By SOC Okenwa
The London (2012) Olympic Games ended last Sunday spectacularly and glamorously as it all began late July with pomp and pageantry. The closing ceremony was a great spectacle to behold: wonderful fire-works, musical concerts by highly talented British pop stars including the Spice Girls. Of course the British pride was in full display exhibiting the remarkable centuries-old British tradition of excellence and resilience! Britain is great indeed!
Remember the 2nd World War and the German Nazi’s desperate attempt to bomb London into capitulation? The late ‘diable’ Adolphus Hitler had enviously declared that Britain and the British were not ‘great’ but little people of little country calling themselves great! To which the then charismatic PM Sir Winston Churchill had responded defiantly: “Who do they think we are….we can never surrender!” In the end the Nazi’s diabolical plan of ruling the world for a thousand years was soundly defeated by democratic forces hell-bent on safe-guarding capitalism and pluralism in the world.
London is, of course, a great city of charm! Some people had even described the British capital city as a “city of lust!”. Paris in France is known as the “city of love” in contrast. Hosting the 2012 30th Olympiad London showcased itself as a burstling cosmopolitan city whose unofficial designation as the ‘financial capital’ of the world sticks as a badge of honour. London is home to the historic majesty of the Queen and the Union Jack — the flag synonymous with centuries of dominion and colonialism and neo-colonialism, nay, imperialism.
London is home to millions of foreigners (including Nigerians) who eke out a living under the London’s blue sky. After the successful coup d’etat of 1983 in Nigeria led by Gen. Muhammadu Buhari then President Shehu Shagari was smoothly ‘arrested’ and placed under house arrest. But some of his smart corrupt henchmen had fled in all directions especially the most-corrupt: Umaru Dikko. Alhaji Dikko fled to London where he applied for political asylum. But Gen. Buhari would not tolerate the fugitive hiding in London and enjoying the looted public funds in his possession.
So a plan was hatched on how to ‘deport’ Dikko back home — dead or alive, legally or illegally, with or without the British consent — so that he could face justice for his malfeasance and economic crimes against the state! Behold, the ‘crating’ option was chosen as the best method to repartriate the big thief back home for trial. But the daring execution failed at the last minute and Umaru Dikko was saved an embarrassing embrace with the martial draconian decrees and laws back home. The failure to crate Dikko home sparked a diplomatic row between Lagos and London then.
Ladies and gentlemen, fellow Nigerians, it is stale news that Nigeria, the “Giant of Africa” did not win a single medal in London 2012! What a big shame! Our green-white-green flag did not fly anywhere and our ‘Arise O Compatriots’ did not register in the conscience of any Olympian! We are indeed the giants of Africa — giants in fraud, giants in corruption, giants in terrorism, giants in falsification of age and official records, giants in rigging and annuling elections, giants in kidnappings and killings! Giant of Africa, Team Nigeria, we hail thee!
Sports in general is a major competitive industry these days and billions of dollars of investments are thrown into it annually by serious countries. We saw it in London 2012; the United States and China battling it out for the topmost position on the overall medal table. Whenever a gold is won in the Olympics traditionally the flag of the winner’s country is played aloud gloriously and the flag hoisted above those of the silver and bronze winners.
As the stunning spectacle of the London games came to an end last Sunday without any major incident the Olympic exploits of two living legends will forever endure: the ‘bullet’ Usain Bolt and the ‘fish’ Michael Phelps. Again the Mexican soccer team deflated the arrogance and superiority complex of the Brazilians by trouncing the ‘Pele’ boys in the finals. The American female football team equally extracted their revenge from the Japanese girls that ‘stole’ glory from them in the last female World Cup in Germany.
The final officially-established medal table has the United States re-establishing her dominance with a total 104 medals followed closely by their arch-rivals China with a total haul of 87 medals. The third and fourth positions are occupied respectively by Russia and Great Britain. African countries on the medal table include Kenya, Ethiopia, South Africa, Tunisia, Egypt, Uganda, Botswana and Gabon in that order. Nigeria with Blessing Okagbare recorded zero medal!
