|The London 2012 Logo and the Medals at Stake|
The Olympics have come and gone, at least until 2016, but Nigeria’s dismal showing is one that has called to question once again the thorny issue of patriotism. The Olympics is a quadrennial event that serves as a meeting point for elite athletes (for most sports) to compete and aspire to win. Realistically, with about 11,000 sportsmen and sportswomen competing in 302 events, not all athletes will make it to the podiums, but for most that do not, it would still have been a good show. Let us be honest with ourselves, we did not deserve a medal at the Olympics, and getting one would have been a travesty and a rape on hard work and preparation. But in dissecting this woeful performance, everyone involved must not be lumped together, the wheat and the chaff needs to be separated so to each we give its own. The roles of Administrators, Sportsmen and Sportswomen, and Sponsors in this national disgrace have to be assessed individually.
|The Joy of Great Female Olympians who did themselves and their countries proud at London 2012|
The Nigerian athletes must be commended for having the patriotism and courage to line up and compete against those athletes from USA, China, GB, Russia, South Korea, Germany, France, Italy, Hungary and Australia who had been preparing for the London 2012 Games from earlier than Beijing 2008; who had prompt and sufficient funding from their respective governments and corporate sponsors alike; who benefited from public sports institutions where they could train with the best equipment and facilities; who had access to the best trainers, physiotherapists, doctors, nutritionists and sports psychologists; who were highly motivated for personal and national pride; who were treated like ambassadors/envoy of their countries which they were in reality. Little wonder they were always happy to flaunt their national flags upon achieving success. Of course, we have all heard about the N2.3 Billion spent on the Olympics by the NOC, but we heard about the N1 Trillion spent on Fuel Subsidy too, didn’t we?
With speed that will challenge Usain Bolt’s, the Minister of Sports, Mallam Bolaji Abdullahi called a Press Conference and solemnly informed us all that “TEAM NIGERIA HAS FAILED” - as if that was breaking news. He raved, rambled, and ranted, but in the midst of the entire rabble, I was able to unearth these action plans:
1. Identify five sports that give us competitive opportunities.
2. Restructure the Federations of these Sports to make them more democratic, accountable and efficient.
3. Develop a Sports Calendar that will ensure year-round sports activities both within and outside the schools.
4. Initiate strategic engagement with the private sector with the aim to improve funding for sports.
5. Strengthen our coaching and training capabilities by developing strategic partnership with national and international bodies.
These action plans are laudable and commendable, in all honesty we couldn’t have asked for more, but it will not draw any applause from me because this is year 2012, and this is not what we should be discussing. This is what, like in other countries, should have been done ages ago, and the result we should have been reaping for some time now. Another reason I am not filled with optimism is because this is a well-worn path after every sporting failure, we are fond of coming back to the “drawing board”, reviewing the performance and coming up with “blueprints” and “white papers” to forestall a recurrence, only to repeat the cycle after the next avoidable disappointment.
|The only time the Nigerian flag was held aloft|
Naturally, just as we are late bloomers in almost everything, we are also slow to realize that sports goes beyond recreation. Sports is not just about winning medals and setting records, it is an avenue for national glorification and global recognition. The global media will always stick to the norm of "bad news is good news" and "if it bleeds, it leads", but with commendable performances on the tracks, fields, and pools, each country can tell its own story in its own words. The battle for supremacy among the USA, China, GB and Russia was there to see and that should tell us sports goes beyond mere running and jumping. Excelling in sports will surely put a country in the spotlight with everybody to see in real-time the positives that comes out of the country - Sports is an avenue to flaunt Patriotism and Nationalism. Now that the Minister of Sports have realized that, we can only hope it is not just lip service but a real intention and determination to propel Nigerian sports forward.
God Bless Us All!!
See You Next Time!!!