By Tony Ubani reporting from London
Sports Minister, Mallam Bolaji Abdullahi has described Team Nigeria’s predicament in the on-going London 2012 Olympics without a medal as a clear testimony to how far Nigerian sports have fallen behind.
The Minister who addressed hordes of Journalists at the Nigerian House in Stratford alongside NOC President, Engr Sani M. Ndanusa, Chef De Mission of Team Nigeria Dr Patrick Ekeji and NOC Scribe, Tunde Popoola while admitting his disappointment noted that it was a scientific diagnosis of our condition; a clear testimony to how far our sports have fallen.
‘’We shall therefore 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 have used the galvanizing power of disappointment to get down to work. At 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 out of 28 medals. In Beijing four years ago, they returned with 19 gold memdals out of 47, placing them in the fourth position.
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. We must see this crisis as the necessary disequilibrium required for serious actions and drastic change. We will not allow this opportunity to pass”.
The Minister said that having being appointed Minister and chairman of National Sports Commission only two months to the Olympics, he had to learn quickly. ‘’I have not received a better lesson than in the last two weeks of London 2012 Olympics. I have learnt three key lessons.
1. Olympics medal is about hard cash. It is not a coincidence that the medals table appears to reflect the level of economic development of the countries.
But having the resources is one thing, making the right strategic investment is another. Team Great Britain largely owes its dramatic success to what is described as ‘’unprecedented financial investment” totaling up to more than £740 million over 15 years. The current annual spending on sports stands at £100 million. However, only 40% of this comes from the treasury, while the remaining 60% is lottery fund.
Conversely, Australia finished fourth in Sydney with 16 gold medals. In London, Australia has fallen outside the top 10 with 6 gold medals. Australians have blamed reduced funding for elite athletes and a lack of facilities at the grassroots levels.
He said that every medal is clearly projected and carefully planned for both in financial and technical terms. There is no short cut.
Medals are won by people who have worked hardest not by those who have prayed hard. ‘’We can only win medals by building systems that capable of producing medalists and champions not by selecting athletes that we hope can win medals”.