Team Botswana that represented the country at the just ended 2016 Rio Olympic Games received a hero’s welcome when they arrived home on Tuesday. Scores of Batswana thronged the Sir Seretse Khama International Airport (SSKIA) to welcome the team. From SSKIA there was a motorcade planned to parade the team to Batswana before a gathering at the University of Botswana Indoor Sport Centre where they were formally welcomed by the Minister of Youth, Sport and Culture, Thapelo Olopeng. Even though some Batswana were upbeat about the team’s welcome some questioned the hero’s welcome they received. They pointed out that since the team failed to bring a medal home why should they be celebrated.
Minister Olopeng differed, saying the athletes have done the country proud at the Olympics even though they did not win a medal. He said they did their best as they competed with the world’s best. “Some reached the finals and broke their personal best times. This shows how hard working they were. This also gives me hope given their age that the best is yet to come for the future,” said the minister. He said the athletes flew the country’s flag high during the games as a lot of time commentators talked about them. Olopeng called on Batswana to support these athletes as they have made the country proud. He, however, said robust developmental programmes should be put in place to develop more athletes. “We should start preparing for the coming competitions now. So I urge sports administrators to take advantage of the already existing development programmes,” he said.
The minister is of a view that at the current time Botswana should be able to send more athletes than just 12 to the Olympics. To work towards this, Olopeng revealed that his ministry has resolved to introduce athletics at constituency tournaments to try and unearth more talent. The Botswana National Sport Commission (BNSC) has since been given the duty to expedite this. They have been given until end of September to give the minister feedback on the matter. “It is important to start focusing on development if we want to start doing well. We have to pull up our socks to make sure that we increase the number of athletes we send to the Olympics,” said Olopeng.