Nigerian perspective

Beijing Olympics and Nigeria’s missing link
By Adekunle Salami, who was in Beijing

Published: Saturday, 30 Aug 2008

The games of the 29th Olympiad were concluded last week in Beijing, China with different tales for the 89 countries that participated and their athletes. While host China approached the games with massive efforts made deliberately to excel in all events, Nigeria attended with poor preparations. The result is now history.

China emerged overall winner for the first time in its history. The host won 51 gold, 21 silver and 28 bronze medals while Nigeria finished 61st with one silver and three bronze medals.

China spent so much to prepare its athletes and the country stunned the world with success recorded in ‘strange areas’ at the games. Imagine China winning a gold medal in boxing, sweeping the medals in swimming, making great efforts in volleyball, tennis, marathon, rowing and other sports that are alien to the country.

The host also held its strong areas well with excellent performances in gymnastics and table tennis. This was due to the amount of money spent in exposing the athletes and getting them ready.

China’s government spent $1.5billion about (N300billion) for the final lap of preparations for the competition.

It was mixed fortunes for the United States of America. Team USA won 36 gold 38 silver and 36 bronze medals.

The country dropped from its traditional first position to the second but a swimmer, Michael Phelps, recorded a historic feat for the Americans.

Phelps won eight gold medals in the competition to erase the seven-gold record feat set by his compatriot, Mark Spitz, in Munich in 1972. The 23 year-old also broke seven world records, set an Olympic mark in the eighth and increased his total gold haul at the Olympics to 14.

“It is a sweet feeling for me to have done this. I kept on working hard and somehow everything worked well for me,” the swimmer said.

The USA team was unable to confirm its rating in the sprint events as Jamaica took over with a big bang.

Usain Bolt was simply magical. He broke the world record in the 100m and 200m events in grand style and erased his own record of 9.72secs with a great feat of 9.69secs in the 100m.

Bolt also broke Michael Johnson’s seemingly unbeatable 200m mark of 19.32 with a stunning 19.30 to claim a rare sprint double. He was also in the Jamaican team that won the 4x100m relay while the Jamaican women led by Shelly-Ann Frazer were glorious in the 100m. Frazer won with 10.78secs.

Spain’s Rafael Nadal won tennis gold in the men’s singles that had seven other top seeds on parade. The William sisters after losing in the singles united to win the doubles gold for the USA.

Africa maintained its dominance in the long distance races as Ethiopia’s Tirunesh Dibaba won the 10,000m race and the very first track gold in Beijing. The Ethiopian won in an Olympic record of 29 minutes, 54.66secs.

World record holder, Kenenisa Bekele, achieved a similar feat in the men’s race. He also set a new Olympic record with his 27 mins 1.17secs effort.

Cameroun’s Francois Mbango Etone also set a new games record to defend her triple jump gold medal. The athlete is the first Camerounian to win medals at the World Championships, Commonwealth Games and Olympic Games. It is very instructive that the African recorded a back-to-back-feat in the event.

Zimbabwe’s Kistry Conventry was glorious at the pools. She defended her 200m backstroke gold with a new world record of 2mins, 5.04 secs. Kenya won five gold medals to top the African medals table as usual

In football, Nigeria took Africa’s flag to the final but lost 1-0 to a better and more loaded Argentine team in a tight contest decided on the eve of the games’ finale at the Bird’s Nest Stadium.

The opening and closing ceremonies at the magnificent stadium were simply fantastic and a big challenge to the organisers of London 2012.

General organisation

China succeeded in showing the world the great modernization and construction that has taken place in the country over the years. The country did excellently well and the volunteers were also splendid. London will need to put in extra effort to take the event to another level. The International Olympic Committee President, Jacque Rogges, rated the games as the very best ever.

Nigeria’s scorecard

Nigeria took part in 10 sports but was able to win medals in just football, athletics and taekwondo.

Samson Siasia and his boys settled for silver against Argentina. The team won four games, drew one against Holland in the opener and lost just the final match.

In long jump, Blessing Okagbare, with a jump of 6.91, won the bronze medal. The 4x 100m women team led by Damola Osayemi also won bronze. Others in the quartet are Franca Idoko, Gloria Kemasuode and Halimat Ismaila.

In the flat events, Olusoji Fasuba performed below expectations, losing in the second round stage of the men’s 100m. In the relays (men’s 4x 100m), Uchenna Emedolu was again the culprit as he dropped the baton when the coast was clear for the country to make it to the final and perhaps be in the medal range.

Emedolu is being investigated for dropping the baton for the third time in a row. :confused: :eek:

In taekwondo, Chika Chukwumerijie was unable to make it to the final after beating the world champion in the quarterfinal stage. The promising athlete settled for bronze.

In weightlifting, Marian Usman lost bronze narrowly and that was the closest the country got in the sport as others crumbled due to lack of exposure.

Boxing was a big disappointment for Nigeria as no boxer won a match in the competition. All of them ended up in scandalous defeats.

Wrestling also failed to make impact at the games even with former world Champion, Daniel Igali, in charge.

Segun Toriola was in the last 16 of table tennis event, but the commonwealth champion was unable to enter the final stages. Nobody expected a single medal from Nigeria but with determination, the country was able to better the Athens 2004 performance.

[b]National Sports Commisssion Chairman, Abdulrahman Gimba, said on the eve of the closing ceremony that he had learnt his lesson.

“With what I have seen here there are so many things we have to do differently back home,” he said. One hopes Gimba meant every word of that.[/b]
Nigerian factor

It was evident in China that the country’s failure in sports was due to its bad attitude towards its athletes. Poor funding is the bane of sports in the country as both government and the private sector allow our athletes to rot in their prime. Nigeria’s Vivian Chukwuemeka won gold medal in the shot put event of the Manchester 2002 Commonwealth Games but interestingly the lady that took the bronze medal at the event Valerie Vili of New Zealand won the gold in Beijing. That speaks volume.

So many things happened to the lady between Manchester and Beijing while Chukwuemeka was on the same spot.

Still on the Nigerian factor, a senator caused ripples at the Games Village of the event. He wanted to enter the place with his kids and was told his card could only admit him but he flared up, “I am a senator of a Federal Republic and I deserve some respect. I have to enter this place with my two children,” he said.

The volunteers did not allow him in spite of his drama. The fact is the event is a leveller. Nigeria had just 14 slots to enter the village daily and the politicians fought over the slots on daily basis in a shameful and nauseating show of their power.
The way forward

Investment is the missing link in Nigeria’s sports. The country finds it hard to prepare and plan for the future but enjoys participating in events with high hopes of beating other countries that are better organised.

The lesson of the competitions is clear. Nigeria can do well in sports if the athletes are well catered for with huge investment on their training programmes and exposure to international events.

Again, the country lacks coaches. There is need to bring back the foreign coaches to handle our combat sports and other sports generally. Government should not wait till the Olympic year to budget for the games and prepare the athletes.

in 2002 Chukwuemeka was 27 while Vili was 18…bit of a difference when it comes to shot put :rolleyes:

Emedolu is being investigated for dropping the baton for the third time in a row:confused: :eek: indeed