Eleven Sports At Tokyo Olympics: Can Dare dare The Odds?
By Amaechi Agbo
Since making her debut in Summer Olympic Games in 1952, Nigerian athletes have appeared in every edition of the Summer Olympic Games, with the exception of the 1976 Summer Olympics in Montreal because of the African boycott.
The last one was in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil from August 5 to 21, 2016.
Nigeria Olympic Committee, NOC fielded a squad of 77 athletes, 51 men and 26 women, to compete in ten sports at the Games. It was the nation’s largest delegation sent to the Olympics since 2000,
While this contingent consumed bullions of naira in funding, the reward was a collosal waste as Nigeria could boost of a bronze medal won by the football team.
Since the last Games and it’s attendance wastefulness in resources with almost nothing to show for it, should Nigeria continue in this trajectory?
To the Minister of Sports, Sunday Dare, “the days of jamboree at the Olympics are over.” as Nigeria would only compete in sports where she has comparative advantage.
Mr. Sunday Dare, who will be two years in Office when the 2020 Games in Tokyo Japan come calling next year July, has a daunting task to navigate.
He has been commended, lauded and prasied in corners and quarters for the robust way and pragmatic polices he has brought to bear in Nigeria sports since August 2019 and he can’t afford to let Nigerians down at this point.
On Wednesday, the minister, via a press statement, said the ministry is preparing and leveraging on Sports where Nigeria has comparative advantage of excelling at the Olympics and as such, they will be accorded priority focus.
“The Olympic is less than six month away and we have started camping our athletes to get them to full fitness ahead of the Tokyo Olympics. We had four camps in Abuja, Port Harcourt, Akure and Lagos.
“From next year we will commence a more robust camping with some athletes going abroad to train with their foreign- based counterparts.
“The first camping exercise was in Pankshin, Plateau State, while the second phase camping ended on the 24th December, 2020. Lagos , Bayelsa, Port Harcourt and Abuja were the locations for the second phase.
“We started the Pre-Olympics camping early to ensure that the Athletes that will be representing the country in the Tokyo Olympics put up podium performances”.
Dare added that Team Nigeria will be going to the Olympics with just 11 sports, unlike in the past when all the sports that qualified went and returned empty handed.
“We need to compete with other nations to win and not to complete the numbers. We have decided to focus on 11 sports where we have comparative advantage”. Mr. Dare concluded.
Nigeria’s best Olympic Year has been adjudged to be Atlanta 1996 Games in United States of America where she amassed two gold medals.
Nigerians have won 23 Olympic medals, including three golds since her sojourn in the Games since 1952.
Nigeria’s first two gold medals both came in 1996, when long jumper Chioma Ajunwa and the “Super Eagles” (the Nigerian football team) became Olympic Champions.
The third gold medal came in the 2000 men’s 4×400 metres relay, but Nigeria was not awarded this medal before 2008 when the US team was disqualified.
The past edition of the Games in Brazil was disastrous as all athletes failed to live up to pre-Olympic expectations.
The football team, came from nowhere to lift Nigeria’s gloomy face to smile with a bronze.
With the Games shifted by a full calendar year for the first time in history owing to ravaging Covid-19 pandemic that has disrupted global systemic events and sports, economy shattered, with the country currently experiencing it’s worst recession in years, how would Sunday Dare navigate these daunting scences to watch his name in the history book of Nigeria Olympic glory is one Nigerians are looking up at.
With Nigeria Basketball teams – D’Tigers and D’Tigress qualifying for the first time together, Nigerians are optimistic, that should Sunday Dare continue in the path of his trajection, Nigeria could have her best Olympic In Tokyo next year.