Air Peace to reward sports heroes with free tickets
Chairman of Air Peace Airlines, Dr. Allen Onyema said members of the Montreal Olympics team and the 1980 Green Eagles would get 12 return tickets each every year to travel within the country for their lifetime. They are also entitled to one international return ticket every year to fly to any country on the airline’s coverage for the rest of their lives.
Onyema said the gesture is part of activities to recognise and thank them for their services to Nigeria.
According to him, the teams will also be given financial rewards that would be announced on a day set aside to celebrate the heroes with the unveiling of the Wall of Fame on July 28, 2023.
Nigeria, with so many leading athletes in its squad, alongside 29 other countries pulled out of the Montreal 1976 Olympic Games in protest against the apartheid regime in South Africa and New Zealand’s endorsement of the infamous policy by engaging the Nicolaas Johannes Diederichs’ led country in sports diplomacy.
Although fair-minded world leaders applauded the boycott of the Olympics, relevant authorities have not mitigated the effect on some of the athletes, whose life ambitions crumbled with the action.
But the heroes’ wait for recognition is about to end with the Nigeria Institute of International Affairs (NIIA) Sports Diplomacy Wall of Fame.
Also listed for recognition at the programme titled, ‘From Olympics’ boycotts to hosting the World- West Africa FIFA World Cup 2034,’ are members of the senior national team, Green Eagles, who in 1980 won the country’s first African Cup of Nations title at the competition hosted by Nigeria.
Onyema said: “The athletes to be honoured are Nigerians who made the country proud in the past. These are athletes who sacrificed an opportunity to be great in Canada and heeded Nigeria’s call to boycott the Olympics on the eve of the Games. The same country that ordered them to give up their ambitions has not honoured these athletes.
“We are also honouring those that won the African Cup of Nations in 1980 because that feat united the country in a way that had never happened before. The Wall of Fame has been built at the NIIA with the heroes’ names written in gold.
“Those members of the teams, now late, would get post-humous rewards, while their families will get some financial rewards, which modalities would be sorted out before the event.”
Speaking on behalf of the awardees, Nigeria’s former football captain, Segun Odegbami, thanked Onyema for his enduring generosity, saying history would be kind to him for his efforts in nation-building.
Odegbami recalled the events that led to the boycott of the 1976 Olympic Games, lamenting, however, that some of the athletes affected by the decision have not recovered from its aftermath.
“We are happy that at last somebody has decided to recognise we made for the country in 1976 and at the 1980 African Cup of Nations.”
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