• Minister promises excellent outing as NOC takes over contingent
President Mohammadu Buhari has charged Team Nigeria to replicate the performances of past Nigerian Olympians, noting, ‘you stand on the shoulders of giants.’
Speaking while officially unveiling Team Nigeria’s outfit to the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games, Buhari recalled the exploits of past Nigerian teams, telling the athletes, ‘you will also carry with you the encouragement of the great exploits of Nigerian Olympians before you.’
The President was represented by Vice President Yemi Osinbajo, at the event, which also served as the send forth ceremony for Team Nigeria. The event, which held at the Presidential Villa, Abuja, also marked the formal handover of the contingent to the Nigeria Olympic Committee (NOC).
Specifically, Nigeria will be represented by 58 athletes at the Olympic Games, while 22 athletes will feature in the Paralympic Games.
The team, in all, has 23 coaches, including nine sports athletics – 18 (six men and 12 ladies), basketball – 24 (12 men and 12 women), badminton – three (one man and two ladies), canoeing – one (a lady) and gymnastics – one (a man).
Others are rowing – one (a lady), table tennis – four (two men and two ladies), taekwondo – one (one lady) and wrestling – five (a man, four ladies).
President Buhari reminded the team of exploits of legends like ‘Chioma Ajunwa, who won the gold medal at the 1996 Olympics for the long jump and became the first black African woman to win an Olympic gold medal in a field event.
“The Super Eagles in 1996 won the gold medal for football; that was the team that had the greats like Austin Okocha, Celestine Babayaro, Daniel Amokachi (who was present at the event,) Sunday Oliseh, Taribo West, Kanu Nwankwo, Abiodun Obafemi, Emmanuel Amuneke, Emmanuel Babayaro, Garba Lawal, Joseph Dosu, Kingsley Obiekwu, Mobi Oparaku, Uche Okechukwu, Teslim Fatusi, Tijani Babangida, Victor Ikpeba, and Wilson Oruma —that was the year we defeated the world’s best footballing nations – Brazil and Argentina and we all held our heads high.”
Continuing, Buhari said, “in 2000 in Sydney, again we beat the best in the world to win the gold in 4×400 metres relay after the American team was disqualified for using performance-enhancing drugs. Our team then was Clement Chukwu, the late Sunday Bada, Enefiok Udo-Ubong, Jude Monye, and two other members of the team, Fidelis Gadzama and Nduka Awazie.
“And for anyone who thinks we are joking, maybe they haven’t seen our exhibition basketball game on Saturday with the USA team, especially that amazing block by Precious Achiuwa against KD – Kevin Durant, who is probably the best player in the NBA right now. So Precious, you are the real MVP.
“You stand on the shoulders of giants and with the quality and intensity of training you have received and your exploits during the qualification series for the Olympic Games, I am confident that by God’s grace, you will again make history and beat the best in the world.”
Urging the team to promote the Olympic ideals, President Buhari said, “Olympism is about fair play, honesty, teamwork, respect, and friendship. I trust that you will, as worthy ambassadors of Nigeria, represent our nation excellently.
“Fair play clearly enjoins every athlete not to use any prohibited substances or to cheat in any way. Half of the joy and satisfaction of victory is that it was won fairly.
“Every one of you participating in the games is opening a page in history for yourself, your families, your community, and the nation.”
Commending the Minister of Youth and Sports Development, Sunday Dare, for coordinating the various sporting Federations in preparation for the Games, President Buhari urged the athletes to make good use of facilities at its training ground in the City of Kizarazu to put themselves in proper shape ahead of the Games.
He further urged the team to continue to observe all COVID-19 protocols and to strictly adhere to the IOC Playbook in order to safeguard their health and those of others around them.
Earlier in his remarks, Dare told the President that the athletes were ready to do the country proud and presented to Vice President Osinbajo, the made-in-Nigeria kits for the Nigerian contingent.
“I am happy to announce today that the complete kit for Team Nigeria to the Tokyo 2020 Games was produced with a heavy dose of local content. We thank AFA Sports, Africa For Africa, a local sports equipment manufacturing company for delivering on the production of uniforms for Team Nigeria. This is a veritable testament and commitment of the Buhari administration to support and grow local content and industry in all sectors of the Nigerian economy.”
NOC President, Habu Gumel, thanked the President and the Vice President for honouring Team Nigeria and expressed optimism that the contingent will not disappoint the country.
“I am happy to inform Mr. President that all the 15 athletes on Olympic Scholarships qualified for the Tokyo Olympic Games. Despite the challenges of the COVID-19 pandemic, which slowed down the training momentum for the Games, we are still optimistic that the crop of Nigerian qualified athletes will do our nation proud at the Tokyo Olympic Games.
Odunayo Adeokoroye, who spoke on behalf of the athletes, assured that the contingent is made up of disciplined athletes who will make the nation proud during the outing.
Present at the ceremony were Federal Lawmakers, officials of the Japanese Embassy in Nigeria, 45 athletes and their coaches, officials of the Ministry of Youth and Sports Development, as well as the Nigeria Olympic Committee, among others.
Highpoint of the occasion was the formal handover of Team Nigeria to the Nigeria Olympic Committee by the Vice President and the Sports Minister, and the unveiling of the official outfit and kit of the team.