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We’ll bring Rio Olympics to every Nigerian, SuperSport boss assures

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Supersport’s General Manger, Felix Awogu

General Manager of Supersport, Felix Awogu explaining how their team of experts will deliver in Rio.

The long awaited 2016 Rio Olympics Games is just a few days away. In keeping with their tradition, Supersport’s General Manger, Felix Awogu, says they will deliver the best quality content not only to Nigerians, but sports lovers around the globe. He spoke with Gowon Akpodonor in Lagos.

According to Felix Awogu, the decision by Supersport to train some experts for the coverage of the 2016 Rio Olympics Games is to enable the station cover ‘virtually everything’ in Brazil.

The Rio Olympics Games will begin on August 5 and Awogu says they have a couple of dedicated channels that will beam events live to Nigerians, Africans and people around the globe.

“The beautiful thing about us is that we are also going ahead with technology because of the timing, which is probably not very convenient with most people,” Awogu stated. “We have the catch up facility, which MultiChoice has provided and customers can always catch up when they wake up in the morning, especially to watch the performance of the Nigerian team. The broadcast of the Olympic Games will be live, with clear signals, so that people can watch and enjoy the games.”

Preparation of Nigerian athletes for the Rio Olympics Games is giving some Nigerians great concern, but Awogu is optimistic that Team Nigeria has what it takes to put smiles on the of faces of people back home.

“I heard the Sports Minister (Solomon Dalung) saying that Nigeria is expecting four gold medals. To me, that will be a great record. I have a feeling we will not come back empty handed like we did in London. Some of our wrestlers are doing brilliantly well. Our lifters always have ways of springing surprises. In the track and field, I am hoping that Blessing Okagbare should also do us proud.

“We will be paying special focus on the football team because Nigeria is technically a football country and I hope this year’s selected team (Dream Team VI) will do us proud and move ahead from the last finals where they got a silver. I am praying we get another soccer gold because it has been a long time since Atlanta ’96.”

Despite preparing its team of experts for coverage of the Olympics Games, Awogu disclosed that his organization might sponsor some Nigerian journalists to Rio, despite the dwindling economic situation.

“The economy is rough and it has been tough, but we have always been able to come out of tough situations. It is also in these economic times when the naira has gone down that we have brought down the price of our bouquet. We brought it down to get Nigerians to participate. We have been looking at it and examining the possibility of sponsoring some Nigerian journalists to the Games. We will put heads together in-house to review it if it will be possible this time around,” he said.

Many top athletes around the world pulled out from the Rio Olympics Games due to the outbreak of the Zika virus, but Awogu says there is course for alarm. “I know a lot of people have been wondering how we will manage with the Zika scare. It is a major constraint. Even though some athletes are pulling out, we just need to prepare ourselves, take preventive measures and go to Rio to do a quality job. I am sure the Brazilian government would do whatever they can to safeguard participating athletes and visitors to the games, including the journalists.

“We have a team of experts that will follow the Nigerian team, especially the football and athletics teams, just like we do with some of these well established athletes.

There will be a couple of magazine shows in place for subscribers apart from the daily highlights. It will be quite innovative.”

Unlike the Jamaican team that has top athletes like Usian Bolt, Team Nigeria does not have a major athlete with large followership, or a medal hopeful to watch out for in Rio. But to Awogu, DStv is not really bothered. “Let me tell you, a lot of people said Team Nigeria failed in London. But I am one of those who think we didn’t fail.

If you look at the team, most of our athletes finished in the semifinals. They didn’t win medals, but I see a lot of progression. What could happen is transcending from that semifinal finish into the medal zone this year.

“If you look at Atlanta ’96 Games, we didn’t expect any medal in football after losing to Togo in our last friendly match. We still went ahead to win the gold medal. We are a team, a country that likes to spring surprises. Wrestling is doing pretty well. Two of our wrestlers, the female ones, are actually in the top three in the World, so why not give them a chance? In athletics, we may have a few issues, but I think we should look at the 4x100m and 4x400m relays. If I were the manager of Blessing Okagbare, I will tell her to focus on the jumps because that is the area she has more advantage. Going into the 100m, 200m and the relay, I just hope she does not burn out. Sometimes, you need to sit down and look at your structure and look at where you have comparative advantage and stick to it.”

Awogu also spoke on Nigeria’s chances in the basketball event in Rio as well as the partnership between DStv and NBBF in the promotion of the game in Nigeria.

