Nigeria’s poor showing at the Olympics: Need for new approach to sports funding (1)

Great Britain which in 1996 finished as 36th on the Medals table with one gold medal while Nigeria was ranked 32nd on the table. However at the conclusion of the Rio Olympics, Great Britain finished 2nd overall with 27 Gold, 23 Silver and 17 bronze medals when Nigeria was ranked 78. So what has happened to Great Britain since 1996 to enable it improve dramatically while Nigeria has suffered a dip in fortune? What have we failed to do to build on the success of 1996? The answers to these questions do not require a crystal ball. We have simply failed to put our money where our mouth is. Nigeria as a country has failed to prepare for the funding of sports”.

At the close of the 2016 Olympics Games held in Brazil, Nigeria ranked 78…on the final medals table with only one bronze medal to show for its participation. This dismal performance many not have come as a surprise to some given the chaotic state of the country’s preparation for the games and the abysmal funding available to its athletes. Prior to the start of the games, it was reported that athletes billed to represent the country had been asked to source for funds to pay their airfares to the venue of the games in Brazil. While the accuracy of this report was denied by sports ministry officials, subsequent events and revelations at the games proper called into question the level of funding available for our athletes.

Firstly, the entire Nigerian team turned up at the opening ceremony in tracksuits while their foreign counterparts were adorned in attires designed to showcase the rich culture of their various countries. The reason for this anomaly was stated to be the inability of officials to ensure that the teams attire arrived Brazil on time for the opening ceremony. Second up was the late arrival of the country’s football team. The team arrived Manaus, the venue of its opening march against Japan, seven hours to the start of the game. The delay was attributed to logistics problems which were in turn occasioned by paucity of funds. When the games began proper, the team  reportedly suffered yet another embarrassment when its members were not allowed to depart their hotel by hotel officials who insisted on full settlement of the teams bills. A prominent member of the team was reported to have picked up the bill. In an interview granted to a national daily, the Coach of the team described the poor state of affairs which characterised its preparations thus:

“We lacked a lot of basic things that we could have had. There were delays with the flight arrangements, and travelling the same day we had a game and all that. Those are things that won’t allow a team to do anything. That means we are not well-organised. When those that we would be playing against arrived there (Brazil) a week before, we arrived on the day of our first match. ..We’ve been wearing one set of jerseys for two years. We used one set of jerseys for matches throughout the competition because we didn’t have any other set of jerseys. We played with one set of jerseys in Senegal (African U-23 championship) to qualify (for the Olympics)..We didn’t have water to drink; we found a way to get water to drink because we wanted to make sure the players were perfect. They wanted to kick us out of the hotel, I begged the woman in the hotel so that we could stay before we got our tickets to travel. “

 

NIGERIA FAILED TO BUILD ON SUCCESS OF 1996 AND THE EXAMPLE OF GREAT BRITAIN

Yet this poor showing is coming two decades after the sterling performance at the 1996 Atlanta Olympics where Nigeria recorded a total of five medals inclusive of two Gold medals.  At that time it was felt that Nigeria would build upon its success at that games and use the performance of its athletes at those games as a launch pad for success at future olympic games. Interestingly the story is different for another country which was ranked lower than Nigeria at the Atlanta Olympics. That country is Great Britain which in 1996 finished as 36th on the Medals table with one gold medal while Nigeria was ranked 32nd on the table. However at the conclusion of the Rio olympics, Great Britain finished 2nd overall with 27 Gold, 23 Silver and 17 bronze medals when Nigeria was ranked 78. So what has happened to Great Britain since 1996 to enable it improve dramatically while Nigeria has suffered a dip in fortune? What have we failed to do to build on the success of 1996? The answers to these questions do not require a crystal ball. We have simply failed to put our money where our mouth is. Nigeria as a country has failed to prepare for the funding of sports. To bring this point home, it is important to examine what Great Britain did differently after its dismal outing in 1996.

After the debacle of 1996, the British Government under the leadership of Prime Minister John Major set up a National Sports Lottery with a percentage of the earnings from the lottery going towards the funding of several national concerns including the arts and sports. Prior to that time the average national spending on sports was in the region of five million pounds. However with the coming of the lottery funding for sports increased to the hundreds of millions. Examining the link between the increase in funding and the medal haul at the recent Olympics, the BBC wrote as follows:

“The sight of Team GB above China in the Olympic medal table has led some to heap praise on John Major, whose government took the decision to launch the National Lottery. The lottery has poured money into sport in the UK…..In addition to funding athletes directly, UK Sport gives money to the governing bodies of selected sports – such as British Swimming – to spend on training facilities and trainers, such as Adam Peaty’s coach, Mel Marshall.

Reportedly, the UK government spent just £5m per year funding Olympic sport before the 1996 Atlanta games. But UK Sport spent £54m on elite sports in the run-up to the Sydney games in 2000 – where Team GB won 28 medals and ranked 10th. By the time of London 2012 it was spending £264m, and Team GB came third in the medal table, with 65 medals.

“Perhaps the strongest evidence is to compare the results Team GB are achieving now and compare them to Atlanta 1996 – the last games before National Lottery funding was introduced when we won one gold medal and came 36th in the medal table,” says a UK Sport spokesperson.

Next week I will address how Nigeria can replicate a similar system of funding here with the same level of results.

 

 

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