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More than game: Nigeria's lesson from Rio 2016

26 August 2016, 15:20 MT Omotosho

With the controversies that rented the atmosphere before the commencement, to the euphoria of the aftermath, Rio 2016 came and went, and hugely deserving nations; USA, GBR, China, etc, smiled home proving to the world that in sports, just like in science and technology, they are the cream of the globe.

Even the best of seers - considering the issues that pervaded the hosting nation before the opening of this year Olympic tournament in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil; health issue due to the Zika virus, political instability, Guanabara Bay's pollution, among others - neverexpected Rio 2016 to be this utterly absorbing.

Nigeria, a nation currently on economic precipice, was among 207 nations that partook in this year long awaited Olympic event, and taking a little walk back in time, it would be known that between Atlanta 1996 when Nigeria historically won gold medal in men's football and Rio 2016, exactly two decades have elapsed.

It would be interesting, not only for the sports enthusiasts but also the curious Nigerians, to know that from Atlanta 1996 when Nigeria won six medals in total; two gold, one silver, and three bronze, our performance in sports, just like in other areas of Nigeria's affairs, has been ridiculously waning.

Nigeria followed up Atlanta Olympics with three medals in Sydney 2000, then, conforming to that unfortunate downward progression, went ahead and won two medals in Athens 2004. Beijing 2008 gave birth to 4 goldless medals for Nigeria while London 2012 was a tournament to forget in the history of our dear nation; we came back as we went, empty handed! Now comes The CHANGE era, and now comes a single bronze medal from Rio 2016.

Looking at the medals table, one may tend to presume that nations are placed based on their economic buoyancy, and justifying evidence may soon be found checking the list from up to around 13th position occupied by Spain. Time and again United States, which comfortably occupied first position, has proved it is the world biggest both in sports and economy. And after its recent monumental decision to leave the bloc, Great Britain, which narrowly clinched the second position from China, has shown there is just as much future for it as past. Russia, Japan, South Korea, and some EU members are as well up the medals ladder.

Where is Nigeria in the medals table? Though one cannot hold the nations' performances at the tournament to be an exclusively infallible yardstick for economic status, however, participation and excellent outings in various sports are an indication of preparedness, political and financial stability, infrastructural development which presents people with best of facilities to prepare well enough ahead of the tournament.

"I was surprised when I asked officials about our preparation for the Olympics and was told that it was 40% as at last week and I told them it was not good enough to give us a good outing in Brazil; we need to do more to prepare the athletes," said Solomon Dalung, Minister of Youth and Sports Development. So it was evident even before the start of the Olympics that we were not well prepared as confirmed by the Minister. But why? Was it because of lack of facilities? Or financial issue owing to the current economic quagmire? Or because of incompetence on the part of the officials in charge? A check on the medals table will bring home how superpowers like USA, GBR, China, etc, had a sweep of medals in certain Olympic sports where African nations like Nigeria could not even dream of participating due to financial incapacitation brought about by acutely sick economy. Out of 28 Olympic sports featured in Rio, Nigeria only participated in 10, and the question still remains why we didn't take part in more sport events.

Over the years many countries have been investing heavily in sports. Country like Great Britain, according to CNN, invested about £350 million ($456m) over the last four years while over the last three years Brazil has invested one billion Reals ($30m). What about Nigeria? You can't give what you don't have. If you are tight-fisted or, worse still, greatly corrupt, you may not give, though you have. The Nigerian government has been rigidly busy promising tomorrow will bring a better Nigeria while the past governments didn't save to save Nigeria from its current economic mess that has seriously messed up every sector including sports.

There is no gainsaying the fact that these are hard times for my fellow Nigerians; times that test the character of men, as Nelson Mandela would say. We lamented and frowned at how our athletes were crashing out of Rio Olympics, how relatively small number of sport men and women Nigeria sent to Brazil, and how John Obi Mikel reportedly did what his country failed to do by paying $4000 to save his fellow team mates from humiliation in their hotel in Brazil.

We can wish it, we can think it, we can say it, and in fact, shout it, that we want more sport men and women in Olympic events, more motivation for our athletes, and better performances that will wow the globe. But no house built on quicksand endures. Without fixing our pathetically ailing economy, no sector functions, and Nigerians left to the mercy of their miserable fates; as was evident a couple of months ago when some Nigerians were reported stealing food on fire. Creativity in science and technology, art, sports, and other human affairs, is not a wishful thinking only in a nation with strong economy and leaders with readiness to prioritize human development.

Shortly after Rio Olympics, Minister of Youth and Sports Development, Solomon Dalung, said preparation for the next Olympics starts forthwith, and Nigerians would hope he has not given another political speech which, in the word of George Orwell, is the defence of the indefensible. So far so hard since Buhari's assumption of office, and with many promises already cancelled or withheld, Nigerians seem to lose faith in this administration to usher in a new dawn.

In this year Rio Olympics, Kosovo, which gained its independence from Serbia in 2008, made their first appearance, and did so with their first ever gold medal won by Majlinda Kelmendi who said: " I just proved that even after we survived a war, if they (kids in Kosovo) want something they can have it." I hope Buhari, after he was massively voted for to come and effect CHANGE and not CHAIN, would prove to the Nigerians that if they too want something they can have it. With the current system not working, Nigerians want a restructured Nigeria with a viable economy. A successful nation we can proudly call our own, we want that, and hope Mr. President will do things right enough for us to have it.

In the face of menacing challenges Nigerians now encounter, living on Micawber principle in their fatherland, I believe something good will eventually show up. And comes next Olympics, Nigeria will have a positive lesson from the tournament to show that it has really gone far towards the promised land.

- MyNews24

Disclaimer: All articles and letters published on MyNews24 have been independently written by members of News24's community. The views of users published on News24 are therefore their own and do not necessarily represent the views of News24. News24 editors also reserve the right to edit or delete any and all comments received.

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