By Onochie Anibeze
London, August 2: A Nigerian approached me here in Streatham area of London and asked me “When is President Goodluck Jonathan coming to the Olympics?
The question probably arose after it was announced that President Putin of Russia will be coming to the Olympics. And this was after many world leaders attended the opening ceremony. USA First Lady even stayed back to cheer US athletes in some events here. Serena Williams thanked her for coming for her match and inspiring her.
Putin was a Judo champion and would be at the judo venue to cheer Russia’s athletes here although he will also be visiting Downing Street. It will be his first visit to Britain in seven years and the Olympic Games influenced this.
I told the woman at Streatham that I was not in the position to know if our President would be here and that I was not sure our President has been briefed on the importance of sports as not only a great unifying factor but also a huge business employing millions and moving some economies. “Please, tell our President to come-o,” she said. What did she take me for? Anyway, I promised to do that through Vanguard.
My sleeping “pill”.
Many times I suffer insomnia in Nigeria. But since I came here I have been sleeping very well. What is the magic? The stress of covering the Olympics, normally, should add to the problem.
Foreign journalists often wonder how media houses in Africa cope while covering Olympic Games. During interactions they ask which sport you cover, is it basketball, soccer, or track and field? Here they specialise and you meet journalists who are here to cover, for example, volleyball.
They are amazed when you tell them you are here to cover all sports or as many sports as possible. At the media centre yesterday, a television crew was going round getting reactions on the badminton players disqualified and expelled from the games.
Two Chinese female players, in order to avoid meeting stronger opponents in the next round, deliberately played to lose against their South Korean opponents. Their opponents followed suit, hitting the shuttlecock into the net and missing points. And this was at the venue spectators had paid equivalent of N20,480 to watch matches.
They became furious and booed. A second match between another South Korean team and an Indonesia pair, in a “domino effect”, was also lousy and appeared fixed. The International Olympic Committee is outraged and has expelled all the players. IOC President, Jack Rougges said there could be more penalties.
The badminton shame is the biggest scandal of the games so far and yet one American journalist sitting near me told the television crew that he didn’t know what they were talking about and that “I’m here for track and field.” Not so for a Nigerian journalist.
After visiting the Weightlifting venue to watch our Felix Ekpo compete I couldn’t help watching two female rowers win Britain’s first gold medal here. Interestingly it was the first time British women would win gold in rowing. Rowing is not a Nigerian sport but I really enjoyed watching it here.
The fans made it more exciting. Some pursued the Rowers on bicycles to cheer and the power the athletes displayed in their rhythmic rowing were a delight to watch. Having searched for gold since the games started everybody including the royal family joined in cheering and inspiring their first gold. I filed a story on it.
Duro Ikhazuagba of Thisday told me the other day that their Editor, Ijeoma Nwangwugwu was telling him to report more camp stories of teams here. That is the challenge of the Nigerian journalist. And we trek a lot in search of stories here.
When you trek from Stratford train station to the media centre you would have covered about three miles and you have to do same on return. You trek long distances to other venues.
From your hotel or where ever you are you trek to the next train station to go anywhere. Sometimes the distance is short, sometimes it is long. But the trekking to venues and around the Olympic Stadium can be exhausting.
The good thing is that we are keeping fit, the way we did in Lagos and other Nigerian cities before the Okada invasion on our roads, an unfortunate sign of backwardness that resulted from poor transportation and lack of construction of roads to meet the demands of a growing population.
Before Okada took over our roads, we trekked to the next bus stop to take buses to our destinations. Now, aside the poor transportation, we have become lazier and the Okadas are maiming and killing people. I feel bad that our children did not see Nigeria when we had sanity on our roads.
However, some state governors are getting Okada out of their roads. They should follow up with buses and more roads. I’ll return to Nigeria fitter than when I left. The trekking is so exhausting that any time I hit the bed I sleep like a baby.
This has worked more than any sleeping pill could have ever done. Duro has just told me of some shorter ways and media shuttles that can reduce the trekking.
I appreciate his tips but for health reasons I want to continue to trek for I know that I will soon return to Nigeria where the roads are not good for long trekking, there are no trains and the madness on our roads will always compel you to avoid them if necessary. SAD.