It is often said that the Liberia National Olympic Committee (LNOC) is the mother of all sports in the country. That statement simply suggests that since every Liberian sport, except kickball, is an Olympic Sport, and since every sport wants to attend the quadrennial Summer Olympic Games, every sport should work with the LNOC.
Olympic Solidarity of the IOC also provides funding through the LNOC to organize seminars for local clubs. And this indicates that there should always be amicable relations between the LNOC and all Olympic sports. In fact, heads of sporting organizations constitute the Executive Committee of the LNOC.
In recent times, there have been bad media against the LNOC, with claims by the Liberia National Handball Association (LNHA) that the LNOC, under the leadership of publisher Philipbert Browne, undermined its administration that denied them the chance to have participated in a West Africa Handball Zone tournament in Niamey, Niger.
Presently, the LNHA has informed the Ministry of Youth & Sports about the issue and claiming nearly USD92,000 as compensation from the LNOC. Though the Ministry of Youth & Sports has told the LNHA it is investigating its claim, the National Volleyball Association, under Cllr. Moifee Kanneh also has an unfriendly situation with the LNOC that needs to be resolved.
One reason is that Liberian youngsters are interested in all kinds of sports and therefore they need to be helped and developed to better represent the country in their various competitions and therefore, for instance, if the LNOC decides not to work with the Liberia National Handball Association, the LNOC will not be doing itself a lot of good because it would fail on its part to live up to that part of its mandate.
Evidently, this has been the issue and the unfortunate end result is that at least two teams from the LNHA were recently denied the privilege to participate in the Niger tournament because the LNOC did not provide the clarity that the organizing committee requested to have sent USD42,500 to LNHA to cover the traveling expenses of the two teams.
And because the LNOC did not send the clarity that was needed, the players could not travel for the competition. In the end, Liberia lost completely and apparently no one at the LNOC care much enough to show solidarity with the two groups of young people who were denied the chance to compete in a tournament for which they had prepared for more than three months.
The frustration of the young players was so evident and many wept, for they saw that no one was interested to ensure that they had an opportunity to reach their full potential in the sport they love and had prepared to play.
The LNOC has a responsibility to ensure that Liberian sports and athletes benefit from the International Olympic Committee’s financial and material support. If there is any disagreement within the body of any sports, the LNOC must exploit the spirit of Olympism and resolve it and so, if the LNOC has a situation against any sporting organization, that too needs to be resolved with urgency. All of us must endeavor to at least do things as united people!
It is important to note that through the 23rd Olympic Winter Games recently in Pyeongchang in South Korea, athletes from North Korea joined their compatriots in the South to put down their weapons of war, did away with anger and joined together to celebrate sports, through the Olympic Games.
The event in Pyeongchang County in South Korea has demonstrated the power of sports to defeat anger, hate, among others, and can become a weapon for national unity. As an Olympian, I find it disheartening to see sports associations and the LNOC at loggerheads with accusations of having been undermined by the LNOC. I think the Ministry of Youth & Sports has enough men of understanding to look into the matter between the LNOC versus LNHA and the LNOC versus National Volleyball Association.
About the author: Omari Jackson worked for the LNOC in the 1980s as a public relations officer, under Marcel E. Bertin. He attended the International Olympic Academy in Ancient Olympia, Greece in 1989 and served as a lecturer in Olympism in several schools and organizations. He went to his first Olympiad in 1996 in Atlanta, Georgia in the United States.