London Olympic Stadium
By Tunde Sulaiman
Earlier in the week a neighbour popped into my house to watch the on going European Championships taking place in Poland and Ukraine. However, when he came in SuperSport (which has been showing all the games live) was running its promo for events it plans to cover next month (July) with my entering neighbour just catching the tail end of the clip.
“Oga TS what is happening on the 27th of July I saw something flash on the screen showing July 27?” my neighbour asked.
I had to explain to him that that was when the Olympic Games was scheduled to kick off in London on that day.
“Oh so the Olympics are about starting?” said my neighbour clearly in the dark over the fact that the world’s greatest multi-sports fiesta was right around the corner with his own country, Nigeria joining more than 200 other nations in showing up in the British capital to battle for glory in the quadrennial event.
Incidentally, barely 24 hours after my neighbour’s incident, I was with a friend in Isolo, Olumide Oyebolu and the same conversation virtually cropped up.
However, this time around, Olumide, being a versatile athlete during his school days at Government College, Ibadan (GCI), had a love for sports and was thus aware that the Olympics was around the corner and was therefore right to ask me this: “TS why are you guys (sports journalists) not giving the (Olympics) Games publicity?”
But while I was cracking my brain to craft an answer that will also protect us (journalists) for this ‘lapse’; the former school boy striker answered his own question: “Is it because Nigeria did not qualify for the football event?”
Olumide had hit the nail on the head!
Painful as it is to acknowledge but the truth is that the bulk of us supposed ‘sports writers (or journalists)’ are actually ‘football writers (journalists)’.
And this is why once the nation’s U23 football team (also popularly called the ‘Dream Team’) failed to secure one of the three tickets allocated to Africa for the London 2012 Games; publicity for the event was bound to be compromised.
Had the so-called Dream Team made it, the media would have been in a frenzy reporting on all the training sessions and friendly matches the team would play in the build up to the Olympics so much so that virtually everyone living in Nigeria would have captured the Olympic bug.
Nigerians would have been bombarded with reports of how the players had promised to go one step further than they did four years ago in Beijing when they put up a gallant show before losing the gold medal match to a Lionel Messi inspired Argentina.
Ironically had the team embarked on overseas training stint it would not have been too difficult (of course depending on where they were camping) for a number of ‘news hounds’ to be present to bring to Nigerians ‘live’ the goings on in the Dream Team camp.
But wait a minute, can you actually blame us? Only a few days ago the biggest athletics event in the land, (the 66th All Nigeria Athletics Championship) took place in Calabar.
The championship brought the nation’s top athletes to the UJ Esuene Stadium to compete for the right to make the athletics team to next month’s London Olympics and yet the stadium was virtually empty.
Incidentally, only a three days before then, the same arena was jam-packed as fans thronged the venue to see the Super Eagles tackle the Wasps of Rwanda in a Nations Cup qualifier!
Two sporting events and yet two dramatically different responses to them by Nigerians. This scenario clearly reveals where the heart of Nigerians lie when it comes to their sports – football.
Unfortunately this is the situation for most of the world, which has made the ‘beautiful game’ the king of sports.
Can we change it? Highly unlikely but that does not mean that we should not support our athletes (no matter the discipline) whenever they don the Nigerian colours.
And so for people like my neighbour; yes the Olympics is just around the corner and yes Nigeria will be taking part and yes we should pray that those representing us do well.
Because at the end of the day they are actually Nigerians and anything they do that will bring glory to the country is bound to delight us.