Nigeria @ Rio Olympics and other Stories

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AIRTIME PLUS By Onoshe Nwabuikwu   airtimeplus98@gmail.com

We are back to sports today. Yay! I love sports, read football and regular readers of this column (also called Airtimers) know that I sometimes subject them through the ordeal of a sports/football talk, now and again. My excuse used to be (and still is) that I have to write about (or air) what I watch on air. Yet, I’ve managed not to talk about sports for a while now, from the African Nations Cup to the fairly recent 2016 Euro championship which held in France. Now, the summer Olympic Games are here. Even if I didn’t want to talk about sports, you’ll agree with me, some interesting things have happened in Rio, no?

#StrandedDreamTeam
The Olympics Games happen every four years. Never mind that the people in charge of sports in Nigeria have behaved as if the Games happen every year or that their actual due date is top state secret. For this year’s Olympics taking place in the Brazilian city of Rio, they forget to register Nigerian athletes. The ones they don’t forget are stranded!
The first sign that we were going to be having more than our usual fair share of disorganisation came from the male football team-the Dream Team. The female team didn’t qualify which was a shock because I was sure that as far as Africa was concerned, we had it covered.

Anyhow as you know, the Dream Team was stranded in Atlanta, USA due to issues of non-payment of flight tickets to Brazil. I say ‘issues of non-payment’ because whether it was that the payment hadn’t gone through or a case of ‘no network’ as we constantly experience in ‘cashless’ Nigeria, or even that the person carrying the bag of money got hit by a trailer, the Dream Team with their coach Samson Siasia got stuck and had to be bailed out by Delta Airlines. So, the Dream Team arrived Brazil with a few hours to their first match against Japan.

The Dream Team proceeded to beat Japan 5-4. And all was well in the land. People went on the overdrive about the so-called Nigerian spirit. Some were quick to remind anyone who would listen that in (Atlanta) 1996, the year Nigeria won gold through the original Dream Team, Nigeria had also arrived late.

Dalung of It…#UnitedStatesofNigeria
As if that wasn’t (celebration of mediocrity) enough, sports minister Solomon Dalung also jumped on the winning train. This is the same man reported to have said: “Our U-23 team suffering in the United States of Nigeria, what are (sic) there for? Because they are U-23 and they went to US and they are having problems, does that become our business?” With video evidence to boot.

Perhaps with skin as thick as can be, the red beret wearing Dalung who some have accused of being bereft of ideas saw nothing wrong in putting a whole national team through such a disgraceful and needless ordeal.

Mind you, Nigeria beating Japan in an age-related football match is not as out-of-this-world as many would have us believe. We also conveniently forget that in that match, Nigeria had been leading 5-2. And the final result was 5-4 which means Japan could have drawn level. So, let’s not forget to thank God for good luck too. Our second match against Sweden, we won 1-0. I left the match with a few minutes to go when it was looking like a stark choice between a heart attack or turning the TV off. And we lost our last match. As at the time of writing this, our quarter-final match against Denmark was yet to hold. True Nigerian that I am, I’m going to pray for victory for our boys. Even though if win, quite a few shameless administrators are bound to jump on the victory train, what else can I do?

Track Suits For Show
And if you thought helping to trend #strandeddreamteam was as bad as it could get (some would argue that being stranded was to bring out the Nigerian spirit in our boys); welcome to the opening ceremony of the Rio Olympics. Being someone from the old school, I love watching opening ceremonies even if I don’t watch anything else. You get to see the creativity of the host city/country. Even much more interesting, you get to see your country at its finest. We may never get on the medal table but at least we can put ‘Naija for show’?
This year because of the time difference, the opening ceremony for the Rio Olympics started some time around 12 am, Nigerian time. I managed to get one of my three daughters, the one who didn’t run fast enough to sit with me, wondering why anyone would not want to watch the opening ceremony of such a grand event as the Olympics.

After being entertained with a creative history of Brazil, I wouldn’t have minded a little carnival-display, we got down to waiting for Nigeria to match past. Unfortunately, because the Rio Olympics organisers chose to follow their Portuguese versions, countries like Yemen spelled as Iemen came before Nigeria. On the bright side, Kenya spelled as Quenya came after Nigeria. But it took about two hours to finally see Nigeria. And there we were, decked out in our bottom boxes-track suits! At the time, Nigeria appeared to be the only country who thought tracks were the best display of her fashion culture. Someone later pointed out South Africa too went in their tracks. If only we would follow South Africa’s lead in the development of our infrastructure.

But turning out in tracks wasn’t pre-planned. The story is that our kits were left back home and had yet to arrive Rio as at the opening ceremony. Which makes sense if you consider how long it took human beings in the form a complete football team to get to Rio. Who knows, we could convince the organisers to include a mid-ceremony where countries would showcase their fashion. Innovation or rather improvisation, is at the very heart of the Nigerian spirit after all.

Row, Row, Row…For Nigeria
No discussion about the Rio Olympics can be complete without giving special mention to Nigeria’s first rower, Chieruka Ukogu. The US-based Ms Ukogu, who according to media reports is putting medical school on hold to compete at Rio is making Nigeria’s first appearance in rowing. And she is sponsoring herself. All things being equal, she will win her next event (semi-final), which would’ve held on Friday. Now, this is a cause to pray about.

Skewed Olympics Reporting
I’m watching TV and there comes news that some athlete from a random country has won a medal in some random event. And I’m asking: Who wants to know that an athlete from Team Great Britain, old colonial ties notwithstanding, won bronze of all things? Why is it news worth scrolling all day on a Nigerian TV channel? What about Team Nigeria? Uncoordinated as we may be, surely there’s news about Nigerian athletes in Rio that’s worth sharing?

NOTICE BOARD

2017 AMVCAs: Call for Entries

“Africa Magic, in association with Multichoice and sponsors Amstel Malta, is announcing the call to entry for the 2017 and the fifth edition of the Africa Magic Viewers’ Choice Awards (AMVCAs). It’s billed to hold on the 3rd and 4th of March, 2017. Entries for the AMVCAs opened on the 1st of August and will close on the 15th of October, 2016.

According to Wangi Mba-Uzoukwu, Director for M-Net West Africa: “The African movie and television industry is brimming with exciting talent, and we contribute to the industry by not only giving these talents the platform to showcase their skills and passion, but by celebrating their achievements whilst also encouraging them to continue honing their craft.”
At the 2017 AMVCAs, a number of awards in different categories will be presented ranging from acting and directing to scriptwriting and cinematography. In all, there are 27 categories, with 16 open to viewers and 11 decided by the AMVCA panel of judges.

John Ugbe, Managing Director, MultiChoice Nigeria, expressed his delight at the growing success of the Africa Magic Viewers’ Choice Awards, saying: “The improvements seen in the industry since the inception of the AMVCAs cannot be ignored or overstated for us…as the success of these awards further showcases our commitment to recognising the amazing skills that exist in this ever-growing industry.”

Entry for the AMVCAs is free and the closing date for submissions is the 15th of October 2016.”
For more information on entry requirements and submission procedures, please go to www.africamagic.tv.

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“Minister of Labour, Chris Ngige meets Banks (Bank) CEOs, threatens to withdraw their licences over sack of workers.”
-AIT news headlines, Thursday August 11, 3. 26 pm-ish.