Onochie Anibeze’s Diary: Of good memories, Nigeria and Glo

London, August 15, 2012:

I leave London tonight with great memories of the 2012 London Olympics.

I saw a well organised Games. I saw a fantastic opening ceremony and a music “jam” that was the closing ceremony.  I saw Britain, a country of nations so determined to enrich further their already rich sports culture and to reap from the business side of it. And  before the end of the games, the results were already showing off.

The transformation of East London, the profits made from the games and most importantly the transformation of the athletes are the hallmark of the 2012 games.

The lives of the winners, especially the gold medallists will never be the same again. They will make money from many meets that they will now be invited to participate. They will enjoy the benefits of endorsements, shooting of some commercials and they will be paid for even attending some shows. Your life is never the same when you win an Olympic gold medal.

That I can say for great nations especially the ones with rich sports history. I can’t say that of Nigeria. I don’t know what an Olympic gold is worth in Nigeria. It’s probably nothing other than the celebration on the podium and a few kudos from some people. Chioma Ajunwa would have been in penury today if not for the Police.

I saw great performances from athletes and I saw winners too in the fans. Yes, the fans here can cheer you to death if that is what may earn you a medal. They are simply amazing. This is my fifth Olympics Games  and I have never seen fans stand behind their athletes the way British fans did here.

The closest to what I saw here was at the 2000 Sydney Games where Iarn Thorpe and Cathy Freeman where cheered even when they were at sleep. And Australia has some roots in Britain, so one understands the link. English fans cheer. They make the stadia electric. That’s why the standard of the game may not be higher than it is in Spain, Italy or Germany but the Premier League remains more exciting. The fans and style of media coverage make it so.

At Euro ’96, I saw fans almost cheer Alan Shearer to death. There had been a media campaign against their manager, Terry Vennables just before the championship.

Shearer averaged a goal a match for Blackburn Rovers. But he was not scoring for the national team and people feared England might flop at the games. But Vennables stuck with Shearer and the more the media called for Shearer’s exclusion, the more Vennables made him the primary player in his team.

In fact, at a time the England team was Shearer and others. And in the opening match everybody stood behind the team cheering in a way that fired the team so much that they played as if they were possessed. Shearer would never forget when the team filed out at Wembley and the over 80,000 fans stood to sing THERE’S ONLY ONE SHEARER, ONLY ONE SHEARER. THERE’S ONLY ONE SHEARER as England filed out for the opening match against Switzerland.

It was as if they rehearsed it. Just in the first minute of the game Shearer had dived to head a ball and his head almost hit the post. Shear grit, you would say. He ended Euro ’96 the highest goal scorer and moved to New Castle for £15m, then a record fee. The fans had a hand in his success.

Here, I saw fans double the way they cheered at Euro ’96. They made the games exciting. Mo Farah admitted that at a time he almost gave up during the 10,000 meters race but the way the fans cheered so fired him that he was ready to die on those fast tracks of the London Olympics. All the winners here have made similar remarks about the fans.

I saw Usain Bolt do his thing his way and I saw other winners too. I have picked interest in rowing but I don’t know if Nigeria will. The energy they dissipate, the consistency in the rowing is so rhythmic that you find it very entertaining.

I equally saw Nigeria disappoint in a way they have never done since the Seoul ’88 Games. what a shame. The world has moved on but Nigeria remains stagnant, hoping for magic. Magic doesn’t happen in sports; winners are programmed for their victories.

Their years of training, nutrition, feeding, breaks are all programmed. Technical Director of AFN, Navy Captain Omatseye Nesiama added his own that “everything including the water athletes drink is programmed.” But Nigeria does not ensure their athletes feed well and when they get to games like the Olympics, Commonwealth Games etc, they attack the over 30 course meals and pray that God helps them on the courts. pity.

I saw a lot in the London Games. I saw Nigerian athletes complain about poor preparation, I saw some officials blame the sports ministry for our failure and I have heard many conclude that we don’t just get it and must begin the reformation of the sports structures from the states to the federal level. I saw the sports ministry rely more on PR than work to save face.

The money they spent here on friends and officials they sponsored to the games could have won us medals if well managed. I’m not joking. Some of these people had no business here and many ended up watching events on television and shopping. I saw Erasmus Kwaw of Ghana argue that they did better than Nigeria. “Nigeria came here with over 50 athletes and Ghana came with nine athletes.

We did not win anything and Nigeria with over 50 athletes did not win anything. On this basis, we will be rated higher than Nigeria.” he argued. Not even the fact that Nigeria qualified for the finals of some track and field events here impressed Kwaw, a sports journalist and media attache to their Olympic committee.

I leave London with good memories of the games and wonderful friends. Ade Animasaun, a columnist with Vanguard Newspapers made the games more interesting to me with her brilliant analysis and recap of the events I missed. I couldn’t be everywhere. The son Giovani and daughter Salma excited. Wonderful family. And Wura Oke, a Ugandan resident here. What a pleasant person you are. I have enjoyed the games, the poor show of Nigeria not withstanding.

I thank my sponsors, Globacom who are also winners not only in their telecommunication business but also in sports. They are sponsors of the national teams. They once sponsored Marathon and our league. Poor management of the league made them suspend their sponsorship.

Their chairman, Chief Mike Adenuga joined hands with Chief Orji Uzor Kalu to help Enyimba win the Champions League in 2003 and 2004, the first time a Nigerian club did so. They successfully defended the title the following year with Chief Adenuga solidly behind them. His Conoil sponsored Enyimba and Chief Adenuga visited the players and motivated them even in match venues. For the years Globacom has existed they have had a name with sports.

With better management of Nigerian sports, Globacom could do more. I end my coverage here with a big thank you to them. Cheers.



Comments expressed here do not reflect the opinions of vanguard newspapers or any employee thereof.