By Tony Ubani
As Team Nigeria joins over 206 countries in the quest for Olympic glory at the Summer Olympics in Rio, Brazil, there are mounting challenges facing the country’s contingent as it battles to exorcise the ghost of London 2012 Olympics where the most populous black nation in the world took pride in participation only.
The lack of adequate preparation for the team is enough to scuttle any podium appearance for the athletes.
Beyond that, however, is the massive dining hall at the athletes’ village where 60,000 meals per day would be served 24 hours daily. The smell, taste and availability of the food, no doubt can lead some athletes especially Africans, astray by way of heavy consumption. And that is the fear of former Olympic bronze medalist Falilat Ogunkoya. She saw it happen before and she is afraid it may occur again.
”Without control, some athletes will fall prey to the appealing, mouth-watering, delicious and palatable continental dishes on offer at the dining hall”, Chief Falilat said, adding that ‘’this is the first step our officials should take to ensure that athletes do not eat voraciously. They should be guided”, Falilat insisted.
Brazil has already promised to spoil athletes and officials with dinner tables that are well known by foreigners with dishes like rice and black beans, barbecued steak and coconut water as well as farofa, tapioc, acai, brigadeiro or pao de queijo.
Falilat warns that Team Nigerian officials should ensure that our athletes do not indulge in these food. “There is that temptation for an athlete to eat as much since it is going to be open for 24 hours. Our athletes should be guided so that they don’t spend much of their time at the dining. Some countries have nutritionists who accompany their athletes and advice them on what to eat. But African athletes are always on their own. And the first reaction to these enticing food is to descend on them. We should not make that mistake again”, Falilat advised.
About 18,000 people (athletes, coaches and technical staff) will be housed in the village during the Olympic Games, with another 7,000 due for the Paralympic Games. A team of approximately 2,500 people, will be working around the clock to ensure they are served healthy, balanced and tasty meals. While there will be various options, such as Italian, Asian, African ‘tastes of the world’, the hosts hope that their guests will give the ‘home cooking’ a try.
Chief Falilat Ogunkoya said that notwithstanding the low level preparation of Team Nigeria, that some athletes are going to push themselves to the limit for national glory.
”The athletes know that this is the moment they have been waiting for. They’ll give everything into it and anything can happen in sports. I am optimistic that Team Nigeria will hit the Bull’s eye at Rio”, she said with a broad smile.