Lessons From Rio 2016 Olympics | Independent Newspapers Limited
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Lessons From Rio 2016 Olympics

Posted: Aug 24, 2016 at 2:00 am   /   by   /   comments (0)


By Sam Kargbo

The Rio 2016 summer Olympics that opened with a colourful ceremony on 5th August 2016 and closed with a memorable ceremony on 21st August 2016 did not impact me as much as the 2014 FIFA World Cup, also hosted by Brazil. Perhaps, it was because I did not have an idol in the ilk of Lionel Messi, the best player of that tournament, to tie or draw into the spirit of the Olympics. The American sensational swimming icon, Michael Fred Phelps II, and the Jamaican speed god, Usain St. Leo Bolt, did not inspire me enough to stay long into the nights to watch the games, though I believe there were billions of people across the continents who found succour and solace in the games. For a world faced with the worst of economic crisis and challenges, the Olympics are more than a diversion or placebo. Of course, for the athletes who participated in the 28 sports categories, Rio 2016 will surely be a landmark in their respective biographies. In the first place, irrespective of their performances on that world stage, the 11,544 participants representing 207countries are among the very best in the 306 events they participated in – out of a world population of over 7.4 billion people. Even the 120 countries that did not win any medal definitely drew some positives from the games.

America topped the medal list, expectedly, with 121 medals. Although it maintained the 46 Gold medals, America improved on its overall medals by winning 37 silver and 38 bronze medals as against the 28 silver and 29 bronze it won during the 2012 Summer Olympics in London. Britain dropped two gold medals, but improved its total medal tally from 65 to 67 and also beat China to the second position with 27 gold medals as against China’s 26. Although doping Russia maintained the fourth spot, its overall medals shrunk from 77 to 56.The most improved among the traditional ten is Germany, winning19 gold medals as against the 11 it won in the 2012 London games, climbing from the sixth position to the fifth. South Korea dropped from fifth in London 2012 to a distance eighth. Kenya was Africa’s undisputed golden chap, sitting next to Spain in the 15th position with a total of 13 medals comprising six gold, six silver and one bronze medals. When compared to the London Olympics where it came 28th with just two gold, four silver and six bronze medals, Kenya has every reason to feel better fulfilled. South Africa fell from the 24th position to the 30th, though its total medals rose from 6 to 10. Ethiopia also dropped drastically from 23rd to 44th, though its medals rose from 7 to 10. Sitting at the 51st spot is a new entrant, Cote d’Ivoire, with one gold and one bronze medals.

Although Nigeria fell behind Algeria, Niger, Egypt and Tunisia to share the 78th position with nine other countries, its single bronze medal was an improvement on the London 2012 Summer Olympics. Hopefully, the single bronze medal will commence the revival of sports in Nigeria. Since the Atlanta 1996 Olympics during which Nigeria came 32nd with 2 gold, 1 silver and 3 bronze medals, the country’s performance at the games started declining – coming 41st with 1 gold, 2 silver in Sydney 2000,  68th in Athens 2004 with only 2 bronze medals and coming 58th in Beijing 2008 with 2 sliver and 2 bronze medals. The worse outing was in London 2012 where the country won not a single medal. Many have blamed the country’s poor outing in Rio 2016 on the funny talking Youth and Sports Development Minister, Solomon Dalung. Although I do not have faith in him, I do not believe that anything could have been done overnight to substantially better the lot of the contingent to the games.

The Americans who came first in the games did not win by accident. The foundation of their victory is their university system. The medal winners were contributed by 78 universities, each competing for what they call bragging rights. Those who care to know could Google and read about Stanford University – the 4th ranked university in the world, whose students won 27 medals – to learn about why sports should be rooted in the university system. The other Californian universities starring medallists include California –with 21, Southern California –with 21 and UCLA –with 9. The other 11 most outstanding sporting universities are Florida – with 13,Texas – with 11, Georgia – with 10, Indiana –with 8, Pen State –with 7, Connecticut –with 6, Oregon –with 6, West Virginia – with 6, Washington – with 5, Arkansas –with 5 and Tennessee –with 5. The numbers include those in group games like basketball and volleyball.

With a collapsed university system that has forgotten the benefits of the Nigerian University Games Association (NUGA) or with the Ministry of Education abandoning the inter-secondary school sports, where can Nigeria possibly build world-class sportsmen and women?  Whereas Great Britain has already commenced its preparation for Tokyo 2020, Nigeria will spend the next four years playing games with sports and yet expect to win laurels. While Kenya has demonstrated the benefits of specialising in areas with comparative advantage, Nigeria will spread wide and thin and yet expect to excel.