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Udo-Obong raises alarm over team Nigeria’s late departure for games


 Enefiok Udo-Obong

Enefiok Udo-Obong

Olympics gold medallist, Enefiok Udo-Obong, has raised the alarm over Team Nigeria’s planned August 4 arrival in Rio, saying it would work against the country’s ambition of winning medals in the 2016 Games.

The Rio 2016 Games Village opened on Saturday and the rules state that teams are free to enter the facility as soon as the village is opened. But according to their itinerary, Team Nigeria will arrive the Games Village in the evening of August 4, while the opening ceremony will hold on August 5.

According to Udo-Obong, such travel arrangement would impact negatively on some Nigerian teams because they will not have the time to settle down before their events kick off.

“Take the table tennis team, as an example. They will arrive in Rio on August 4, attend the opening ceremony on August 5 and start competing on August 6. This means they will have no time to train in Rio before playing their matches.

“I know some teams who arrived in Rio on the opening day so that they can acclimatize, train on the facilities, get used to the food and environment before their events.“It is unfortunate that we did not take all these things into consideration before planning our departure for the games,” he lamented.

The Guardian learnt that the Sports Minister, Solomon Dalung, could not change the arrangement because he had no money to plan for early departure.In fact, the Sports ministry was alleged to have written to Nigerian athletes to purchase their flight tickets to Rio, promising to refund such monies when they arrived in Rio. But the ministry has since denied that the letter emanated from it.

A source close to the minister also told The Guardian that it took the officials a long time to convince President Buhari on the need to send a team to the Olympics in ‘these harsh economic times.’

“The president has agreed to sponsor the team in principle, but I cannot say if the money for the games has been released even though the minister was supposed to collect the fund on Wednesday last week,” the source, who pleaded anonymity, said.

Meanwhile, Udo-Obong has dismissed Dalung’s prediction that Nigeria can win 15 medals at the games, saying the country’s build up to Rio does not show a country capable of getting up to that number of laurels.

According to the Sydney 4×400 metres gold medalist, although Nigerian athletes are hard working and elastic, it is not possible for them to come back from Rio with up to 15 medals because the preparation for the games cannot lead them to such heights.

He added: “We should be realistic. The question should be, ‘are we prepared to challenge the best athletes in the world? The answer is no. I am not trying to put the minister down, but winning medals is not something you wish to accomplish. You must work towards it.

“Based on the Nigerian spirit, we can win some medals if everything works for us, but nobody can beat his chest right now to say that Nigeria has the materials or has worked hard for medals in Rio.”

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