“First of all, if we were not convinced that there is a future in the game, we will not be part of basketball sponsorship. It was well articulated and deliberated upon before we embarked on the journey. I ask a lot of Nigerians if it should only be football, but I think basketball has great potential. Since we began our relationship with NBBF, of which I am a member of the executive board, a lot of our young basketball players have gotten scholarships to American universities. This is a plus. One or two of them have gotten into the NBA. These have become assets to national development.

“To us, it is a welcome development. Of course, there were a few hiccups here and there in terms of the facilities, which is not the responsibility of the NBBF to provide. It is actually the government’s responsibility to provide facilities for the athletes to participate. The minister has promised that they will look into it. We do what we can, and we have helped with the lighting up of the place and a lot of other support apart from finances to the NBBF. I have said it before that you don’t just rely on one sponsor. I have always encouraged sporting clubs to also develop a marketing team, a brand manager who looks at the image of their products. This goes a long way in the marketability of such sporting clubs.

According to him, the sponsorship of the basketball league is a huge success. “Yes, it has been a huge success. But when you talk about return on investment, I don’t think it has been fantastic, but it has a great future. We sometimes invest to our own disadvantage. We spend money in the league, which nobody wanted to associate with and today it is increasingly becoming a big brand and we’re happy because we are contributing to the society. When I go the USA and I see some of our athletes who came out from the Nigeria Basketball League contributing to their families, it is a great joy. I think we need to look more into making basketball an entertainment sport, not just a physical activity. This will go a long way in helping it. That’s what the NBA did and that is how it grew.”

Awogu disclosed that plans were underway to renew the basketball sponsorship after 2017. “We have already started discussions. We are discussing with the NBBF and if they feel we have done enough and think we can still remain partners, it is something we can all sit at a table and see how we can add value. But of course, there has been a little touching here, touching there to make it meaningful after five years of sponsoring the league. I think it is time we had a turn around. We will be happy to see a boost. The funny thing about the business of television is that it is very romantic. It is all about the people out there at home. If they love it, why not?”

On the revival of boxing by GOtv in Nigeria, Awogu said: “Boxing was dead in the country, but today, the game is back on the front burner in our sports. We have done marvelously well. Look at the GOtv Boxing for instance. It has brought back the spirit of boxing to Nigerians. Kids are beginning to run around. It is no longer about selling pure water on the streets. They can actually begin to move into other sports and earn some income. It is changing. It is also catching up with the Lagos State governor’s desire to eradicate street hawking. We will gladly entertain and bring them into boxing and make it a great sport.

“It used to be a huge sport back in the days in Nigeria with people like Hogan Kid Bassey and Dick Tiger. A couple of them were world champions and if you visit the hall of fame in America, you will see a lot of Nigerians that have done well. Remember, boxing gave us our first Olympic medal. We decided, when we saw there was no motivation for the sport and people were getting bashed while earning just N5,000, which was not even enough to treat their wounds, to put in some money. A lot of money and television coverage, and it is beginning to work out well. Some of our boxers are being invited to the United States and United Kingdom because of their exposure, to fight and to earn some decent money.

“To be honest, the sponsorship of GOtv boxing is delivering. It is about two years old but the impact is so strong that I’m amazed. I didn’t know boxing had strong followership and loyalties in Nigeria. You can see the stadium is filled up and people actually pay to watch, although most of the gates-takings are donated to older fighters who actually need some level of support. It is amazing and I’m really excited about the prospect and the future of boxing in Nigeria.”

He also spoke on Supersport’s CSI initiatives called ‘Let’s play,’ saying: “First of all, let’s look at the whole principle of ‘Let’s Play’. It is not really about winning all the time, but is about getting the children active again. Research has proven that a lot of children are becoming obese and a lot of parents are spending so much money in the hospitals. We came out with the idea and asked how can we get the children playing again.

“Schools today is just one structure somewhere, and the kids are not playing. We went into partnership with the ministry of sports and state governments to see how we can get these kids running around again and engaging their friends. Football of course, is a major catch. You know if you give one child a soccer ball, he doesn’t play alone, he will engage about 20 to 30 other children. To us, it was a major direction, and in the last two years, we have probably given over 20,000 soccer balls to Nigerian children and 20,000 soccer balls is not for 20,000 kids alone. We are talking of about two to three million children who are engaged, running around. That’s the whole principle.”


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