18 August 2012

Nigeria: Country's London 2012 Fiasco - Playing the Devils' Advocate


As is natural the newspapers and airwaves have been filled with caustic reports following Nigeria's abject showing at the 30th Olympiad, which ended last weekend in the English capital, London.

I have also been hard on the Nigerian team for bringing back memories of some past Olympic outings we would truly love to forget (like Moscow'80 and Seoul'88), a call from an elderly friend of mine and some hard hitting text messages brought some sole searching and a reality check.

Perhaps collectively as Nigerians, we all took a trip to fantasy world forgetting (or is it hoping) that Team Nigeria athletes and officials that went to London 2012 are indeed Nigerians and as such the outcome should not have been a surprise. In fact what should have surprised us would have been had they come back with medals of any colour considering the way and manner of their preparations.

We all knew that the Olympics would be taking place in London between July 27 and August 12, seven years ago, when the Games were awarded to the English capital and what exactly did we do - nothing!

We never shifted from the approach we adopted for the major sporting events that took between the time the Games were awarded to London in 2005 and when they actually held.

Some of the international multi-event competitions we were in attendance during this period were the Melbourne 2006 Commonwealth Games, where we won 17 medals (4 gold 6 silver and 7 bronze) and New Delhi, India two years ago where we placed ninth overall with 33 medals (11gold, 8 silver and14 bronze) and of course the more completive Beijing 2008 Olympics where we won four medals (1 silver and 3 bronze). I deliberately left out the All Africa Games and World Athletics Championships, because the above mentioned are more in line with London 2012. In all three cases the same song of poor build up due to late release of funds was sung - did we do anything about it? No.

The same song is being repeated (remember my 'Team Nigeria and London 2012: Ready for Same Old Song' piece?) for our woeful performance in London.

And like I said in my piece last weekend titled: 'Moscow'80 + Seoul'88 = London 2012 (and Rio'2016?)' may still be sung again in four years time!

This re-occurring defence is only unique to Nigeria - we all know that the problems are; mouth the right words about rectifying them and promptly leave it as that: just words. If not, how do we explain that despite billions of naira being spent, we still don't have regular power supply, water, good roads and so on?

Musical icon, Fela Anikulapo-Kuti died 15 years ago and yet amazingly issues he mentioned in his songs all those years ago are still very prevalent even now!

Let's take just one of his albums as an example. In 1981 he released 'Original Suffer Head' in which he complained about the epileptic power supply, lack of potable water and the high prices of food stuff amongst other problems facing us then.

Thirty-one years later I am penning this piece with my generator on because I haven't had public power for more than a day! In most other countries 31 years is enough time to rectify many of the problems enunciated by Fela, but of course that is not the case in Nigeria.

I remember when a powerful administrator used to hold sway in sports, he always used to argue that considering the amount of money allocated to sports and the returns made (in form of medals won) sports is still trying when placed against ministries and other sectors with bigger outlays like power, works, housing and so on.

So in essences what am I trying to say? Yes Team Nigeria flunked in London - but then is it right to single then out when what else in Nigeria is fairing any better?

Following Britain's best Olympic outing in decades, Prime Minister David Cameron has already announced that his government will fund elite sports with a yearly grant of â,¤127 million a year till the next Olympics in Rio in 2016. Can we say the same thing here in Nigeria?

I don't envy Sports Minister, Mallam Bolaji Abdullahi. Yes he spoke eloquently about the problems that bedevilled Team Nigeria at London 2012, but the million naira question is can he convince government to change its ways?

Least we forget there are a thousand and one other pressing issues on the hot plat also contesting for the same meagre resources - insecurity, unemployment, health, education to mention but a few.

Can the minister get government to allocate money every year for the preparation of our athletes going to Rio'2016, without some other powerful interest groups raising dust complaining: 'is it only sports that have problems?'

Rio 2016 is still four years away; but after all my years covering sports, unless a miracle happens we should be ready to hear the same old song being belted out by officials after the Olympics in Brazil!

Thank God, Our Weekend Tonic is Back!

After 90 days of missing our weekly dose of the 'Best of English football' the weekly tonic is back with a bang as the English Premier League kicks off its 2012/12 season today.

With 42 matches spread over the next nine months football fans should be in for a treat.

Of course the usual suspects are expected to hug the headlines in the race for the EPL title with Manchester City installed as favourites to retain their crown with the challenge likely to come from city rivals, United and London clubs, Chelsea and Arsenal.

We should also expect the occasional amazing results like last season's 8-2 hammering of Arsenal by Man United and Blackburn Rovers' 3-2 victory over the Red Devils at Old Trafford as examples. While I'm not a soothsayer (so please don't ask me to predict which team will win), but what I can safely say with all confidence is that we are in for another season of highs, lows and upsets!

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