How can a great country like Nigeria with over 200 million people fail to produce men and women that will make the country proud in international sporting engagements like the Olympics? For cring out loud Olympic Games happen every four years, so nobody should ever say (s)he is caught unprepared. It has to do with our mentality of always justifying failure and providing lame excuses! Poor infrastructures on the ground coupled with poor organization and preparations always rob Nigeria glory in every opportunity for the country to smile and celebrate.
There is an urgent need for aggressive sporting programmes aimed at grooming world champions; sports facilities should be put in place and talents across the lenght and breadth of the country ‘hunted down’ and trained in readiness for the next Games in four years. In China it was recently reported that the success of the Dragon in the Olympics could be linked to the state policy of ‘catching them young’. The Chinese government and the sports authorities ‘snatch’ future world champions from their parents as soon as they are found to have some talent in any field. In the custody of the communist state these young lads are taken very good care of and trained the hard way to go out there and compete with the very best and triumph!
The spectacle of seeing on TV some Nigerians competing for the Olympic glory of the Union Jack made a patriot weep about our inadequacies as a nation in search of greatness. The compatriots wearing the national colours of other countries included Temi Fagbenle, Lawrence Okoye, Abdul Buhari, Eniola Aluko, Peter and Oluwadamilola Bakare, Phillips Idowu, Christine Ohuruogu, Anyika Onuora. Norway presented another compatriot of Igbo extraction donning the Scandinavian country’s flag.
The syndrome of brain drain in many African countries have hit the world of sports culminating in black men and women winning laurels for their host generous countries instead of their lands of birth! It is both shameful and disheartening. Our best brains are outside the shores of Africa and those, the new generation, who should be cared for and provided the educational and sporting means to achieve greatness are left to become Boko Haram disciples, armed robbers, kidnappers and fraudsters!
The professional politicians do not care about us or about our country! What interests them most is the constant flow of oil from Niger Delta which in turn guarantees petro-dollars which they share among themselves while mouthing ‘transformation’ and democracy dividends. The hypocrisy of our leaders must be condemned here in strongest terms; these scoundrels in Abuja have squandered the great potentials Nigeria once had and it is regrettable indeed! How did we get ourselves into this mess, this quagmire?
As an African who loves sports (especially boxing, soccer and wrestling) our lackaidaisical preparations for Olympics are something to worry about. While the talent is found in the continent much like the natural resources Providence deposited in our backyards, we are always bereft of ideas lacking in transformational vision. Without new ideas and a well-defined vision how do we make an impact and save our ignorant peoples from the current generalised poverty killing millions in a landscape blessed with arable lands?
The London Olympics 2012 will be remembered because of a new country — barely one year old — in Africa called South Sudan. The only representative of the country, Guor Marial, competed without his country’s flag! Marial, 28, ran as an independent as the new nation of South Sudan is yet to join the IOC movement. The Arizona, US-based African athlete had refused bluntly to run for Sudan declaring thus: “I’m feeling great to be able to bring the name of South Sudan (to the Olympics) and to represent them”! Any greater honour for one’s country?
The memories of the Olympics must include the 13-year old Togolese girl, swimmer Adzo Kpossi, who came determined to prove a point. As the father lamented the lack of sports infrastructures in Lome for Adzo’s training sessions he added confidently looking ahead towards the future: “As she is the youngest athlete, I want her to show that it’s not age but determination, the love of the sport which prevails.” Miss Kpossi could be the world’s best in the distant future with good grooming and training.
The 10,000m Olympic Champion happens to be one Mohamed Farah, a Somali-born blackman who won two Olympic gold medals for Great Britain and Northern Ireland (Team GB). He had emigrated to England from Somalia at age 8 in 1993. When Farah won convincingly by breasting the tape well ahead of others he tapped his ‘hairless’ head at four occasions while still in motion! His daughter and white wife soon moved down the track to congratulate and celebrate with him.
