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Olympic observations

By Donu Kogbara
A FEW days before the Olympics ended, when it had become depressingly obvious that Nigeria wasn’t going to win a single medal, Mallam Bolaji Abdullahi, the Sports Minister, addressed journalists in London and told them that:

“We shall not attempt any excuses or indulge in any unproductive blame game. Rather than see this as a failure, we must see it as an opportunity to rebuild. When other countries found themselves in this kind of situation in the past, they used the galvanizing power of disappointment to get down to work…

“At the Atlanta 1996 Olympics, Team Great Britain won only one gold medal. Returning home, the right questions were asked and the necessary actions were taken. Four years later in Sydney, they returned with 11 gold. In Beijing four years ago, they returned with 19…Today, they are able to look back and say they have moved from ‘zeroes to heroes’. This is our chance. We can also do it…”.

Abdullahi went on to talk about the important lessons he had learned and the ways in which Nigerian athletes can be enabled to do better in future.

I really like the sound of this Minister. He is highly articulate. He comes across as a positive, practical gentleman who possesses a dynamic Can-Do mindset. He has good ideas. He appears to be sincerely committed to change and excellence.

And though he was only appointed two months, so cannot be held responsible for our pathetic performance in London – which is clearly the result of many years of negligence – he still adopted a humble and apologetic tone when he was explaining the factors that led Team Nigeria to embarrass us internationally; and it’s very rare for senior government officials to speak the way he spoke. Most have absolutely no sense of shame when things go horribly wrong.

So more grease to Abdullahi’s capable elbow. May he receive the cooperation he deserves when he is attempting to upgrade our sporting facilities and provide talented youngsters with the training and inspiration they desperately need. Britons managed to bag 29 golds this time around. Considering that Nigeria is more than twice the size of the UK in population terms, let us pray that a glorious day will come when we will win more than twice the number of medals.

Let us also pray that a day will come when athletes who have Nigerian ancestors will choose to run, jump or whatever for Nigeria rather than for foreign teams.

What angered me most was the fact that much smaller and much poorer Black countries like Jamaica and Uganda managed to put in spectacular performances and win a few medals. We like to see ourselves as the giants of Africa and the Black world in general. But we’re looking pretty pygmy-ish at the moment.

Able bodied athletes

Tunde, a Nigerian guy I know, is so furious with our able-bodied athletes that he has sarcastically expressed the view that “even if they had competed against disabled athletes in the Paralympics, they would still have lost!”

No offence intended to the brave individuals who participate in sporting events despite physical challenges like being wheelchair-bound. The Paralympics will start on August 29 and represent the triumph of the human spirit over adversity. My sister and I have applied for tickets and look forward to being part of the action, if only as admiring spectators.

The Vanguard readers who frequently accuse me of being too pro-British may be happy to hear that most aspects of the Opening Ceremony, which was organised by a British film director called Danny Boyle, left me stone cold.

Irritatingly chaotic ending

A lot of people have praised Boyle lavishly for putting on a “truly amazing” show; and it was certainly original and contained some entertaining and moving moments. But I found the whole thing irritatingly chaotic overall. I must have a militaristic streak because I much preferred the disciplined, dazzling, structured synchronizations that the Chinese delivered at the beginning of the Beijing Olympics. Now that’s what I call truly amazing.

However – no vex, Vanguard Anglophobes! -I want to be “too pro-British” yet again and warmly acknowledge the efforts of those members of the White British Establishment who have gone out of their way to create a tolerant, vibrantly multi-cultural society in which Black people are increasingly welcomed and rewarded.

It was heart-warming to see so many Black Britons being invited to play key roles during the Opening and Closing Ceremonies. Racism is fading fast in the United Kingdom. And I’m thankful to the Oyinbo liberals who decided some time ago that the elimination of racism should become their sacred moral mission.

Frankly, I often receive respectful treatment in the UK and shoddy treatment in Nigeria. So you can understand why I don’t agree with “patriots” who doggedly insist that home is always the best option for every Nigerian!

Whenever I watched the Olympic events that were totally dominated by Black runners, I asked myself whether Blacks are naturally faster on their feet than Whites. Or is there another reason why the Whites can’t keep up on this level?

I would also like to know why Blacks don’t swim competitively, even when they come from riverine areas and have been totally at home in water since birth.


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