Star Nigerian athlete Blessing Okagbare has expressed her disappointment and frustration with how officials of the Nigerian contingent to the Rio 2016 Olympics handled logistics and preparations for the tournament, describing Nigeria’s participation in the Rio games as the country’s worst ever.
In an interview with Punch newspaper, Okagbare said it didn’t feel like an Olympic for her not because she didn’t win a medal but because the morale and support the Nigerian contingent received from the country’s sports officials was nothing to write home about.
“Some of the girls come to me and we talk. Some times when they say these things (about how bad they feel), I just feel like these people feel the same way I feel. Everything about Rio was just low. This is the worst Olympics we’ve had”, she said.
According to Okagbare, “Prior to coming here was bad, I don’t understand what they wanted us to do in Rio. At times you go to other countries, mix with the athletes and you see a people getting quality support. But it’s not so with the Nigerian contingent. It comes to a point where you just try to do everything for the sake of your passion as well as for your fans.
“Talking about Rio, it’s been the worse we’ve had mentally, physically. The atmosphere is too cold; it’s been very cold out there. No encouragement at all”, she added.
Recalling her experiences with previous Olympic competitions, she noted that the Beijing Olympics was one of the best she could remember.
She decried the lack of motivation and encouragement from the Nigerian government, citing a classical case of the Minister of Sports Solomon Dalung’s remarks that a gold medal winner would get as low as $2000.
“I went to Beijing when I was 19. I was so young and naive. Beijing was one of the best Olympics for us; we had entitlements, encouragement and all. They supported us and we were quite encouraged. But in Rio it’s like all they just wanted was for you to show your face and leave. I don’t know but it’s as if they didn’t want us to come here. Last time I heard the minister say a gold medal winner would get $2000 and I asked ‘is that what a gold medal is worth?’ And before I knew, it was actually in the media. You don’t bring that kind of stuff to athletes in the name of encouragement because we know what other athletes from other countries get. It’s been a problem and every year, I wish things would be different. At times it would be like should I move to another country? But you may understand why I refused to change. It’s my career and my passion so I enjoy it and that is what drives me. And that’s why I am still on the track and for Nigeria” Okagbare said.
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