Planning To Fail
Last week, the Athletics Federation of Nigeria, AFN President Chief Solomon Ogba said AFN is doing everything possible to ensure that Nigeria performs better in the track and field event of this year’s Olympic Games Scheduled to take place in London in August.
But he revealed that scarcity of funds has prevented it.
According to Ogba, AFN has lined up various programmes to prepare athletes for the 2012 Olympic Games but pointed out that the federation is finding it difficult to prepare the athletes for the world event due to lack of funds.
“It is sad that with six months to the Olympics, the AFN has not received any money from any quarter both from the government and corporate firms for the preparation of Nigerian athletes. We will be glad if funds can be released now. We also want to call on corporate organizations to assist us financially.”
“We have athletes who can get to medal zones or possibly win medals in the Olympics if they get good preparation. The problem we are having now would have been averted if Nigeria has a long term plan, like four years ahead of the Olympics. He also suggested the NSC plan a budget for the Games every year.
“No provision was made in the 2011 budget for the 2012 Olympics. This is not supposed to be so. That is the biggest challenge we are facing now. The AFN is waiting for the approval of the fund for the 2012 Olympics, which we submitted since last year. The money we are looking for remains about N350 million,” Ogba revealed.
Sports analysts are worried that the country has not learned from its past mistakes. While other countries like the United States of America USA and Jamaica, started preparation right from the day the last Olympic closed, Nigeria is yet to commence preparation due to lack of funds. Information gathered shows that most countries prepare their athletes in the years before the Olympic year. According to experts, the Olympic year are meant to fine-tune preparations for athletes.
Meanwhile, Ogba has told Nigerians who are expecting miracle not do so as their disappointment could be immeasurable. “The Olympic Games is not an inter-house sports. We can only win medals at the games if we are serious and begin our preparations now. Except we do the right thing, we will not win any medal at the games.” Ogba did not mince word in stating the obvious.
Late Nigerian sprinter and 400metres specialist, Sunday Bada, who won gold at the I997 World Indoor Championships had earlier said that the key to the country’s success at the games is for the government to release training grants to athletes on time.“I appeal to the government to release fund for the athletes on time. The fund is called training grants and should be given to the athletes before the games and not when they get to London. That is the normal practice all over the world. Other countries have begun preparations for the games while Nigerian athletes are still waiting to receive training grants.
Atlanta 1996 Olympic gold medalist, Chioma Ajunwa also decried the state of preparation of the country’s athletes towards the London 2012 Olympics Games. She said it was a pity that plans towards the games are not on track. She said that if the NSC fails to plan, then it means it is planning to fail. She also disclosed that China began preparation for the Beijing 2008 immediately after the South Korea Olympics ended.
The Olympian wondered why the N350 million released for the preparation of athletes has not gotten to the federation. She said it was the same story in her days if not for her manager, Chief Segun Odegbami who sponsored her in preparation to the Atlanta Olympics. Ajunwa we recall won gold medal at the Olympics. The Police officer however pleaded with the administrators to release the funds in order to allow the athletes commence preparation in earnest. “I am appealing to them in the interest of the athletes and country to release fund for preparation and allow these athletes embark on foreign tour for the necessary exposure.”
Also worried is the 2006 Commonwealth Games triple jump silver medalist, Otonye Iworima. Iworima, who finished the 2011 All-Africa Games with a bronze medal after jumping 13.53 metres in Maputo, Mozambique, said poor preparation would definitely affect Nigeria’s performance at the Olympics. She said it is worrisome that the National Sports Commission has not released funds for athletes’ training ahead of the London 2012 Olympics with five months left to the event. “It is already getting too late to start preparation for the Olympics. Many of the athletes have started since last year but we need to intensify our preparation by competing in high profile events. Athletes cannot experience such difficulty with a few months to the games and be expected to come back with medals from London,” she complained.
AFN president said he is more interested in seeing the federation do well in the Olympics hence he and his board members sourced for money to participate in the qualifications for the Olympic proper. Ogba claimed that though they have not gotten a dime from the NSC the fund needed can be sourced from the private sector especially if they discover that they are not getting any response.
Meanwhile, the AFN has lined up activities to select the final list of those who will represent Nigeria at the Olympics. Athletes will have to qualify for the games when the IAAF indoor season begins in late February and they are expected to be released on June 22 when the final trial would have been completed.
Iworima revealed that she has been preparing to feature in the indoor games so as to qualify for the Olympics but lack of funds limited her activities. “I was not happy with my third-place performance in Maputo but only a regular training and adequate funding will help me be at my best.”
Some athletes who also spoke on condition of anonymity complained on the state of facilities at the stadium. Those who trained at the National Stadium, Lagos lamented the poor state of structures.
Sports analysts are disturbed that despite the poor results recorded in the past due to shoddy preparations, authorities in sports have made no or little effort to make amends. They maintained that the NSC has planned to fail because countries which are prepared to win laurels started preparations about four years ago when the last Olympics ended.