Editorial: Learning from the abysmal Tokyo Olympics outing

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Nigeria’s performance at the just concluded 2020 Tokyo Olympic calls for a critical look into sport investment and development. We are disappointed that in spite the huge investment in the sector, it has become impossible for the country to have any domination in any particular sport at the world stage. Of the 206 participating teams, Nigeria was 74th on the medals table with two medals; a silver and bronze.

Apart from the Atlanta ’96, when the then dream team won the gold medal, the first in Africa in men football competition in the Olympics, Nigeria is yet to have any relevant impact in the Olympics over 20 years after. That Nigeria would improve in medals in the future Olympics is a mirage and a wishful thinking. We are assured of these due to the fact that the Minister for Sports and Youth Development, Sunday Dare, who reacted to the poor performance of the country at the 2021 outing gave the flimsy assurance that the team has learn from it outing and would put all necessary adjustments and preparation in place ahead of the next games.

It is unfortunate how as a country we sing same old songs and expect circumstances to displace new dance steps. Our corrupt tendencies, cut-corners attitude and inept manners were out in clear display at Tokyo when the Athletics Integrity Unit declared 10 athletes from Nigeria ineligible to compete. The AIU said that the 10 athletes failed to meet the minimum testing requirements under Rule 15. The Rule 15 governing National Federation Anti-Doping Obligations which came into force in January 2019, stated that National Federations are accountable for ensuring appropriate anti-doping measures are in place in their respective jurisdictions.

Nigeria, which falls under ‘category A’ was expected to ensure that athletes representing the country undergo at least three no-notice out-of-competition tests conducted no less than three weeks apart in the 10 months leading up to a major event. However, the internal crisis that had plagued the Athletics Federation of Nigeria contributed to Nigeria having 10 out of the 18 disqualified athletes at the games.

Since Nigeria began to participate in the Olympics in 152, the country has only won three gold, 11 silver and seven bronze medals. This is an abysmal record considering that at this world stage, Nigerians participate as representatives of other countries and win gold medals for such countries. Why must ours be different?

The battle for relevance and show of shame between the warring factions of the AFN leaderships led by Tonobk Okowa and Ibrahim Shehu Gusau contributed to the country’s abysmal poor outing in the competition.

The government must ensure that sport administrators in Nigeria are those who are not only passionate about sport development but are experienced and have the needed skills to impact the sector for better performance in continental and global competitions.

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