Glasgow, Seventeen sports, eleven days, Blessing!
That for me is the summary of the 20th Commonwealth Games that ended in Glasgow, Scotland yesterday.
After the disappointing experience in the World Cup Brazil 2014 ( Except for those who changed nationality and became Germans and Argentines) The Commonwelth Games was worth looking out for to help soothe nerves, yet, this was also suspect due to initial claims of poor preparations.
Federation chairmen too scared to confront their bosses at the NSC confided in their media friends complaining lack of adequate training and motivation. Football again came for bashing as our sport lords were accused of over concentration to the detriment of other sports.
Apart from the epileptic travel arrangements and limited training opportunities, worse hit was the non arrival of ordered kits, which meant our athletes were set to appear in “coats of many colours” as some newspapers dubbed it.
Reference to the table tennis event, where Nigerians appeared in apparels that needed black patches to hide overblown kits manufacturers names. In weightlifting, “wear what you have, but make sure it is neat” lifters were told.
A direct interpretation of this was that the likelihood of Nigeria doing better than her 11 gold ninth position standing in India four years ago may not be met.
Happily though, despite the odds, Nigerian athletes did not allow this to dampen their enthusiasm as they rose to the occasion to challenge the rest of the Commonwealth in the only eight sports they entered in.
Yes eight sports. I will be voicing the wishes of many if I write today urging Nigeria to try and compete in more events in the Commonwealth, a move aimed at blooding, giving experience to more athletes even as a preparation for the Olympics and world championships.
If Nigeria enters for only eight events out of the 17 available in the Commonwealth struggles of getting more gold( medals) and placing higher on the medals table can only be limited. South Africa will continue to dominate us at global and continental sports for a as long as they compete in as many sports as swimming,Lawn bowls(?) Hockey, Netball, Rowing, Rugby, Shooting, Gymnastics, Judo…….you name it.
Then comes the terrible case of Chika Joy Amahala. This was our first gold medal. Wildly celebrated for a lad just 16, you can imagine the surprise and disappointment that followed the news of her dope misadventure. All news about weight loss has been rubbished by the use of masking agents to hide the crime. The World Anti Doping Agency ( WADA) has become so sophisticated that cheats in sports have no hiding place.
This is a case that must be investigated and all the culprits brought to book. The shame on this country notwithstanding, pray how can any coach, guardian, official or whoever, introduce drugs to a sixteen year old? No stone should be left unturned in getting to the root of this matter to serve as a deterrent to others.
It is high time the National Sports Commission enacted a policy to guide against drug use and administration. Just four years ago in India we were subjected to the same humiliation when about three Nigerians tested positive and had their medals withdrawn. Enough.
While we are at it, I hope the 7,000 dollars promised for gold and handed over immediately after her feat as the minister promised has been retrieved and that of her coach too ? We will appreciate here, monetary motivation, but should also caution against inappropriate appropriation.
In one of the press conferences the Director General of the NSC complained that the media had to stampede the NSC into paying upfront the allowances even when the athletes had no way of spending same during the games! It takes us back to the vexed Super Eagles dollars issue in Brazil.
All we need is for a minister of the Federal Republic to make a pronouncement and it is respected. For us to get to the stage where we carry money about and athletes and footballers must “touch and feel” that money before they believe him is a testimony of our moral degeneration as a nation.
An African adage says if you must eat a frog, eat the fattest one. We are familiar with Nigerians in the diaspora donning the colours of other countries from the US to Europe. When they do, you can expect them to be the best. How can we forget Triple jumper Philips Idowu and Christine Ohuruogu who were on top of British athletics for a long time?
Remember the exploits of Francis Obikwelu for Portugal and Gloria Alozie for Spain and you will appreciate the contributions they made for their adopted countries. At the Commonwealth Games Athletics event, we were rudely introduced to some strange names in Nigerian colours.
It took the experienced commentators to tell us their history, most of them Americans who excelled in years past. True to current form, they were pathetic to watch trailing a field of young athletes with futures ahead of them.
Now that they cannot even come back “home” with the rest of the squad, now that they have proven that we need to depend on bonafide Nigerians for our fortunes, can we just shake their hands and let them be wherever they are?
Now let us serve the best last. Blessing Okagbare of course. In the Commonwealth list of multi medalists, Okagbare occupies pole position in Afica, beaten only by Chad le Clos who in swimming got 2 gold, 4 silver and 4 bronze medals.
Her 2 gold and one silver in track and field would certainly have been improved if the schedule permitted her to do long jump.
Blessing was our symbol of the Games, one that matched the games ideal of Commitment, Training and Performance.
At the time of going to press I was told that of the eleven gold medals, women were responsible for nine. All hail our women.
I agree with the DG NSC that the Commonwealth experience was an indicator of Nigeria’s potentials in world sports. Potentials that we need to build on, in all the sports.
I end by revealing the trauma I had to undergo watching the Commonwealth on South African based cable network Supersports……..for them the coverage emphasis was on South African athletes and events.
Even the effort to project African athletes did not dismiss the spotlight put on the fortunes of South Africa’s exploits at the Games……the absence of a national broadcast station was really felt here, one that would have given us much more than was available, especially dedicated interviews and background stuff.
Welcome back glorious team Nigeria. President Jonathan waits.
See you next week