Sunday, July 25, 2021 1:00 pm
The current Olympics opened on 23 July in Tokyo, japan and it will hold till 9 August. Unless there are changes, it is expected to feature 33 competitions and 333 events at 42 different locations. To prevent the contraction of Covid-19 by participants, including Nigerian contingents, spectators are not allowed into the venues.
For the Nigerian sportsmen and women, what are their chances of performing excellently? TheNEWS confronted Chief Sunday Dare, the Minister of Youth and Sports Development.He said that it is often said the preparation for the next Olympics starts immediately. “So that preparation started four years ago. I wasn’t Minister then. But I can account for what has happened in the last two years. And when you say that the step up of activities and qualifications in the last three months, if you are narrow minded you will say that is the totality of preparation for the Olympics. You will say why are they preparing now?
He answered the question himself: “Excuse me. These athletes have been training in the last four years. They have attended more than five, 10 championships. They are in their schools. Some are in NCAA, which is one of the toughest college of sports in America. Some are in Europe. Some have gone into several camps. Some are in school but they are also running. They are athletes; they have scholarships. So it is a totality of individual preparation, private coaching, institutional preparation, the championships, the competitions. We just keep a tab on them. We also bring them to go for championships to represent Nigeria.
We support them. They have federations that work with them. So I am satisfied that our athletes have gone through the furnace to get to where they are now, to have qualified to represent Nigeria. They have spent years of preparing. Government has come in as at when necessary. And of course the Adopt an Athlete Initiative is part of it. But there are several other supports that we give them. We get calls, they need this, they need that. We just do it because that is our mandate. You see when they say a governor builds the road and people are praising him. Why are you praising him? He was elected as the governor to build the that road. That is what we’ve been doing. We are not making too much noise about what we so. Some of these seep into the media. But we’ve been there for them. Now all the efforts have been geared towards changing the narrative of our performance. And the results at the Olympics. What happened in the past we have left behind. Our aces are at the tip of the spear. The expectations are high. That is why when you benchmark it now, you look at the rankings, this country can boast of some of the best when it comes to certain sports. You look at the sprints – Blessing Okagbare. You look at the 100 metres hurdle – Tobi Amusan. You look at the long jump – Ese Brume. You look at the young boy, Uche, who for the first time is just going as a gymnast to represent Nigeria. He’s been a complete sensation on CNN. And I am hopeful that when he gets there, he’s just going to shine. You look at Taekwando, the young girl who, of course, just won gold recently in Belarus. Some of the best. I can reel off others, several of them. You look at the revolution in basketball- the first time ever that Africa would show up with the male and female basketball. And where are those teams coming from? From Nigeria.
So already we have seen this people proven themselves to be of Olympics standard. I am prayerful and hopeful that these young ones would bring their best. We have looked at their performances. I think Nigeria is going to show up. Nigeria is going to compete. But don’t forget the Olympics spirit. The Olympics spirit is beyond just winning a medal. The Olympics spirit is being able to go there, being able to compete in a friendly atmosphere. You know, having the sportsmanship spirit, the totality of that experience. But I am sure this Olympics story will be better for our country.”