Odegbami: Eye on  Tokyo 2020 – Day 9

Odegbami: Eye on  Tokyo 2020 – Day 9

Crisis upon crisis. The ‘Last Supper’ in Tokyo.

A few days ago, ‘The Eye‘ saw smoke approaching the Nigerian camp from a distance and screamed: ‘fire on the mountain’.

A day later, it saw dark clouds approaching the camp again and alerted all Nigerians of an impending ‘storm’.

On the third day, it realised it had been very wrong all along – the situation that unfolded since then has been worse than it ever imagined, worse than smoke and dark clouds. There has been ‘Catastrophy’. Note the capital ‘C’.
The biggest table tennis player in the whole of Africa plays against an opponent far below him in world ranking in a crucial first round match.  Aruna Quadri played the match with a grudge in his heart, rejecting the invaluable support of the coach that Nigeria had spent a fortune sending to the games for that singular purpose. He lost the match and lost his temper in the process.

The camp was still in the process of trying to understand why such an experienced player would so carelessly blow his chances in the most important moment in his career, when the news that 10 Nigerian athletes were disqualified from participating in the Games after they had  settled in the village and were accredited to play, hit the global airwaves like a tsunami.

The Eye‘ was still trying to regain some composure to follow the scramble by the officials here to manage what was fast gathering momentum to become an international scandal, when the 10 athletes stormed the streets of the Games Village in Tokyo in the first such street protest in the history of the Olympics. They defied the ban by the International Olympic Committee, IOC, against any form of protests during these Games.

To add salt to injury, the media also reported that Nigerian officials were withholding from the 10 disqualified athletes thè phone sets donated to all participating athletes by Samsung.  Instead, the 10 were directed to leave the Games Village immediately. That issue was quickly resolved. The phones were released to them as the matter was considered trivial compared to the permanent injury afflicted the athletes by the yet-to-be-identified officials of Nigerian sports. They were being  moved out of the Village when another bomb landed in the heart of the Nigerian contingent.

Nigeria’s most celebrated athlete in the Nigerian camp, and foremost athletics ambassador in the past decade and more, disastrously self-inflicted the biggest blow to her reputation and career. In layman’s language, she was charged with injecting a banned substance into her system to aid her performance and was caught. She was immediately barred from further participation (after she has run her first round race and won) by the IOC.

Odegbami: Eye on Tokyo 2020 – DAY 8

The news shook the Nigerian camp and the country as a whole to their foundations. It is like the final straw in the already fractured and de-spirited Nigerian camp that had already been riddled with sadness and frustration.

From what ‘The Eye‘ can glean from its observatory, the story of Blessing Okagbare and her ban erased the last vestige of nationalism from the psyche of the rest of the athletes in the Village. Slowly going about their routines in silence and sadness, most of them can not wait to get out of the Olympics. To be identified with Nigeria now is to be smeared with the paint of a scandal. That leaves those yet to compete in the worst possible psychological frame of minď for competition. So, everyone is on their own now to find the motivation from where to compete and win for self and not for country, any more.

The Sports Minister has been trying to micro-manage the local situation here, but it might just be too late as some irreparable damage has been done.

Officials are working round the clock to patch things up. Unfortunately, with the social media blasting away more bad news on a second by second basis, officials are losing the battle.

The Eye‘, from its observatory, does not see the details of what is degenerating into a monumental scandal. The issues are even immaterial in its assignment here at the Games Village.

What is happening in the camp now? That’s what matters to ‘The Eye’ to feed Nigerians.
There is very little to report here because the athletes have all either been subdued or consumed by events. They are going about their business quietly and with sadness written all over their faces. Nigeria has become the spectacle in the Village is bathed in different versions of what is happening inside the Nigerian camp and its train of exiting athletes.

*The last Supper – Blessing Okagbare on her last day at the Olympics

The one place you shall find the few athletes still left in the Nigerian camp is the restaurant. Thats where ‘The Eye‘ caught up with the 10 disqualified athletes as they departed the Games Village. They had their ‘last Supper’ there before leaving. Their names will not, of course, be registered in the directory of the 2020 Olympians. They will return to the United States where most, if not all, of them came from, to nurse the injury done to their lives and careers by ‘wicked’ Nigerian officials.

The Eye‘ also watched Blessing Okagbare, face behind a black mask, as she collected and ate her own ‘last Supper’ in the Games Village restaurant before moving out to a temporary hotel from where arrangements would be made for her to return to her base to face the fractured remains of life and consequences of her actions in the twilight of her career.

Unfortunately, she is following in the footsteps of many grand athletes before her that ended the evening of their careers in the same sad and ignoble manner. That is a sad page in Nigeria’s history in Track and Field.

Otherwise, ‘The Eye‘ has little to report from here. It is very quiet. Probably, when the present dust clears up, and the remnants of participating athletes return to the Village, then one can start to hope that the avalanche of scandals would have abated.

Segun Odegbami

Scroll to Top