The 2012 Olympic Games are winding down and Nigeria is not likely to win a medal of any type. I predict that it will require at least eight years before a home grown Olympian from Nigeria would emerge. A Diaspora Nigeria could win a medal in 2016 but that would not be a home grown Nigerian medal.
Why am I so pessimistic one might ask?
Winning a medal at the world sporting events like the Olympics is a long term project. The best Nigerian effort in 2012 was a 4th place finish in one of the relays. This would imply that there are no athletes in the pipe line. So the 2020 athletes would have to start preparing from the scratch right now.
Three important elements are required for success in international Olympics.
- Good athletes
- Good resources
- Good Logistics
1. Good Athletes. For every position a country must have at least a hundred good people with the potential to attain world class standards. So there must be at least 100 Nigerians with the potential to reach world class standards in a 100 yard dash. The number 100 is on the conservative side. Many countries would have thousands of such kids. Consider the kids in US high schools and all the way to universities and you get an idea why 100 is a very small number.
By good athletes I mean dedicated kids who have the natural attributes such as the right size, right blood lines, right attitude, right health conditions, and the desire to get to the top. You get to the 100 number after one has put all these things together not before. The 100 is the total of the select elite athletes
2. Good Resources. This includes about five different things: (a) physical resources (b) fiscal resources (c) trainers/coaches (d) management (e) health care deliverers
(a) Physical resources include Olympic level facilities: (fields, pools, stadia, etc). The tracks must be of the Olympic level standards. The jump pits, shot put, discuss areas; batons, balls, jump stands, etc, must be of the exacting Olympic standards. And just as important they must be located at convenient distances for the athletes.
(b) Fiscal Resources. This is self explanatory. All the equipment, all the facilities, etc, cost money to purchase and to maintain; and must be maintained at the Olympics levels at all times
© Trainers/Coaches. This is also self explanatory. The trainers must be people who know the rules, the physical requirements of athletes, the ability to motivate, the Olympics equipment standards and training regiments. They should know the drug testing conditions and above everything else must be capable of communicating these standards to the athletes and the sports organizations in time.
(d) Management. A National Olympics Organization is a huge organization comprising of people in charge of specific areas such as soccer, track and field, swimming, bicycling, etc. Although Nigeria needs not get involved in every Olympics sports there will still be enough areas to make managing them a herculean task. Forming a management team to perform this task will require a long time and getting such organization ready for the level of efficiency called for would require years of hard work.
(e) Health Care Deliverers. Participating in athletics, training, and competitions, result in injuries. Of course athletes are subject to headaches like everybody else. So their health care delivery is something that needs keeping good eyes on specially those related to injuries. They need the best doctors, therapists, nurses, etc at every level. They need dietitians and other professional people to mind what they eat and the qualities of what they eat.
3. Logistics. When the nation has assembled all these various parts together, then comes the question of logistics. This is getting the resources and athletes together. We are not talking of training camps yet. It is making sure that an athlete in High school in DMGS Onitsha is known. As is his peer in University of Markurdi, and at King’s College in Lagos or AdeBayero University. They should all be known and their needs should be met. It is ensuring that wherever they are, and what ever their training needs are, that those needs are being met. It includes getting to them, quality competition, via High school, college and club competitions. It is making sure that there are smooth transitions, from high school to college, to clubs. It means getting quality competitions domestically and internationally such as inter collegiate, inter clubs, West African Games, African Games, Commonwealth Games, etc. These games have application deadlines and requirements; they involve money for the athletes’ flight, lodging, local transportation etc.
The current tendency is to expect that the government, Jonathan’s Administration in this case, should be doing all these things. This, in my opinion, is the major reason whyNigeriadid not win any medals.
Athletic development is or should be the last thing on a government’s agenda.
It gets good publicity for a country, but in the scheme of things it is worth almost less than a dime. It is a part of human endeavor that should be left entirely in the private enterprise domain. Those of us who leave in US will observe that corporations sponsor these activities; wealthy individuals, schools’, alumni of colleges, successful former athletes, etc are the engines driving current athletic activities. That is how money is raised; athletes discovered and directed. Volunteers offer coaching, retired coaches offer coaching experience, referees volunteer to officiate, grounds maintenance crew volunteer to maintain grounds, transportation companies’ offer free or subsidized tickets. Hotels offer low cost lodging etc.
These are things absent in Nigeria today. The government is expected to do all these things which are outside the purview of government responsibilities.
It is this education (citizen responsibilities) that needs to begin now if my 2020 goal would be reached.
Otherwise, that date, may be too optimistic.
Benjamin Obiajulu Aduba
August 12, 2012