…As Rio 2016 Olympic Games begin
By George Aluo
Nigeria is in Rio with a 75-man contingent of athletes for the world’s biggest sports fiesta that gets underway today.
Would it be a repeat performance of the show of shame in London four years ago, when Team Nigeria returned home without a medal or will the country re enact the golden outing of Atlanta 96?
It would be noted that Atlanta 96, where the nation’s soccer team won gold alongside Chioma Ajunwa (long jump) remained Nigeria’s best Olympics.
However, unlike the build up to Atlanta 96, Team Nigeria is going into the Rio 2016 battle totally unprepared for the task of winning medals.
Although Sports Minister, Solomon Dalung had at the ceremony, where Team Nigeria was handed over to the Nigeria Olympic Committee (NOC) by President Muhammadu Buhari said he saw the country winning at least five medals, analysts believed that Dalung’s hope is nothing but a false one.
Though Dalung’s hope might rightly be a false one, nobody can outrightly write off Team Nigeria, given the never say die fighting spirit of the average Nigerian athlete.
Former Athletics Federation of Nigeria (AFN) president Dan Ngerem is one of those who was not giving the Nigerian squad any chance. He insisted that it would take a miracle for the country to return from Rio with a medal. He in fact believed that Nigeria winning a medal would even be a disservice to sports, given the way we prepared ahead of the Games.
“We didn’t get anything right ahead of the Games in terms of preparation. We returned from London four years ago, talked and talked without implementing anything. We should go beyond talking and doing the right things. We are in for another round of jamboree. The usual four year ritual where some people go to burn tax payers money in the name of competing at the Olympics. We have failed to plan and what you get when you fail to plan is nothing but failure,” Ngerem said.
He wondered why a director general, who supervised the nation’s campaign at the Congo 2015 All Africa Games was eased out of the sports ministry less than a year to the Olympics.
“I don’t know of any country that can do things the way we do them here and get result. However who says the country can not stumble on one or two medals by sheer luck and doggedness of the athletes. That was what happened in the case of Chioma Ajunwa in Atlanta. If we are lucky, then one of our athletes could spring a surprise. But given the kind of talents we have, we should be challenging the United States of America for medals. Unfortunately, we are under achieving or not achieving at all because of poor planning,” Ngerem submitted.
Segun Toriola, who is in Rio as Nigeria’s oldest athlete to the Games at 41 had before hitting Rio with his teammates described Nigeria’s preparation as a shamble. Toriola who is making his 7th Olympic appearance said Nigeria had never prepared this way since he started representing the country.
In Toriola’s words: “This is simply our worst preparation since I started flying Nigeria’s flag. I cant understand the team not embarking on training tour ahead of the Games.”
Analysts believed Toriola should have been named Team Nigeria captain ahead of John Mikel Obi, who was last week named the captain by the Nigeria Olympic Committee (NOC).
Obi’s captaincy it would be noted generated so much controversy with the NOC initially washing her hands off the appointment. NOC scribe, Tunde Popoola who had denied that the Olympic body knew nothing about the appointment was to later owned up and accepted responsibility for the appointment.
Team Nigeria may not have prepared well, but when they file out in today’s opening ceremony match past, she would be coming out in a fine glittering attire that was donated to the country by Japan.
The Dream Team would also be stepping out in a brand new jersey supplied by NFF kit partners, NIKE. If only attires propel athletes to do well, then one would have gone to sleep, confident that the country will do well.
But in sports the truth is that how one performs would only depend on how well the person had prepared.
As the Games get underway, this is wishing Team Nigeria the very best of luck.
Games begin with spectacle
By MONICA IHEAKAM
the Olympics will get underway this evening with a 40 minutes opening ceremony at the legendary Maracana Stadium in Rio de Janeiro and will conclude with great Pele lighting up the Olympic Cauldron.
There is sure to be a carnival atmosphere in South America, as not less than 45 Heads of States, including United States of America Secretary of State, John Kerry attending the ceremony for the Summer Games, with 10, 500 athletes from 207 nations expected to compete in 206 events, and 28 sports.
Directed by filmmaker Fernando Meirelles, Rio’s showpiece was touted to be the biggest event in the world not just about Brazilian culture, but world culture. Number of featured performances were included in what would be one of the most watched live event of the year.
Rio’s Opening Ceremony did not have anywhere near the budget of London 2012, however, the spectacle – five years in the planning was not short on ambition. Some 400, 000 hours had been put in already, with volunteers and professionals alike wearing 12, 000 different costumes, which used an impressive 22 miles of tissue, according to the BBC.
It is expected to showcase a brutally honest reflection on life in Rio de Janeiro, with the world’s highest paid model, Supermodel Gisele Bundchen, who will accompany many other local Brazilian models doing the samba in as less clothing as possible to celebrate the Brazilian women and their beauties.
To be watched by an estimated 900 million viewers tonight, during the show, music, dance and 3D projections will trace the history of Brazil, it’s music, conquests and contributions to the world, using a cast of 300 professional dancers and 5, 000 volunteers. It will include a flyover of a replica 14 Bis, the first biplane built by Brazilian aviation pioneer, Santos Dumont.
From Bond to Olympics, Dame Judi Dench will also feature her own role in the opening gig.
The 81-year-old Oscar winner was thought to be set to team up with 86-year-old Brazilian actress, Fernanda Montenegro in a section during the show that will celebrate Brazil’s natural environment.
The show reportedly starts with a call for peace, before moving through Brazil’s jungles with the indigenous tribes to its cities and the colonizers – ending up in its slums for the main part of the ceremony.
It would be a reinterpretation of Brazil and will have a moment in which to show the Brazilian way of receiving people. The second is the ‘Garden’. Brazil lives on the largest green reserve in the world.
They will also be performing an important role, planting a sapling in a totem, which will grow to become a forest of 12, 000 trees in Deodoro Olympics Park, according to HYPERLINK “http://extra.globo.com/esporte/rio-2016/festa-de-abertura-dos-jogos-de-tirar-folego-tem-ate-perseguicao-policial-19823594.html”Globo.
In the night, the ceremony will use 2, 000 light guns, 3, 000 kilos of fireworks and 109 projectors to create its magic – not to mention the 12, 000 athletes who will march into the stadium behind their own little samba bands, waving their countries’ flags.
Pope Francis is hoping the Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro will inspire athletes and spectators alike to pursue solidarity.
He told pilgrims Wednesday at his weekly audience at the Vatican that the world is “thirsty for peace, tolerance and reconciliation.”
He was hoping the games can inspire everyone to pursue a prize that is “not a medal but something more precious – achieving a civilization in which solidarity reigns, founded on the recognition that we are all members of one human family.”