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Is Nigeria still the giant of Africa?

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By Yemi Olus

Several weeks ago, the International Olympic Committee (IOC) formally awarded the 2022 Youth Olympic Games (YOG) to Senegal, making it the first ever African country to host the Olympics. The competition has been tagged ‘Dakar 2022’. Other bidders for the competition included Botswana, Nigeria and Tunisia.


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The IOC’s Evaluation Commission and the Executive Board determined that Dakar, Senegal, presented the best value proposition and the greatest opportunities at this moment in time. According to them, Dakar 2022 presented a visionary, ambitious and technically sound YOG project that addresses the long-term aims of the country. Senegal has a large youth population and views the YOG as a catalyst for engaging young people and developing the country’s sport and youth policy.

Zimbabwe’s most decorated athlete and current Minister for Sport, Kirsty Coventry, has been appointed as the Chair of the IOC Coordination Commission for Dakar 2022. The Games will hold in three cities: Dakar, Diamniadio and Saly. Senegal President Macky Sall disclosed that a 50,000-seat Olympic Stadium will be built for the competition likely to hold in May of that year.

While awarding the hosting rights to Senegal, IOC President Thomas Bach said: “Africa is united behind Senegal to host the Youth Olympic Games 2022. With a young population and a passion for sport, it is time for Africa, it is time for Senegal.”

Back in the day, Nigeria used to be regarded as the Giant of Africa because of the calibre of athletes the country has produced over the years in sports like Football, Athletics and Table Tennis amongst others. However, in the past decade, other African countries have been given the nod ahead of Nigeria as it concerns hosting of global competitions because they have shown better commitment in terms of their sports policies, presence of facilities, and level of organization amongst other factors. In 2015, Durban was awarded the 2022 Commonwealth Games and would have been the first African city in history to host the event. However, South Africa eventually pulled out of the hosting deal due to financial constraints.

In 2016 when the International Association of Athletics Federations (IAAF) decided to award one of the 14-legs of the Diamond League to Africa, Rabat in Morocco was chosen. In 2017, Nairobi, Kenya, hosted the final edition of the IAAF World U-18 Championships, and the competition was a success. The only other African nation to have hosted the World U-18 Championships was Morocco, in 2005. In the words of IAAF President Sebastian Coe, “We have just come from Nairobi where they hosted a spectacular Under-18 World Championships.”

Following a successful hosting of the World U-18 Championships, the IAAF decided to name Kenya as hosts of the 2020 World U-20 Championships.

This makes them the first ever African country to host the World U-20 Athletics Championships.

The fact that Nigeria is not being considered to host some of these global events only demonstrates the little faith the organisers have in our ability to successfully execute these championships. One doesn’t need to look too far to understand why.

For instance, the last-minute planning and execution of the African Senior Athletics Championships in Asaba back in August remains fresh in our memories as Nigeria trended on social media for the wrong reasons, and all of these happened because the organisers didn’t take time to adequately plan for some of these things.

To a large extent, the bad press came about as a result of the flight delays experienced by athletes from several countries, and it was something that could have been averted and properly managed with a little foresight.

Considering that a renovation exercise was being carried out at the Asaba Airport, thus limiting the number of flights that could be accommodated due to the lack of adequate lighting system on the runway, the organisers could have considered other alternatives such as flying to Benin or Owerri and then connecting to Asaba from these states. Even after the teams arrived Asaba following the delays at the airport, getting their accreditation tags and allocation to hotel rooms became a herculean task.

While addressing members of the press in Asaba, IAAF President Seb Coe disclosed that it is likely that an African country would host the IAAF World Championships in 2025. Ironically, while still smarting from the backlash that had resulted from poor organization of Asaba 2018, Athletics Federation of Nigeria (AFN) President Ibrahim Gusau signified Nigeria’s interest to host the 2025 World Championships.

He said, “With the gains of what we have done here (Asaba 2018), we have all it takes to stage the global event in 2025 and perhaps any other major sporting event on a large scale”. A country that could barely handle the hosting of a continental championship, is now bidding to host the World Championships. It’s quite amusing to say the least. I am no prophetess, but I already know that Nigeria will not be chosen as the first African host of the IAAF World Championships.

Three months down the line, the organisers are yet to redeem their pledge of rewarding all individual medallists from the Asaba Championships. Gold medallists were promised $3,000 each; Silver medallists $2,000, and Bronze medallists $1,000. Nigerian athletes that represented the country in Asaba are yet to get their full allowances from the competition. If we cannot sort out these seemingly little things, why should we be taken seriously as a nation?

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