Politics And Sport: Lessons From Coventry
Jun 28, 2008
Craig Lord

So, we get this from the Zimbabwe Cricket managing director Ozias Bvute, as he questions why cricket should feel it necessary to impose sanctions against his country when other major sports do not. This is what he said: 'We (Zimbabwe) are a full member of FIFA and are currently participating in a World Cup qualifying campaign, we have a swimming programme which has produced Kirsty Coventry, a recent winner in the world championships, so it would be strange that the only sport to take action on so-called current worries is cricket when all the other world sporting bodies have not taken that stance.'

Let's just recap n the words 'we have a swimming programme which has produced Kirsty Coventry'. You're a fibber, Mr Bvute. Mr and Mrs Coventry, white citizens of your country and the United States produced Kirsty Coventry, the swimmer. Doubtless, she had swimming teachers and early coaches back home. But Kim Brackin in Austin might have something to say about what produced Kirsty Coventry. Bvute's statement is a travesty of the truth. There is no swimming programme to speak of in Zimbabwe at elite level. What you have is a developing-world programme - and perhaps that's for the best. Difficult to justify all the chlorine, ozone and water when you can't even feed your own people - as confirmed by various international agency reports, including figures from the World Health Organisation.

'Over the last few years there have been problems between England and Zimbabwe. This is not a new phenomena,' continued the mouthpiece of a man not fit to lead his country, Robert Mugabe. The problem you have, sir, is with your own people. They're hungry and oppressed.

Meantime, Kirsty Coventry - and any other Zimbabwean who makes the grade for that matter - is a most welcome presence in world swimming. Better than politics don't mix, but unrealistic, unless, of course, sports bureaucrats, such as Bvute, take a leaf out of Coventry's book and truly avoid the issue of politics.

Coventry has long simply got on with the thing she loves to do and is so very good at: swimming. She speaks with pride and respect for the people of her country. A fine ambassador for her sport and her country, she has a fair few lessons to teach those who claim to govern Zimbabwe.