Elizabeth Ohene writes: A few temporary Ghanaians wanted

By Jeffrey Owusu-Mensah

One of the big questions from the Rio Olympics is whether it matters what flag or nationality an athlete performs under.

In other words, what should we do about the Kenyans who have been running under passports of convenience from other countries?

The most popular of such countries would appear to be Bahrain, under whose flag lots of Kenyans and Nigerians have been performing. Bahrain obviously want to have their national anthem played at the Olympic Games, or at least have an athlete wearing their colours competing.

They can't seem to be able to find their own nationals who can perform at this level but they have the money to buy top class athletes from other countries to do it for them.

I started off thinking this was unfair. Then, I wondered what to make of the fact that we, the spectators, also seem to switch nationality at will. I have to confess that when the Olympic Games are on, I am not an enthusiastic Ghanaian.

It is easy to understand why this is so if you consider what our performance record at the Olympics has been since we started participating way back. We have won a grand total of four medals, made up of two bronze and one silver in boxing and a bronze in football.

The only way I watch sports, be it on television or sitting in the stands, is to adopt a team or an individual to support.

Sometimes the decision on who to cheer might depend on what colour kit someone is wearing, especially when the game I am watching is something I don't know very much about.

Obviously if a Ghanaian is on the field it is so much easier to decide where to direct my emotions.

With Ghana not in the reckoning when it comes to the Olympics, I am often Kenyan, especially when a certain David Rudisha is on the tracks; I am regularly Jamaican for all kinds of reasons; I am sometimes British, American and every once in a while I am South African. During the Games that have just ended, I felt I had to be Brazilian simply to demonstrate my happiness that Brazil had managed to stage a well-organised Games in spite of all the recent problems they have had.

Then the other night, I found myself caught between supporting Belarus and Uzbekistan when watching something called rhythmic gymnastics.

It is not surprising therefore that watching the Olympics has been an exhausting experience for me.

I am therefore now thinking that the nationality switching phenomenon could be quite a good idea.

Look at it this way: The Kenyans obviously have more good and potentially great athletes than they need.

If you are a Kenyan athlete and can't get into the Kenyan team, you are out of the Olympics.

But if you call the Bahrainis and they gave you a passport, you could be performing at the Olympics and maybe even beat those who made it into the Kenyan team at the country trials.

I certainly wouldn't mind if Ghana could find some money and entice a few top athletes to wear our colours, carry our flags, perform and win a few medals for us and then we shall even hear our national anthem played at an Olympic ceremony.

We wouldn't have to worry about providing sporting facilities here. We would get a few temporary Ghanaians, they would give us a lot of joy performing under our flag for two weeks.

They would come to Ghana after the games to call on the President and boost his standing and then go away.

 

It seems a cheap and harmless way to make a lot of people very happy.