On May 21, Muhiddin Kabiri, the leader of the opposition Islamic Revival Party of Tajikistan (IRPT) announced that his party will reward Tajik athletes who bring home medals from the forthcoming Summer Olympic Games in London. Each medalist will receive a one-bedroom apartment in the country’s capital Dushanbe. Such an apartment can cost anything between US$ 30,000 and US$ 80,000. According to Kabiri, the move aims to support the country’s athletes who manage to achieve results at high-performance international competitions despite limited financial assistance from the government. “Our main goal in offering to reward Olympic success is to support the nation’s sportsmen and to call on other individuals, political parties, and organizations to follow suit,” he said. “Tajik athletes should receive all the support they need because they represent our country and build its image. I will be happy if this also helps to strengthen our party’s image.”
IRPT’s decision to reward potential Olympic medalists has obvious political objectives. In Tajikistan, sports remain severely underfunded and even the top performing athletes often struggle to make ends meet. Therefore, by offering incentives to the Olympians, Central Asia’s only Islamic party aims to demonstrate its willingness to do tangible things for the country. Kabiri appears certain to become IRPT’s candidate for the presidential elections next year. Earning additional public support will help him in challenging the incumbent president, Emomali Rahmon, who will seek reelection for another seven-year term in 2013.
The authorities have also promised handsome cash rewards for Olympic medals. In January, President Rahmon announced that the government will pay the country’s Olympians 300,000 somoni (US$ 63,000) for gold; 250,000 somoni (US$ 52,500) for silver, and 200,000 somoni (US$ 42,000) for bronze medals. The mayor of Dushanbe has also offered one-bedroom apartments for each gold medal; 45,000 somoni (US$ 9,400) for silver, and 35,000 somoni (US$ 7,300) for Olympic bronze. In addition, Tajikistan’s largest private bank, Oriyonbonk, which is owned by a relative of Rahmon’s, has promised that each Tajik medalist in London will receive a luxury car.