On Thursday, my cousin sent this BBM, “Please join me to pray that the USA, Ukraine, Jamaica, Brazil, Germany, Trinidad & Tobago, and the Netherlands all either drop their batons or fall down to ensure Nigeria can win a medal. If not, na last we go carry. Oya my people PRAY!!” Sure, it was sent tongue in cheek but it prompted me to think about Nigeria’s Olympic gory. No, I didn’t forget the ‘L’ in glory; there is simply no L in Nigeria’s 2012 Olympic presence. And there are many reasons for this sorry state of affairs.
Take definitions for instance; twenty years ago, the term athletes was used to describe individuals who excelled in a sport such as sprinters, long jumpers, soccer players and the like. Today, the term is used loosely to describe folks who are related to sports officials or those able to bribe their way to a spot on the country’s team. They are barely talented, poorly trained, and worse mannered. Yet we know that countries that mean business, scout for athletes year round and invest in grooming the best for a chance at Olympic gold.
Further, we allow aging athletes to remain on the team year in year out without replacement. As one commentator noted, Nigeria fielded the same 33 year old athlete in a game of youngsters. And he wasn’t even commenting on the fact that we field grown folk in games of youth; anyone remember the first outing of the baby eagles?
Today, our stadiums have been converted into beer parlors and the money required for training superb athletes, stolen by all manner of corrupt officials. Even when these officials are imported, they are unable to overcome challenges of nepotism in athlete selection, embezzlement of training funds, and outdated equipment and modes of operation.
Lastly, we must not forget our ‘fire-fire’ approach to training whereby we don’t begin to practice until the Olympics is round the corner. We don’t even select coaches until the year of the Olympics while countries like China start pumping money into training their athletes as early as age 4.
Can we not borrow a leaf from China, Australia, UK, and the like? Or USA where athletes are afforded the best training equipment? Like everything, corruption has permeated our sports yet, instead of building systems to reduce the impact of corruption, we pray that all our contenders suffer a handicap. Amen.