The last twenty days in Nigeria have been days of untold torture for all those who hoped against all reasonable hope that the Nigerian contingent to the 2012 London Olympics would return with a medal. Considering our history at the global games, no one harboured expectations of a rain of medals, but no one equally thought that we would not win a customary bronze medal in the weightlifting or judo competitions or any of the relay races. As the games wore on, and expectations gave way to despair, Nigerians seemed to get the point – we can’t always get away with poor preparations and rely on individual expertise at international competitions. Countries that invest time and money in their athletes are not unwise; it all boils down to the old adage of ‘failure to plan being tantamount to planning to fail’.
However, in the midst of the disappointment that has trailed Nigeria’s dismal performance at the games, there shines the bright silver lining of Sports Minister, Bolaji Abdulahi’s analysis of what went wrong and how it can be corrected in future years. It is not very often that a government official openly admits the failures of the government to adequately prepare for anything, so while we remain disappointed with the outcome of the games, and while his analysis does not offer much respite or assurance that the future will be different, it is a little refreshing to know that public officials indeed recognize failures. Now that our athletes are returning home or to their bases around the world, two very familiar phrases are bound to fly around on report statements and the pages of newspapers: “it’s time to go back to the drawing board” and “all hands must be on deck”, but none of these will answer the question of what will be different at the next African Cup of Nations, or Commonwealth Games, or FIFA World Cup, or World Sports Championships or the 2016 Olympic Games.
Actually, there’s a more important question: “what if the Olympics came to Nigeria?” Aha! Is someone getting ahead of themselves here? Nigeria really flirted with the idea of hosting the 2010 FIFA World Cup when it was announced in 2002 that the competition will be zoned to Africa, but as with other serious global issues, we just don’t know how to put our best feet forward. But, what if we bid successfully for the Olympics and won? What stadiums will we employ? The Abuja stadium and … Port Harcout? Lagos? Kano? (Definitely not Kano). What airport would they fly in through? The congested Lagos airport with incessant power outages and no comfortable suites? Where would we house 50, 000 athletes and officials from 204 countries? What hotels would accommodate all the families, guests and spectators from around the world? How would we guarantee adequate healthcare provision for the hordes who will storm our country? What roads will the ply? What planes will they fly? What food will they eat and what water will they drink?
If the Olympics came to Nigeria, how could we be sure that Boko Haram would not seize the opportunity to finally assert themselves as the next Al Qaeda? How can we guarantee that the aspiring ‘Boyloafs’ and ‘Tompolos’ left in the Niger Delta would not capitalize on the massive influx of foreign kidnap targets? Where would we find the appropriate manpower and expertise to guarantee security of lives and property for the duration of the games? If Great Britain fretted endlessly about security challenges till the commencement of the games, having to summon an added 18, 000 trained officers at the near death, how would we get by? The Nigerian Police, the Nigerian Army and who else? Would Ateke Tom or Asari Dokubo be contacted to provide additional security, and of course weapons? How would we guard our borders to prevent all manner of contraband goods from entering our shores?
If the Olympics came to Nigeria, how many brand new cars will be ordered from Coscharis or BMW? 50, 000 cars, one for each athlete? And what will we do with them afterwards? Sell them at ridiculously cheap prices to government officials and their family members? How much will be awarded to Dangote’s companies to be the sole provider of bottled water, fruit juices, cassava flour, salt, sugar, detergents and whatever else he produces? How long would be plead with Wale Babalakin to have mercy on the hundreds of thousands who would need to travel the Lagos-Ibadan expressway for the duration of the games? What would we do with the coffins owned by Dana Airlines and their counterparts? Would the government have to declare a three-week public holiday to satisfy workers who can’t seem to get enough of the multiple public holidays that are declared almost weekly?
If the Olympics came to Nigeria, what swimming pools will Michael Phelps or Ryan Lochte swim in? What cycling tracks will accommodate thousands of BMX bicycles? What courses will Great Britain’s royal horses ride on? What indoor sports centres will host Water Polo, trampoline and gymnastics competitions? What heights will the unbeatable Chinese divers leap from? To which forests will we have to banish the rifle shooters? What spectacular shows would we put up for the opening and closing ceremonies? Of course, D’Banj and Wizkid would perform, but what else will there be? Oh, the Argungu fishing festival! Jide Kosoko will direct the show, maybe the ancient Atilogwu dancers will perform, and we would probably bring in the few remaining animals from the world-renowned Yankari Games Reserve to demonstrate the beauty of Nigeria’s diversity. There might also be some bottled samples of real crude oil explored by the shirtless boys of Bayelsa on display. And since host countries often perform well on the overall medals count, what sports will Nigeria invest in to harvest the medals? Or would we make new history by being the first host country that finishes without any medals?
There’s so much to be depressed about with the prospect of Nigeria hosting the Olympics or some other major global event someday, but it doesn’t have to be that way. If the 2024 Olympic games were zoned to Africa for the first time, would we be able to compete? What about Nigeria would we be celebrating in the opening ceremony? Having watched Great Britain celebrate its history through medieval times through the industrial revolution, the World Wars and modernization; having watched the glorification of British Literature, the functional Socialist health care system, British theatre and music in one show, how could Nigeria top that someday? The Beijing games are still remembered for the amazing display of Chinese culture throughout the ceremonies and competitions, as will the London Games for at least the next four years; attention now shifts to Rio de Janeiro in 2016, but would Abuja be able to welcome the world someday? What mistakes can we avert before then? What successes will we record? What will the world remember us for? Indeed, it is time to ‘return to the drawing board’; ‘all hands must be on deck’ from now on!
You can follow Faith Abiodun on Twitter @FaithAbiodun