Calls for sports innovation takes centre stage as KCA hosts Pre-Olympics symposium

Stakeholders said such discussions spur growth and more understanding of sports related initiatives

In Summary

• The International Pre-Olympics Scientific Symposium hosted by KCA University was focused at creating a platform for interdisciplinary and exploration of key issues impacting the world of sports. 

• Stakeholders noted that the sports industry is uniquely positioned to be a powerful force for positive change. 

CS Ababu Namwamba
CS Ababu Namwamba

Stakeholders have called for sports technology and innovation as well as health and environmental sustainability talks ahead of the 2024 Paris Olympics slated for later this month. 

Having such discussions, they said, creates room for the exploration of the transformative potential of these interconnected fields while paving the way for a future where sports catalyze positive change, environmental conservation and sustainable development. 

Speaking during the International Pre-Olympics Scientific Symposium, Ministry of Youth Affairs and Sports deputy commissioner Jaxon Indakwa said the Olympic Games have long been celebrated all over the world. 

This, he said, is not only for sporting excellence but also for the ability to unite nations, inspire innovation and promote global cooperation. 

Indakwa, who spoke on behalf of CS Ababu Namwamba, noted that the symposium served as a critical platform enabling discussions, insightful presentations and interactive sessions which aim to harness various potentials in the sports ecosystem. 

“This symposium comes at the right time when the world is preparing to witness the biggest sporting extravaganza in the forthcoming Paris 2024 summer Olympic and Paralympic Games,” he said. 

“There will be 10,500 athletes featuring in 41 sports disciplines, who will gather to celebrate sports excellence after undergoing various rigorous qualifications. Kenya will be part of these celebrations in Paris.”

“Having such discussions spur growth and more understanding of sports-related initiatives, hence catalysing positive change, environmental conservation and sustainable development.”

The International Pre-Olympics Scientific Symposium was hosted by KCA University as a precursor for the Olympic Games. 

The symposium was focused on creating a platform for interdisciplinary exploration of key issues impacting the world of sports. 

It brought together experts, practitioners and stakeholders from diverse backgrounds under the themes of sports, business, technology, health and environment. 

Indakwa commended KCA for being the first university to host such an event adding that the role of a university in the development of the Sports sector is multifaceted and crucial for driving innovation, fostering talent, and promoting sustainability.

“Universities are at the forefront of research and development in sports science, engineering and technology. They develop innovative tools and methodologies to enhance athlete performance, injury prevention, and rehabilitation,” he said.

He also said academic institutions should consider conducting research on sustainable practices in sports, including eco-friendly stadium designs, energy-efficient facilities and sustainable event management.

In talent development and training-athlete education, Indakwa said there is a need for the provision of comprehensive training programs for athletes, combining academics with rigorous sports training. 

This holistic approach, he said, ensures athletes are well-rounded and prepared for life beyond sports.

He also said offering specialised programmes to train coaches, physiotherapists, sports psychologists, and other support staff, ensures a high standard of expertise in the sports sector.

Indakwa added that universities should host incubators and accelerators that support start-ups in the sports tech industry. 

This promotes innovation and entrepreneurship, leading to new products and services that enhance the sports sector.

Ministry of Youth Affairs and Sports deputy commissioner Jaxon Indakwa
Ministry of Youth Affairs and Sports deputy commissioner Jaxon Indakwa

“Universities should also play a vital role in promoting sports at the grassroots level by organising community sports programs, youth leagues and outreach initiatives. This helps in identifying and nurturing young talent,” he said.

“They should also advocate for and develop inclusive sports programs that ensure participation from diverse groups, including people with disabilities, women and underrepresented communities.”

“I want to assure you that we are ready to partner with the university to promote issues of technology, and environmental sustainability in the sports area through the Talanta Hela initiative as a way to make business make sense in our sports ecosystem.”

On his part, Unesco Eastern Africa regional office representative Hugue Ngandeu said having such discussions before the Olympics is very essential to guide conversations towards a major global engagement in sports. 

“As we celebrate sports, it is good to pause and have this kind of conversation where we shed more light on our contribution, how we harness technology to advance sports performance;  how we grow so that we can get the best out of the sporting economy and industry,” Ngandeu said 

“We also need to look at how traditional sports fits in this conversation. I believe this will not be the only conversation we will have.”

Deloitte East Africa partner Akinyemi Awodumila said the sports industry plays a vital role in driving the ESG agenda. 

He said the sports industry is uniquely positioned to be a powerful force for positive change. 

“Sports fans increasingly demand that teams, players and brands that they love, take tangible actions on ESG issues,” Awodumila said.

When we consider the energy, water and resource demands of buildings, powering and maintaining sports venues, the carbon emissions and wastes generated by the travel and logistics of sporting events and the environmental toll of the manufacturing and disposal of sporting equipment and apparel, it is clear that sports must become sustainable.”

Environmental sustainability, he added, is one piece of the sports puzzle. 

“The Paris Olympic Games aims to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by half when compared to the 2012 and 2016 Olympics. Only two new venues will be built by Paris for this year’s games,” Awodumila said. 

“One of them is the Aquatic Centre that was inaugurated in April this year with solar panels providing 20 per cent of the centre’s electricity. The sports world is critical in the global effort to mitigate climate change and reduce our collective environmental footprint.”

KCA University Deputy VC Vincent Onywera
KCA University Deputy VC Vincent Onywera

KCA Deputy Vice Chancellor Vincent Onywera said the symposium was a legacy scientific meeting adding that the institution will continue to host such sports symposiums ahead of global events. 

“To us, this is a celebration and not only about going for competitions,” he said. 

“The theme was timely as the issues are interrelated and we were all about sharing best practices and information, inspiring actionable solutions, and showcasing cutting-edge research, technologies and best practices in sports-related fields.”

“We are happy to host such an event as the Olympic Games are about teamwork, partnership, collaboration, inclusivity and leaving no one behind.”

On her part, KCA research, innovation and outreach Dean Christine Nanjala added that the symposium presented a perfect opportunity for global research and hypothesis sharing around sports in health, tech and the environment. 

“It allowed us to look into those who use sports watches, for example, how accurate are those devices we use? What are the ideas around the technology used? and how tech in sports is evolving?” she said. 

“The event was also about having ideas, bringing people together, presenting those ideas, and building partnerships that result in buying into the ideas for the betterment of sports.”