Nigeria's participation in the Olympics dates back to the year 1952 when the country took part in the Summer Olympics held in Helsinki. Apart from the 1976 Summer Olympics which was boycotted, the nation has taken part in all Olympics held so far. In all Nigeria has won a total of 23 medals with the highest number coming mostly in athletics and boxing.
It is an open secret that Nigeria's most brilliant moment at the Olympics came in 1996 when the she won her first individual gold medal after a miraculous leap from policewoman Chioma Ajunwa Opara and the dream Team 1 lead by legendary Kanu Nwankwo defeated superpowers Brazil and Argentina on the way to winning the gold medal in the football event.
A breakdown of the medals won by Nigeria at the Atlanta Olympics shows that Nigeria won gold in football, gold in long jump by Chioma Ajunwa, bronze by Falilat Ogunkoya-Osheku in 400 meters women, bronze by Mary Onyali-Omagbemi in 200m women and the quartet of Olabisi Afolabi, Fatima Yusuf, Charity Opara and Falilat Ogunkoya won silver in the women 4X400m relay.
At the Beijing 2008 Olympics, Nigeria managed to bring home only four medals and none of the medals came in gold. The male football team coached by former international Samson Siasia won silver after losing the final game to Lionel Messi inspired Argentina, Chika Chukwumerije won bronze in taekwondo in the men's +80kg category, Blessing Okagbare won bronze in the women's long jump and the quartet of Franca Idoko, Gloria Kemasuode, Halimat Ismaila, Oludamola Osayomi, Agnes Osazuwa won bronze in the women's 4x100m relay.
Obviously, the desire of every Nigerian is to see Team Nigeria perform better at the ongoing London 2012 Olympics. However, it is an open secret that it takes a least three years of intensive training for any athlete to stand any chance of winning an Olympic medal and if early and adequate preparation is the route to success at the top level, Nigerians who want to see the nation's athletes mount the podium in London may have to pray for another miracle.
In the usual fire-brigade approach, the athletes who are representing Nigeria in the 2012 London Olympics were rushed through busy training schedules with the hope that they would be able to withstand those athletes from other nations whose preparations began immediately the 2008 Olympics ended in Beijing, China.
Even as China, USA, Great Britain, South-Korea, Japan, including South-Africa are already carting away medals, Team Nigeria is yet to mount the podium after close to two weeks of competition in various events.
Unlike in the past when the country made a jamboree of such events, the present leadership of the National Sports Commission and the Nigeria Olympics Committee, NOC, deliberately reduced the number of events and athletes to the London Olympics. Nigeria is being represented by 55 athletes in 8 events namely, athletics, boxing, table-tennis, canoeing, basketball (men), weight-lifting, wrestling and taekwondo.
The minister of sports and chairman of the National Sports Commission, Malam Bolaji Abdullahi said the policy was meant to ensure that Team Nigeria produces its best performance at the Olympics. Although he bluntly refused to stick out his head on the number of medals to be won by Team Nigeria, he assured that with the high level training in Europe and Asia, coupled with encouraging results garnered in pre-games tournaments, Team Nigeria will not fail to shine in London.
So far, Team Nigeria has not inspired any hope. With some events concluded and many others nearing the end, no Nigerian athlete has won a medal. South Africa as at Thursday was eight on the medals table with three gold medals.
Already the Nigeria's representatives in events like boxing, weight-lifting, canoeing and some in table tennis have fallen by the wayside. The disappointing performance of Jonathan Peter Akinyemi in canoeing did not come as a surprise. What remained a surprise was his qualification for the Olympics.
Like fellow African nations like Ethiopia and Kenya, Nigeria is waiting for athletics to commence. This is where the crux of the matter lies. Even though the country is banking on athletics to end as the second best on the continent of Africa, as promised by the Director General of the NSC, Chief Patrick Ekeji, it is hard to see how Nigeria can beat the likes of Kenya, Ethiopa and Mauritius to the available medals.
Nigeria's brightest chance in athletics will be in the long jump where Blessing Okagbare holds some promises. She won bronze in the event at Beijing 2008. Although Okagbare stunned the world with her pre-games performances in 100m, chances are really slim that she would again beat the Jamaicans and Americans to win any of the medals at stake.
Chika Chukwumerije who won a bronze medal in Beijing in taekwondo will be aiming to improve on his performance in London. He and his team mate Isa Mohammed Adam have enjoyed the best preparation for the games. If any Nigerian looks certain to win a medal at the game, it is the son of Senator Chukwumerije.
Thus, Nigerians are unanimous in their position that despite the attempt by the sports authorities to get the athletes in shape for the games, it was another round of hurried preparations which can never win anything. Thus, the clarion call by concerned Nigerians is for those in charge of the country's sports to ensure that preparation for Rio Janeiro 2016 begins immediately after the London Games.
Those who never gave Team Nigeria any chance before London 2012 have been proved right for Nigerians are still waiting with disappointment for the time a Nigerian athlete would mount the podium. For now, Nigeria is on the verge of recording another barren outing as it was the case in 1952 in Helsinki, 1956 in Melbourne and 1960 in Rome.