Image: guardian.ng

Image: guardian.ng

A few days ago, Nigerian social media sphere was in angst over the news that Nigerian Olympic athletes were told to fund their respective trips to the 2016 Rio Olympics.

The unsubstantiated news according to reports immediately resulted in the athletes taking to whichever medium they could to solicit for funds.

One athlete, Regina George, who made use of the GoFundMe fund raising website stated on her funding page: “I’ve just been told that we will have to pay our own way to the Olympics this year. Sadly this is such short notice for me to come up with the money.”

With this message, Regina George’s fundraising goal of 4000 dollars was reached within two days.

The social media furore that followed this unpalatable news compelled the Minister of Youth and Sports, Solomon Dalung to speak up on the issue.

The minister denied that athletes were asked to fund their way to the Rio Olympics.

He immediately summoned the Secretary, Athletics Federation of Nigeria (AFN), Olumide Bamiduro, to explain the funding scandal and washed his hands off the mail that went viral on Saturday.

His Special Adviser on Media, Nneka Anibeze, said on Sunday in Lagos that the ministry’s employees of the Federation of Elite Athletes Department (FEAD) was also summoned.

A mail, purportedly written by the AFN secretary had asked athletes to send an estimate of what their tickets to Rio would cost.

Anibeze stressed that Dalung had in a press release on Saturday said that he had neither instructed anyone to issue such information nor even muted such idea with FEAD.

He said that Dalung had warned that those who wrote such letter asking athletes to buy their air tickets to Rio would be investigated and sanctioned accordingly.

“I hereby restate that no athlete has been authorised or asked to buy his or her ticket to the Olympic Games.

“Whoever that wrote the letter did so on his or her own accord without due consultation with the overseer of sports in the country which is the Ministry of Youth and Sports.

“We are totally committed to the welfare of our athletes and will ensure that they are not psychologically affected by distractions caused by this letter,’’ Anibeze quoted Dalung as saying.

Meanwhile, the ministry has said that athletes will start moving to the Games Village on Aug. 1, 2016.

“The Ministry of Youth and Sports is to ensure the smooth movement of athletes abroad to the Games Village in Rio.” he said.

What is evident is the fact that there is a communication gap somewhere and this obviously has opened the country to global embarrassment and criticism.

Worse still is the blow athletes’ morale has been dealt which can result in yet another poor performance and further global embarrassment.

Nigeria had experienced back-to-back years of less than impressive performances at the Games – in London and in China in the recent past.

In the history of Nigeria’s participation in the Olympics, the country has won a total of 23 medals, more than half of which were from the Atlanta 1996 Games and the rest spread over seven other Games all in the 1990’s and early 2000’s.

Nigeria’s last Olympic appearance at London 2012, saw the team return without a single medal. A rehash of its last medal-less outing at the 1988 Summer Olympics in Seoul, China.

With history already playing a role in bringing down athletes’ morale, one can only imagine what this terrible mix-up would do to athlete’s performance at the games.

The current back-and-forth between lack of proper funding and training of Nigerian athletes does not inspire Nigerians’ hope of athletes returning with a single medal.

While Nigeria’s struggle for funds for the Games is not surprising considering current economic downturn, what will be surprising is if sports-passionate Nigerians refuse to watch or monitor the performance of their 78 athletes in the hope of winning at least one medal.

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Author: Aderonke Adeleke

Writer. Music lover. Movie junkie. Social Media Enthusiast. Aspiring dancer. Aspiring photographer. Social Introvert.