RIO DE JANEIRO, Stephen Arap Soi, the man who led team Kenya to the just concluded Rio Olympics as the head of delegation claims he is a victim of false accusations by people who are scared to face him.
He describes the widely reported mess as a well orchestrated move to malign the embattled National Olympics Committee of Kenya, NOCK, ahead of the elections which are traditionally held a year after the Summer games.
According to Soi who is an Assistant Commissioner in the General Service Unit of the Kenya Police, there were no major problems as reported around Team Kenya, and that the 13 medals won by Kenyan athletes in Rio, proves that the athletes were well prepared and diligently managed.
The NOCK official said the Ministry booked all the tickets for the 125 athletes and officials who traveled to Rio and should be answerable for any travel hitches.
The assistant treasurer of the disbanded NOCK, clarified that the final batch of the team was never stranded in Rio as they were scheduled to arrive back home on Friday, August 26. He said he had made prior plans for the team to be accommodated in central Rio at a ‘five-star facility.
Soi maintained that the photos circulated in social media by marathoner and Member of Parliament Wesley Korir were of the surrounding areas and not the hotel (see attached photos); adding that the team captain has been on a mission to divert attention from his performance at the Olympics.
Sports News Arena has however established from some of the team officials and athletes that the hotel which the head of delegation claimed had even been used by the Chinese Volleyball team before they moved into the games village, was indeed below average and was located in an unsafe area of the Brazilian city.
Some members of the Kenyan delegation who are in the forces professed they heard repeated gunshots at around 10 p.m., possibly coming from the nearby favela (slums).
A NOCK official who spoke on condition of anonymity admitted there were some gaffes because Soi ‘took over everything, did not communicate effectively or even assign roles in Rio’ to ensure all aspects of team Kenya’s participation were fixed.
Excerpts from Evelyn Watta's interview with Soi in Rio.
Are you aware and ready to meet the Director of Criminal Investigations on arrival?
Aware? I am not aware as there has been no communication to that effect. Am ready to meet him any time.
But you are certainly aware of the allegations that have been levelled against NOCK and you as the head of delegation, surrounding team Kenya’s participation and preparations for the Rio games?
I am surprised with all these allegations! Even allegations of funds mismanagement. Those funds were for what? In our budget they are itemized budgetary provisions.
The tickets were paid for directly by the ministry. The allowances were paid for directly by the Ministry. What came to us was for the accommodation, which is the money we transmitted and secured this accommodation.
Some of the accommodation was specifically meant for the Ministry officials. They slept in the 13 rooms. The team was accommodated in the Olympic village.
Was NOCK responsible for the travel mess witnessed where some athletes did not even have tickets?
This is ridiculous. I had people who I had assigned various responsibilities. I have a ticketing officer who was co-ordinating with the ministry. The Ministry brought in even a travel agency when we were dealing directly with Kenya Airways, I don’t know why a travel agent had to be brought in.
I had somebody who was assigned this responsibility (Anne Njambi) and what she was doing was to send the names to Kenya Airways for ticketing and I have communication to that effect. I am not responsible!
Some of the athletes decided to ignore the Ministry-provided tickets and bought their own tickets, as their managers, agents facilitated their travel. We have tickets issued as proof that people were given tickets that they did not use.
One of them is Wesley Korir. He said he had a ticket from Parliament. But we learnt that he was traveling on KLM while the team travelled to Angola to connect on Kenya Airways.
Those arrangements had nothing to do with the Chef de Mission, had nothing to do with NOCK. We (Central management Committee) looked for the shortest travel time.
This is Nairobi – Luanda, fours hours, Luanda to Rio, eight and a half hours. The challenge we faced is interlined connection between Kenya Airways and Angolan Airlines.
The exit route required people to depart very early on Sundays on the 24th, 31st (July), 7th and 14th (August) on the return journey the first group left on 11th, 18th and 25th because these are the dates the connections were viable.
We negotiated and the bookings was paid for and done by the ministry.
What about the accreditation for the team, was it handled well?
Accreditation for the athletes didn’t have a problem, the only problem was for the team officials because of the rotations available.
There were people who had completed their competitions as early as 10th and they needed to go back home and there are two particular disciplines who could not leave because of a technical hitch, non availability of seats.
These officials who were supposed to leave on 11th didn’t leave as scheduled, there is nothing that I could have done. Every time, I could have only a maximum 44 officials in the games village. An athlete cannot replace an official or vice versa.
For all the officials who were accredited they had assignments and had rotations. I communicated this effectively after entering the games database.
