed during the 2016 Rio Olympic and the 2020 Tokyo Olympics. 

However, they should avoid negative criticism and frame the conversation in a way that encourages dialogue and positive change.

It is an open secret that sports journalists can effectively use the Games as a platform to rebuild Kenya’s image and position the country as a welcoming and exciting destination. Storytelling is powerful, and the Olympics provide a rich tapestry of narratives waiting to be woven.

The government must also make good use of the event to showcase several products the country can offer to the world, ranging from culture and agricultural goods to human resources and tourism attractions. This can only be amplified by journalists with national pride.

The Ministry of Foreign Affairs, through the diaspora team, should seize the opportunity to explain why Kenyan workers are suitable for jobs in foreign countries. The Ministry of Tourism must showcase the attractions Kenya has to offer. The Trade ministry should have representatives on the ground to market why Kenya is a good investment location. The Agriculture ministry should market Kenyan agricultural products during the Games, not to mention the Ministry of Sports through its Talanta Hela initiative.

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