JThere is greater honour in participating at the Olympics than in winning. The Nigerian will tell you to go sell that to the American Marines. He will also tell you that the Olympic mantra, appropriately coined at the birth of the Movement, was only meant to serve that period of the founding fathers when there were no bucks to be made and the stakes for winning medals were not high.
These days, the Olympics have become priceless jewels. Even the richest professionals in other sports want to add an Olympic Medal to their chest as the crowning glory of their achievements, beyond the Dollars and Pounds. Otherwise, what would a Novak Djokovic or Serena Williams be looking for in the Olympics that does not offer a single Dollar in prize money?
So, to the Nigerian, winning medals is everything. Hence the success of sports administrations in the country is measured in the number of medals won at such festivals of sports. Not for Nigerians all the advertised niceties in some advanced sports cultures that appreciate the Games for nobler purposes – instruments of making the world a better place through the power of sports, creating healthy competition, resolving global conflicts, promoting global peace, assembling the global youths and promoting friendship amongst them and their nations, and extending the physical and spiritual capacity of the human to run faster, jump higher, be stronger – together!
It is clear that the success of the Tokyo Olympics will be measured in the number of medals Nigerian officials return with when the curtains are drawn on August 4. All the various ‘sins’ they committed will be forgotten and forgiven if the country returns with enough quality medals. This will quench the raging fire ignited by the indiscretion of a few unidentified officials in Nigerian sports, resulting in what many consider to be a scandal. It should, of course, be investigated, as the Nigerian Minister of Sports has assured, and be punished. Many stakeholders are already sharpening their knives for the kill when the team returns. That is, if they come back without enough medals to douse the anger and alter the present bad mood in the country.
A good number of medals will do the trick. With the number of athletes left in competitions, all eyes are on Blessing Okorodudu and Odunayo Aderunoye in wrestling and Ese Brume in athletics.
This morning the Nigerian camp of officials was in celebration. A first Medal is already in the kitty – an assured Gold or a Silver from the great semi-final performance of Blessing Obuorodudu.
One medal has changed the mood and atmosphere here.
More will definitely change the perception about how well the Nigerian teams have done at Tokyo 2020, assessments that have been beclouded by avoidable administrative blunders that will have to be dealt with after the games for all the sins of Tokyo 2020 to be forgiven.
‘The Eye’ is not in Tokyo to pass judgements but to observe and report what it sees, away from the tracks and the halls and the fields.
It sees some Nigerians already jubilating at the dying moments of the Games.
This is the second time Nigerian athletes would jubilate here. The first time was when they first arrived the Games Village and were ushered into what they described as ‘heaven on earth’.
The second is this victory by Blessing Oburududu. From the fire in her eyes, Nigeria’s first Gold Medal in Wrestling and at the Tokyo Olympic Games is within touching distance. By the time you are reading this, the deed may have been done.
Also, there is the real prospect of a second medal coming, also, from wrestling, from a second world-class athlete yet to fight when this report is being put to bed.
In Odunayo Aderunoye, Nigeria has a fiery fighter, one helluva competitor that leaves everything she has got after a fight on the wrestling mat. Unless a disaster happens to stop her, Blessing’s achievement plus the reception she has received from Nigerian officials here in Tokyo, so far, will propel Odunayo to a second Golden feat.
With those two medals, and an additional one from the long-jumping feet of Ese Brume, whose only obstacle to a medal would be her psychological frame of mind, the return journey home for the Nigerian contingent left in Tokyo would be a combination of absolute relief and exuberant celebration.
The celebration in Tokyo for now is cautious amongst the officials. At last, they can see the outlines of a redeeming number of medals.
The Minister of Sports is having his first taste of the vitriol from his primary constituency – the media. He has not had a shut-eye in the last few days, working the re-set and repair-buttons of his Ministry’s relationship with the athletes, in particular, for it is through them that redemption lies. He is also the deadweight of an NOC that has been rather invisible and too quiet at Tokyo 2020.
Chief Sunday Dare is fighting back doggedly and, yet, humbly by taking responsibility for general shortcomings, apologising to Nigerians, to the President of Nigeria and to all the athletes affected by the disqualification saga. He has directed that payments for all due and undue allowances be made. This is all in a bid to re-kindle and lift waning spirit amongst the last batch of athletes here on whom so much still depends.
He is also carefully courting his constituency because they could start to launch missiles of condemnation that could make the ‘Moscow Sex scandal of 1980’ that never really existed, look like child’s play.
The Eye saw him scurrying from group to group making peace, resolving crisis, calming nerves and tension and doing the needful. The man is losing a lot of sleep these days, and is never far from the athletes and their needs.
There are always two sides to a story. Unfortunately with what transpired within the Nigerian camps, no one is interested in the other side of the Nigerian story in Tokyo, for now. The first part leaves enough poor taste in the mouth.
But come to think of it, even the Nigerian story at Tokyo 2020 that looks pathetic could have a happy ending when critically examined beneath the superficiality of measuring success only by the number of medals won.
The Eye on Tokyo 2020 is keeping its eyes open to capture a deeper perspective of things that have gone on here with the Nigerian team and shall offer a second side to that story when the last battles here in Tokyo are fought and, hopefully, won by the athletes left in the Nigerian camp.
Surely, in the presence of more medals in Nigeria’s kitty, all cannot be doom and gloom.
Tobi Amusan in the hurdles put up a great effort. She needed a little bit of luck and extra motivation to have soared beyond her normal capacity. What we saw was impressive by every standard, except not enough to win a medal. Down the line of her career, that will surely come. She is one of the best in the world.
Enoch Adegoke, restored some of Nigeria’s faded glory in the 100 meters. Although Nigeria never won the Gold medal in that event at any previous Olympics, it was the pride of the country that Nigerian athletes were so good that 2 of them were in the line-up of 8 runners in one final.
For some time, Nigeria was missing in the global long jump scene. In Ese Brume, the country found a consistent performer. But the long jump is such a technical event that several elements must come together in one jump to take a jumper to the greatest heights. One centimetre short, or one centimetre long, off the take-off board, could make the difference between winning and losing, between a Gold medal and nothing.
So, in the solitude if its solitary hideaway high up in it’s idling observatory, in the absence of actions outside the competition venues, ‘the Eye’ will turn its attention to other things around the Games.
For now the camp is quiet again.