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Uganda’s track event athletes have failed to qualify for the 2012 London Summer Olympics. The athletes arrived at Namboole Stadium, a national stadium in Uganda, and were informed that there had been a double-booking with a religious rally.
The Ugandan athletes blame their failure to qualify on the poor quality of the track they had to use, as opposed to using the national track for their time trials. The athletes used the track at Makerere University, which is uneven and has no time precision measurements. Many of the athletes are disappointed, since they will not have another chance to qualify.
The Ugandan Athletics Federation claimed that at least five of the athletes at the time trials qualification would have passed if they had used the other stadium. One of the sprinters statet means we have to wait for another four years.” Another athlete, Okiror Anthony, a 400 meter runner said, “I feel bad because I would have qualified as I was close to the time.”
Namboole Stadium was being used for a religious rally by Japanese Happy Science. According to the BBC there is an assumption within Uganda that the Happy Science group’s money got them the stadium over the potential Olympic athletes.
Brian Rycroft, a spokesman for the religious group, claimed that they booked the stadium through a third party and had no idea that there was even a conflict. The BBC also reported that several evangelical pastors in Kampala have called the religious group a cult. Rycroft took offense to the cult accusations and stated, “People are welcome to join us from whatever background, race, or religion. And they’re free to leave anytime too if they don’t want to stay in Happy Science.”
The Happy Science rally was the first major rally held in Africa, and thousands attended the event. Happy Science claims to be one of the largest and fastest-growing religions in Japan. It was founded in the 1980s by Ryuho Okawa and has grown substantially since then.
Happy Science, a polytheistic religion, has only recently begun its efforts in Africa and has offices in Kampala, Uganda; Durban, South Africa; Lagos State, Nigeria; and Ghana. According to their website, Happy Science “is a religion established by Master Ryuho Okawa – a living Buddha and Savior of the 21st Century. It is a religion which unites all people and, through its unique and powerful teachings, aims to bring happiness to every individual to create a utopia on earth.”
Some of the Ugandan athletes will get another chance to qualify in Benin at the African Athletics Championships.
Image Courtesy of Uganda Athletics Federation