NAIROBI, Aug 27, (AFP): Kenyan police raided the country’s Olympic headquarters Saturday probing a corruption scam that saw some of the nation’s athletes deprived of team uniforms at the Rio Games.
Three top Olympic officials have already been arrested in the investigation, and the raid turned up dozens of boxes containing uniforms provided by sports goods manufacturer NIKE that were destined to be worn by athletes at the Rio opening ceremony.
“The raid was conducted this morning and several dozens of cartons with the sports kits have been recovered,” a police source told AFP.
“The investigation is centered on the misappropriation of Sports kits donated by NIKE… and not given to the athletes.”
The Olympic opening ceremony provides an occasion for delegations from all competing nations to march proudly in smart uniforms into the main Olympic stadium.
But at the Rio opening ceremony, the Kenyan team wore a mismatch of outfits because a number of delegates never got the official uniform.
Police earlier announced the arrest on Friday of Francis Paul, secretary-general of the National Olympic Committee of Kenya (NOCK), his deputy James Chicha and Stephen Ara Sou, who headed the Kenyan delegation to Rio.
The three are implicated in the uniform scam and also face allegations of mismanagement of Kenya’s Rio delegation.
The latest allegations come on the heals of a major drugs scandal that has dogged Kenyan athletics for years and resulted in dozens of competitors receiving lengthy bans.
The three officials, held at a police station in northeastern Nairobi, are due to be charged on Monday for theft of official sports gear as well as mismanagement, a police source said.
The Kenyan government on August 18 ordered a probe into the charges, notably the alleged theft of sports uniforms but also the presence in the Kenyan delegation of officials who had no function related to the Games.
The allegations of mismanagement and corruption had a direct impact on the Kenyan athletes at the Rio games — who nonetheless clocked up their best Olympics yet with 13 medals — including six golds — putting them in 15th place overall, the best by an African nation by far.
When javelin thrower Julius Yego, the world champion, turned up at Nairobi airport to head to the Games, he found out he was not even booked on a flight to Rio. He ended up winning a silver medal at the Games despite his travel hardships.
Kenya’s Sports Minister Hassan Wario on Thursday announced the disbanding of the Kenyan Olympic committee after the allegations surfaced.
But secretary-general Paul, who is now in custody, said that Wario did not have the legal competence to disband the NOCK, which is overseen by the International Olympic Committee, not the Kenyan government.
A Brazilian court said on Saturday it has authorized the release of Ireland’s Kevin James Mallon, a director of international sports hospitality company THG who was arrested on Aug. 5 for the alleged illegal scalping of Olympic tickets.
Mallon was being held along with the former head of the Olympic Council of Ireland (OCI) Patrick Hickey, who is still detained in a Rio prison.
Brazilian police said earlier in August they uncovered emails between Hickey and THG executives discussing tickets they planned to sell at inflated prices, which would earn them as much as 10 million reais ($3.09 million) in profit.
On Friday, a source in the Rio state security services told Reuters that a Rio de Janeiro court will return the passports of three members of the OCI who will be allowed to leave Brazil.
Members of North Korea’s Olympic team returned home on Saturday, greeted by a small crowd of family and friends.
Vice Premier Ro Tu Chol and Vice Minister of Sport Kim Jong Su were also at Pyongyang’s airport to welcome the team home from Rio. But there was no motorcade and no crowds lining the streets — a common welcome in the past for North Korean athletes returning home after winning overseas competitions.
North Korea won seven medals in Rio: two golds in weightlifting and gymnastics, three silvers in weightlifting, and two bronzes in table tennis and shooting.
That’s more medals — but less gold — than North Korea won at the previous Olympics in London. The North took home four golds and two bronzes at the 2012 games.
“I did my best in this competition to bring back victory and confidence for our army and people,” gymnast Ri Se Gwang, who won a gold medal in Rio in the men’s vault, said after returning home.