By Daniel D’Amico
Several controversies surrounded Nigeria’s preparations for the Olympics in Rio de Janeiro. Soccer coach Samson Siasia was accused of human trafficking by the sports minister, Solomon Dalung, according to Vanguard. The team was also embarrassed when they had to be airlifted just a few hours before their first game against Japan. They went on to win the bronze despite their difficulties before the Games. Despite their success, the sports minister’s actions earned them a bad reputation as they were loved and cheered on by many.
The athletes also turned to social media to ask for money to compete in the games. The Breaking Post, a Nigerian news outlet, said that Nigerian authorities delayed the release of funds to athletes competing in the games. Seye Ogunlewe, a sprinter specializing in the 400-meter dash, asked friends and family for money upon hearing that she would have to get to Rio at her own cost.
Many of the athletes did not receive adequate money to secure passage to Rio. In addition to this, many Nigerian athletes did not receive kits with supplies they needed until the games were almost at an end. These kits had the clothing that they needed to compete in. As reported by New Telegraph, most athletes only received the official track suits that they marched in during the opening ceremony and were missing their official competition kits. Many had to buy kits as they did not receive theirs until they were back at their camps.
The second problematic aspect was the limited time that Nigeria allotted to preparing their athletes. Most major countries begin preparations for the Rio Olympics almost immediately after the previous Olympics have ended. Nigeria did not have concrete plans until less than a year before the Games.
In October, Alhassan Yakmut, the Director General of the National Sports Commission in Nigeria, said that preparations for the Olympic Games would begin in November of last year. He expressed a focus on athletes of diverse sports. According to The NEWS, another Nigerian news outlet, Yakmut said, “There is no central point of collection of athletes except the last two weeks to the Olympics.” They would have camps in Rio prior to the Games where they would continue to prepare.
Despite Yakmut’s goal of having competitors from a variety of sports, Nigeria did not show a great willingness to seek out new athletes, according to Gistmaster. Patrick Ibeh, the media officer of Nigeria’s Paralympic Committee, said Nigeria was only competing in powerlifting, athletics, and table tennis because Nigerian athletes typically have an advantage in these fields.
The head powerlifting coach, Prince Are Feyisetan, said, “We are aware that Nigerians always bank on us to win medals and we have always taken it as a challenge.” To a large extent, Nigeria relied on athletes who had proved themselves in London to compete in the Rio Paralympics. The same can be said for some of their representatives in the Olympics.
Although Nigeria did not prepare as well as they should have for the Games, there were some record-breaking performances, PM News reports. Table tennis player Segun Toriola, in his seventh Games, met the table tennis record for most Olympic appearances, and became the most capped African Olympian. Another table tennis player, Aruna Quadri, became the first African to reach the quarterfinals in the men’s singles event. Chierika Ukogu, a rower, became the first African to place fifth in the quarterfinals of the women’s single sculls.
Sports and athletics unite Nigerians, and many are hoping Nigeria will be able to remedy the problems faced before and during the Rio Olympics prior to the 2020 Games in Tokyo.