President Muhammadu Buhari and other top officials of the Presidency bade the Nigerian team to the Rio De Janeiro Brazil Olympic Games goodbye on the night of Tuesday July 19, 2016 at the Presidential Villa, Abuja, charging our athletes and officials to ensure that the good image of the country does not suffer as a result of misconduct, particularly drug use.
The President, who was given the traditional investiture as the Grand Patron of the Olympic team otherwise known as Team Nigeria, told the delegation: “The eyes of the global community are on you and as such, you should desist from acts that could dent the image of our great country, Nigeria.
You are very aware of recent doping allegations which cast aspersions not only on the individual athletes but on their home countries. Please keep Nigeria clean.”
The main theme of the President’s message to our sports ambassadors – maintaining the good image of the country – obviously runs alongside his regime’s anti-graft efforts.
It harps on the old saying that a good name is better than silver and gold (and bronze).
It is far better, if we return from the Games without a medal, than win laurels stained with drugs. The emphasis on a good name holds a lot of water.
Nigeria cannot afford the kind of scandals that Russia is facing as a result of perceived institutional tolerance of drug use among its athletes, which led to the disqualification of her 68 athletes from the Rio Games.
Poor preparations have lowered expectations, even among some officials of Team Nigeria, with boxing coach, Obisia Nwankpa and Wrestling Federation President, Godwin Igali, predicting an outing comparable to that of the 2012 London Games when Nigeria came back without a single medal.
However, President of the Nigerian Olympic Committee (NOC), Alhaji Habu Gumel, is upbeat that Nigeria can actually surpass the Atlanta 1996 Games in which we won two gold, one silver and three bronze medals; our best record so far.
With poor finances, which led to late camping activities, Nigeria is left with little option but to maintain dignified conduct, ensuring that our athletes do not illegally desert camp, which is another source of worry.
There is still honour in participation. However, the country needs to take early and adequate preparations for all sports outings serious.
Sports is not just a great source of recreation, it is also a wonderful image builder and means of gainful youth employment.
It is also big business. We must go back to the days when Nigeria was a force to be reckoned with in sports, not just in Africa but the world at large. We bid Team Nigeria safe journey to Rio.