2016 Olympics: Lesson for the future


The 2016 Olympics officially known as the games of the XXXI Olympiad and commonly known as Rio 2016 may have come and gone but it was a major international multi-sports event held in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, from 5 August to 21 August 2016.

More than 11,000 athletes from 207 National Olympic Committees, including our dear country Nigeria took part. With 306 sets of medals, the games featured 28 Olympic sports, including Rugby sevens and Golf, which were added to the Olympic program in 2009.

What are the attributes of other countries towards ensuring success at the Olympics? High par capita Gross Domestic Product (GDP) and population, gender equality and focus on selected sports help in hauling in the medals at the Olympic games.

The Olympic games have become more inclusive with time. What differentiates countries which do well at the biggest sporting event in the world from those which do not? Olympians are not produced overnight.

A country needs significant economic resources to boost health outcomes and invest in long-term training and infrastructure. But wealth alone cannot bring medals as can be seen in the case of small but rich countries such as Luxembourg or Monaco. To produce athletes, a nation also needs a large population pool from which talents can be sourced and our country has that population.

The United States topped the medal table for the fifth time in the past six Olympics, winning the most gold (43) and most medals overall (121). Great Britain finished second for the first time in its history and became the first country in the history of the modern Olympics to increase its tally of medals in the subsequent games after being the host nation. China finished third and host country Brazil won seven gold medals, its most at any single Olympics, finishing in 13th place. This year’s Olympics also saw the first gold medal winners for Fiji, Kosovo, Puerto Rico, Singapore, Tajikistan, Vietnam and Independent Olympic Athletes from Kuwait, and 1,000th Olympic gold medal for the United States.

Nigerians were left disappointed about the Rio Olympics when at the end of the games and for the second successive Olympic games, we did not have a medal to show for participating in Track and Field events and other events except one medal in football.

There were signs and the cracks could be seen, but somehow there was little optimism the walls wouldn’t cave in and maybe could still hold on while the games lasted. Alas it couldn’t hold for long and all came crashing.

How did we get to this level that a country boasting of manpower cannot produce a medallist eight years on from the London debacle?

In 2008, Blessing Okagbare won bronze in Long Jump and the women’s 4x100m team of Franca Idoko, Halimat Ismaila, Gloria Kemasuode and Oludamola Osayomi initially won bronze which was later upgraded to Silver, and since then we give an arm and a leg just to win something.

Since Barcelona 1992, we have been ‘a Relay nation’. We somehow find a way to get on the podium, be it for silver or bronze in the 4x100m or 4x400m for each category respectively. Even, we got upgraded to gold in the men’s 4x400m team that competed at Sydney games after USA got disqualified for fielding an athlete who doped.

Medals were won not just in the relays but individual events as well: from Mary Onyali to Falilat Ogunkoya and Chioma Ajunwa, we had athletes whose individual brilliance stood them out.

However that’s not the case anymore. With the exception of Ese Brume who finished 5th in the women’s Long Jump and the women’s 4x100m team, no other Nigerian athlete got to the final of the events they competed for at the Rio Olympics.

While South Africa boasts of a 400m World Record (WR) holder in Wayde Van Niekerk, and another potential one in Caster Semenya, Ivory Coast have joined them in that league of top Athletics nation.

Isn’t it impressive that Ivory Coast are not relying solely on Murielle Ahoure?

The last time a Nigerian man got to the final of the 100m was in 1996 when Davidson Ezinwa finished 6th with a time of 10.14s.

At the moment Nigeria can’t scratch out such a performance, getting to a major final now seems like getting water out of the rock.

One would have thought that the horrors of London should have taught us valuable lessons on how to clean our house and get things in order. Four years later the house is dirtier and looks like taking many steps backward.

If we did not learn from that abysmal outing at London 2012, what is the assurance that Rio 2016 has taught us something? Unless something drastic is done, it could still be the same song playing out at Tokyo 2020.

It is not enough for the Sports Minister, Solomon Dalung to admit poor preparations and promise to establish a system that will enable early preparations for the next Olympic games in Tokyo, Japan. We must start now.

Since funding has always been the bane of our poor preparations and performance at the Olympics, Nigerian NewsDirect’s position is that the government should immediately set up a Special Olympic Fund to cater for subsequent Olympic games. That should be the system that will guarantee early preparations. Until the Special Olympics Fund is stablished, we will continue to sing same old songs.