There should actually be a lot of confusion ongoing in the camps of athletes in Track and Field and Table Tennis here in Tokyo.
With table tennis, why would Quadri Aruna play a very serious match that he could have won, but did not, with relative ease with the assistance of his coach, without Segun Toriola by his side? That is still raising questions that may rock the federation and affect several careers when the team returns home with their barren chest.
In Track and Field, there is real katakata brewing. Some Nigerian athletes have been disqualified from participation in the Olympics for some technical hoopla that is not any fault of theirs, at least from the limited understanding of the ordinary observing ‘Eye’ over Tokyo.
There isn’t a rumble going on in the Games Village despite the earth-shaking news that has caused the outbreak of journalistic haemorrhage in the Nigerian media, with reactions reverberating throughout the world.
The athletes are so far away from the officials here that it appears they are on their own. Moreover, there isn’t a convergence of agenda here amongst them. Every athlete is chasing personal glory and a trophy.
Otherwise, the present storm over the 10 disqualified Track and Field athletes would have disrupted the camp of the Nigerian contingent. From the observatory, it has not. The storm did not make a full landfall.
Outside the Games Village, however, there is a serious effort to quench the fire and douce the rising tensions.
From what ‘the Eye’ can glean from its observatory perched high up over the fray, in terms of what matters most at the Olympics, and as far as Nigerians are concerned, the number of medals that the athletes bring back home wilĺ determine the fate of all of those involved in this unfortunate faux pas. The world is not about to end here, even though some dreams have already been shattered and careers prematurely terminated.
There are only two victims in all this development – the athletes directly affected, some of who might suffer the psychological trauma for the rest of their lives. The case of Charlton Ehizuelen is a good example.
He was the world’s best long and triple jumper in 1976. He went to that year’s Olympic Games in Montreal. Winning a Gold medal would have positively impacted his life and changed his fortune forever. He would have been one of the great legends of world athletics from Nigeria.
All of that was thwarted for what was even a very noble global cause at that time – the fight against Apartheid in South Africa by the rest of the Black African countries. The result of the boycott by 27 countries on the eve of the games, the fact that he never competed after preparing for 4 years and was on top of the world and of his sport, traumatised him so much that he never recovered enough to go to another Olympics. He ended up, till this day, some sort of a recluse.
The test is: how many Nigerians know the name Charlton Ehizuelen today? If he had won a Gold medal, which he was almost certainly on course to win, his name would have been ringing in Nigerians’ ears for the past 45 years!!!
Charlton never got over the pain and the hurt of not showcasing his God-given exceptional ability on the grandest stage to the world.
That is a likely scenario that may follow this technical hiccup that has just happened to innocent athletes in Tokyo.
The affected athletes are not Nigeria’s ‘first eleven’ in Track and Field at these Games. Realistically, Tokyo 2020 would just have served as prelude to Paris 2014, an exposure opportunity to prepare most of them for the future. But even that does not diminish the pain, the hurt and the long-term consequence of this incident.
Undoubtedly, this is the manifestation of one of incompetence, ignorance, political mischief and wickedness, or even all of them.
Anyway which way, the athletes are the primary victims.
The second primary victim is Nigeria, the country. In the past 12 hours, in 205 countries all over the world, the story of 10 Nigerian athletes, the largest number out of the total of 20 disqualified, is being circulated and told, adding to the already bulging catalogue of Nigeria’s poor international image and reputation in several aspects of international relations. Now sport has been added to the broth.
There are really no other victims. At the end of the day, every other person involved would walk away from the Tokyo 2020 misadventure and return to their narrow, protected cocoons without paying any price, as has been the norm in the country.
For that reason, within the Olympic Village here, everything is near normal with the other athletes in other sports.
For those in Track and Field, those that are in the ‘first eleven’ that seem to be unaffected, in the absence of bungling officials to distract them and whose presence would have demoralised them even more, the athletes will still go on and do what they have to do inorder to win the few medals that were predicted they might be lucky to win by pundits even before the games.
So, whereas there is a storm in Nigeria over the incident, here in Tokyo there is only a steely look of determination on the faces of the rest of the Track and Field athletes. They are going ahead single-mindedly to seek their own glory and fortune on the tracks and field from this day.
That’s why there is an atmosphere of calm here in the Olympic Village.
Meanwhile, a top sports personality in Africa posted two remarks in a message to a Nigerian friend online.
The President of OlymAfrica, Thierno Diack, in his personal reaction to the disqualification wrote the following:
The first was a single word – “Shame”.
Five minutes later, a second message arrived. Two words: “Totally unacceptable”.
As far as ‘the Eye on Tokyo 2020’ is concerned, there is nothing more to add.