Odegbami: Eye on Tokyo 2020 – DAY 4

Odegbami: Eye on Tokyo 2020 – DAY 4

Hope, still in Nigerian camp.

Last weekend Enefiok Udo Obong, the Legend, one of a handful of Nigerian athletes with an Olympic Gold medal around their necks  and attached to their names, wrote a masterpiece article in his column in one of the newspapers.

It was a very objective projection of Nigeria’s prospects at the 2020 Tokyo Olympic Games. He must have looked into a Crystal ball and must have seen the future because on Day 4 of the Games his analysis have been bullseye.

On Day 4 of the Olympics, one can safely agree with him that Nigeria’s projected medals ‘haul’ of 3 to 5 medals at the end of the Games, would not come until the second half of the Games beginning next week, when the finals of the Wrestling and Track and Field athletics would take place.

So far, judging from realistic projections, the contingent as a whole has not disappointed. Those that have ‘lost’ were not expected to win medals anyway, but to give a good account of themselves, which they have done, in the everlasting spirit of the Olympic movement that places premium on participation and jot on winning.

The Nigerian basketball men’s team that lost to Australia in their first match can still win a few games and sooth the ‘pain’ of most Nigerians that prematurely elevated them to podium status because they won two impressive exhibition matches on the eve of the Olympics. Even pundits started to readjust betting odds in their favour.

The athletes (all of them) have put up what is their best. The compete only the best is not easy at all. The real battle for medals for Nigerians wiĺl commence in the coming days.

The Minister of Sports, Sunday Dare, has been visiting the Athletes, lifting the spirit of those that have lost and boosting the morale of those that will make his prediction of a medals’ haul come to fruition. So, the Minister has been visible and very busy, this past Sunday.

*Sports Minister, Sunday Dare (c) with Table Tennis players in Tokyo

The Eye is attempting to follow and corner him, and to get his perspective on several issues.
He is attending his first Olympic Games, probably.  What would be going through his mind as the reality on ground in Tokyo (4 days into the Games proper and Jo medals) confronts expectation and speculation?  When he takes off the toga of a minister and adorns that of a journalist that he is primarily, what would he make of the Games and Nigeria’s performances so far? How would he rate the Olympics and its added value to the affairs of humanity, or of participating  countries, or even of a host country? With the various crisis that hit the present Games, Tokyo 2020 becomes a useful case study!

What will he be taking away from Tokyo that would help the future of sports development in Nigeria? Now that he has been here, what would he do differently in Nigeria when he gets back? What would he have done differently, had he known?
There are many questions to launch at the man when hè responds to ‘the Eye’ that is on the prowl all over Tokyo, almost stalking him amidst his crowded programmes here, for a chitty-chat.

Meanwhile, Funke Oshonaike may not have won an Olympic Medal, but on Sunday, along with 5 others from other countries, the International Olympic Committee, IOC, at a special event, recognised her place in the Olympics and awarded her a special plaque of honour officially reserved for only a few persons in the world.

*Oshonaike with her special plaque

That’s where some Nigerians missed the point. Those that claimed she, at 46, was too ‘old’ to have been taken to the Olympics, forget that she took part in qualifying competitions and earned her place on the Olympic team purely on merit.

Medals apart, her presence in Tokyo has become a part of the history of the Olympic Games, and a deserved honour to herself and to Nigeria. What she achieved by being a part of the Nigerian contingent in Tokyo cannot be bought with all the looted money in Nigeria.

The Olympic games are not only for those with the prospects of winning a medal. If that were the case, there would not be more than a few hundred athletes from around the world competing. Of the 11,000 athletes in Tokyo there will be a scramble for the slightly over 1000 medals (Gold, Silver and Bronze) on offer. Some athletes  will, of course, take away multiple medals, reducing the number of eventual winners.

So, Funke was recognised as the first African female athlete in history to join the 7th Club, the exclusive class of athletes that have attended the Olympic Games 7 times.

Her next port of call could be the Guinness Book of World Records, where she might turn out to be the first female table tennis player in the world to attain the same feat.


Several athletes in many of sports have come to the end of their official Olympic journey on Day 4.
‘The Eye’ is already hard at work to get several of the athletes, as well as the Honourable Minister, for a chit-chat on their Tokyo 2020 experiences, so far.  It is already combing the 7th and 8th floors of the highrise building allocated to the Nigerian team. The floors are exclusive and no athletes from any other country can access the floors even if they are in the same building.

The world cannot forget the 1972 Munich Olympics massacre of Israeli athletes and coaches by a Palestinian terrorist group called Black September, made possible by the lax security into the accommodation facilities in the Games Village. Since then, athletes from different countries never mingle in their different residential quarters.

The quarters of the Nigerian contingent overlooks the sea in the distance, as one looks across from the balcony of their rooms between neighbouring highrise  buildings.

The quest for an Olympic medal is the greatest motivator now for the athletes that survive the first week. The athletes live it, eat it and drink it.

The Nigerian camp is still generally still exuding happiness and hope. The ambience is one of fun and friendship.

The fighting spirit has not waned.

Segun Odegbami

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