The memories of the London 2012 Olympic Games must include the never-die spirit of one South African disabled sprint runner Oscar Pistorius. The 26-year old known as the “blade runner” and “the fastest man on no legs”, has a double below-knee amputation and runs with the aid of Cheetah Flex-Foot carbon fibre transtibial artificial limbs. When I saw him on TV running for gold for the Rainbow nation emotion overwhelmed me. If Pistorius were to be a Nigerian then he should have perished the thought of competing in the Olympics with able-bodied men and women.
The London 2012 sports fiesta memories also include the 19-year-old Saudi woman runner Sarah Attar who competed and finished last in the 800m heats. With her pretty unconventional dress (where instead of the usual shorts and T-shirt she was fully covered wearing a white scarf that covered her hair) she was given a loud ovation inside the Olympic stadium. Irrespective of the timing Sarah clocked she made history for herself by becoming the first Saudi woman athlete to run on the track at the Olympics!
Also worthy of inclusion in the memories of London 2012 is the announced disappearance of seven Camerounian athletes who participated at the event; they were said to have disappeared from the Olympic Village moments after losing their hopes for any medals. Economic reasons could be adduced here for their desperation for ‘asylum’ in the UK. Cameroun, their country, is ruled for decades now by a civilian dictator called Paul Biya whose flamboyant wife reminds one of a modern Jezebel!
The Olympics memories this year ought to accommodate one Caster Semenya, 21, South African, subjected to gender test following her 2009 victorious outing winning a world title in athletics. Suspended for close to a year by IAAF over this knotty gender controversy she was cleared to compete again in 2010. Watching Semenya talk on TV made one believe that there was indeed room for suspicion. Her muscular physique, ‘non-feminine’ running style and her deep man-like voice marked her out as a ‘man’ in a woman’s body!
Apart from being reputed as the Reggae capital of the world (having produced the late reggae legend and prophet Bob Nestor Marley) Jamaica is fast gaining notoriety as the track and field powerhouse: self-proclaimed “living legend” Usain Bolt, Yohan Blake, Warren Weir, Shelly-Ann Fraser-Pryce. With these sports stars on parade the Jamaican national flag flew high in London and her anthem blared forth inside the Olympic Stadium as a nation and its people bask in the euphoria and glory of a promise kept and talent exploited to the very limit.
Ever since the 1996 Kanu Nwankwo-inspired Atlanta Olympics men’s football golden miracle Nigeria has never had it so bad an outing. Sports keep regressing due to administrative blunders and incompetence and above all lack of motivation for sports men and women. Where is the motivating spirit when one is not safe in his own country? What demoralises an athlete or sportsperson more than winning gold or silver or bronze for his fatherland only for his nation’s government to play him ‘419’ by giving out an empty promise of reward?
According to credible reports Nigeria had spent the whooping amount of US$14 Million for the Games’ preparations! Just imagine what such huge funds would do if it were directed towards building low-cost houses for the middle class or ‘patching up’ our decrepit road networks! Think about what such big budget would have done in the construction of new health centres or schools in the hinterlands. But we blew it, wasted it — with the huge chunk ending up inside the pockets of officials and agencies!
Mallam Bolaji Abdullahi, Sani Ndanusa, Patrick Ekeji and other Nigerian officials went to London to share huge estacodes and watch the London bridge! Sorry, to see the Queen! In Rio (Brazil) four years from now, maybe, these corruptible elements heading our sports administration would have been swept away for professionals and patriots to take over. The Giant must rise again!
As the Mayor of the city of London, Boris Johnson, handed over the Olympics flag to the Mayor of Rio de Janeiro Eduardo Paes it was in the spirit of sporstmanship and politics of sports too. And as the millions of athletes from more than a hundred countries headed home last week from London (with sweeth memories of London’s sights and sounds etched in their consciousness) it is Goodbye London! And Welcome Rio 2016!!
SOC Okenwa can be reached via email@example.com