There are those officials who thought they could enter the games village the way they want. That didn’t happen.
I did see the media reports the Minister saying he was denied entry to the games village. As the Cabinet Secretary he falls under dignitaries, he needed to make a requisition that he needs to come to the village at a certain day, time, because of the protocol issues.
There are accusations that part of the mess is because you were not communicating to the officials and athletes and you took over all the roles and did not delegate?
Delegating to who? Everybody had a responsibility. Ticketing Anne Njambi and James Chacha, Uniform was Pius Ochieng’ and FK Paul, local allowances was the NOCK Treasurer Fridah Shiroya, Medical issues Doctor Julius Ogeto was handling.
As head of the team I take responsibility for some of their actions, some I may not even be aware of. Whether the uniforms were distributed fairly or not I don’t know, because that was assigned to a very senior official at NOCK.
From the brief were all the Nike Kits distributed to the teams?
I am aware that the were some kits cleared before the first batch left on the 24th, actually we are talking about mainly sandals. But majority of the kits have been distributed.
One point though, we didn’t get any complains from the other teams apart from track and field. There are three types of uniforms that are given out, first the Nike contracted athletes get their uniforms at the point of competition, that has nothing to with NOCK.
For the general and ceremonial uniforms that were being distributed it was done fairly amongst the athletes.
The information I had is that some uniforms were left behind because they were extra, extra small, those are some of the issues we have to tackle with Nike.
Some shoes that I took 120 pairs were size two and a half. We will take these back so that we can prove some of these things. All these are wide allegations.
Were there any joyriders from the NOCK or Ministry in the delegation to Rio?
That is a ridiculous question but I’ll answer. I don’t think I have the list of those who stayed outside the games village. I had125 beds. I had my people in the village and everybody had a function and role and they were all documented.
The room listing will prove who was where. As regards what individuals were doing in Copacabana I don’t know because that was not part of my role as Chef de Mission.
Was the last batch of the team in Rio stranded? Where were they accommodated at the last night after the village closure?
I am surprised by this. The team was scheduled to leave Rio on 25th. The games village was closing on 24th August at 6 p.m.
We secured accommodation in a hotel which is afive star. But the problem is, majority of the hotels that are not in the central area, are in areas where they haven’t taken care of the environment, that is exactly what happened. It was also challenging getting a hotel that could accommodate 40 people at once.
I can’t be that naive when thinking about the security of Kenyans, being a security agent myself. Really it’s ridiculous when people talk about the team being stranded.
Nyairera (Margaret), was scheduled to have raced in Lausanne, but the plane she was to board had technical problems and they were put in a hotel.
I picked her and brought her to the village so that we could all leave together. I didn’t want to leave any athlete behind.
There were concerns regarding your role in team Kenya management in London when you were the executive officer. The same accusations cropped up again in Rio where you are the Chef de Mission. Are you the problem?
Kenyans never appreciate good work. Majority of those who are making these wild allegations do not have facts. I will prove them wrong. What are the accusations really?
I know there is politics behind this. People are scared of Stephen Arap Soi because they cannot face me. I do my job and I do my job to the best of my ability. There are those who would want to use this as their political tool, elections are next year.
This has happened before it happened in London as you say. But has this team performed or not? If it has not performed, then I can take responsibility.
But it is only because the teams and athletes gave their best amidst difficult conditions Mr Soi?
That is absolutely untrue. A team cannot perform when it has been mismanaged. Take for instance people are talking about allowances, but when I looked at the records majority have been paid allowances.
They are raising these wild accusations even after providing their account details. The foreign allowances were paid by the Ministry not the Chef de Mission.
In your opinion could Rio 2016 have been handled better?
There is nothing else that I could have done better than what I did, I offered myself to offer the team leadership. Those who are complaining do not have the facts of what transpired in Rio.
You diligently met all your responsibilities as the Chef De Mission?
This are the best ever Olympics for team Kenya in 60 years that Kenya has participated in the Olympics. Being placed number one in Africa in Athletics, being placed number two in the world in Athletics and 15th on the medal table, I don’t know what Kenyans expected me to do.
NOCK has been disbanded and your duties transferred to the Sports Kenya as the interim custodian as conferred in the Sports Act by the Cabinet Secretary. Are you ready to vacate office?
I have no comment because people need to read and understand the charter (Olympic). That Sports Act is what we had issues with. I hope the CS was properly advised otherwise the repercussions may be far reaching.
If Kenya is sanctioned our participation in sports events will suffer, even what we are preparing to host next year (2017 World Youth Championships) may suffer.