The minister of youth and sports, Sunday Dare has finally broken his silence about Team Nigeria’s outing at the just concluded Tokyo 2020 Olympics.
Despite criticisms from many Nigerians over the Olympics experience, Dare said Nigeria’s performance at the event was not as bad as many people said.
In a lengthy statement personally signed by the minister, he said Nigeria succeeded with two (2) medals: a silver in wrestling won by Blessing Oborodudu and a bronze in long jump won by Ese Brume.
“Their performances were inspiring for they affirmed we can and should compete at the highest levels across the full range of sports events. Yes, we had wished and worked for more medals. But we must also put things in perspective. The medal outcome at the 2020 Tokyo Olympics stands as Nigeria’s best result in the last 13 years,” he said.
Team Nigeria placed 74th position on the final Olympic medal table among 205 participating countries. It was ranked 8th among 52 African countries that participated.
Dare said: “Nigeria had five Olympic finalists in 100 meters Hurdles Women, Short Put, Long jump, Wrestling and 100 meters men. Team Nigeria broke the 13 year old jinx of no medal in Long jump and 25 years of no finalist in the men’s 100 meters, and secured a medal in wrestling for the very first time. Overall, our performance was good and more importantly it is headed in the right direction.”
The minister also addressed the two embarrassing incidents that occured: disqualification of ten athletes and the apparel provided for the team.
“First is the mishap resulting in 10 Team Nigeria athletes being ruled ineligible to compete for missing their mandatory Out of Competition Test, OTC. When notice of this ruling got to me, I immediately mobilized my team and the AFN leadership to see how the situation could be salvaged. We mounted a vigorous appeal process with Athletics Integrity Unit, AIU and had the team members complete the tests. However, timing became the critical issue . Despite our energetic appeal, the deciding committee made its announcement which gave no latitude to our team members for what was only an inadvertent lapse.
“The adverse decision was painful to accept. We had prepared carefully and eagerly for the Olympics with the expectation that each person, federation, coach and athlete would also complete the necessary preparations required of them. As Minister, I ensured that all necessary approvals were done so that all requisite tests and exams could be timely completed. For me this unfortunate incident is most painful because these athletes had prepared long and hard and also in view of the challenging circumstances due to COVID-19.”
He explained that he has personally apologized to the affected athletes. “Here and now, I personally apologize to all Nigerians for this ineligibility episode. The AFN has also taken responsibility and apologized to the athletes and to Nigerians.”
The minister also talked about the second issue had to do with the apparel provided for the team, which was made public by the viral TikTok video posted by men’s shot put finalist, Chukwuebuka Enekwechi. The now-deleted video showed the athlete washing his “only” jersey in a sink under running tap water.
He said: “The Ministry’s responsibility and that of the 38 National Sporting Federations, NSFs of kitting are well spelt out. The production of general wears for Team Nigeria is always the responsibility of the Ministry of Youth and Sport Development. Procurement for the Competition Wear is the responsibility of the respective federations because of the fact that each sport requires specialized outfits. Boxing, Wrestling, Atheletics and each of the federations need different gears. The Ministry provides budgetary support to the federations.
“The quantity of competition wears given to each athlete is the decision of the particular federation. No complaints came to my notice until the Tik Tok Video posted by one of the athletes went viral. We Immediately stepped in to manage the situation. The Federation involved has been directed to provide a detailed explanation about the kit.
“Team Nigeria was properly kitted for the games with a 9-item back pack using a local manufacturer in harmony with President Buhari’s policy on local content.
“Before any federation which is a component of Team Nigeria however wears any brand, it must refer to the Ministry and the NOC for clearance and approval. The Ministry and NOC must be fully aware of the contract details by the Federation to protect the rights and freedoms of the athletes and ensure Nigeria’s interests are protected. In this situation, the Ministry wishes to state that the contractual arrangement between AFN and Puma prior to the Olympic Games has generated a lot of controversy between the former President of the Federation and the former Board members. I will not want to go into too much details on this issue because it is sub judice. Suffice it to say that the Ministry was not part of the agreement. The Tik Tok video on the issue was an attempt to create a media frenzy to embarrass Nigeria.”