The hope for Nigeria to perform creditably at the Olympics and other quadrennial Games has been rekindled with the Minister of Youth and Sports, Solomon Dalung, saying that the era of late preparation is over.
Dalung, said this when he met with the sports journalists at the weekend in Lagos
“I am determined to ensure that we start early preparation for Tokyo 2020 by now”, he said.
In pursuance of this objective, he said programmes for athletes’ discovery and nurturing which had been abandoned would be revamped to enable the selection process and preparations for the Tokyo Games.
“Basically, what we did with the National Youth Games knowing that it has been abandoned for a long time and knowing it gives us the opportunity to identify talents was to revamp it.
“What we did this year was to insist and think outside the box by generating funds for sponsorship for the National Youth Games and the potential that were identified was indeed amazing.
“Also, I have come up with accuracy that by the second quarter of next year, that every federation that is interested in participating in the 2020 Tokyo Olympics must give a clear profile of athletes it identified.
“This is for training to commence for Olympics 2020 by the second quarter of next year so that we will identify those athletes we are going to use for qualifications and subsequent training in anticipation of the Olympics.
“We can no longer go for the Olympics with only one year or six months preparation. It must be complete six years or three at minimum,” he said.
The minister said that if a federation was not prepared, it could not wake up mid way and begin to say that they had gotten athletes. His ministry won’t accept that, he added.
“Anybody willing to participate must be identified by second quarter of 2017, and a well defined programme put in place to avoid low performances during the outing.
“We have this group of Nigerians that came with the idea of Olympics Trust Fund; they have approached the ministry. This is a private sector initiative but we are not giving them anything.
“They have started well by approaching Nigerians and people have started putting money in the trust fund. So far, so good, they told me somebody had given them N10 million which is in their account.
“We have listed out how the money will be deployed; certain percentages for grassroots, certain percentage for the training of the athletes and certain percentage for referring them for competition.
“I think that idea will play a major role in the situation we find ourselves, especially in this Olympics. So I think these are some of the initiatives we had evolved based on the experiences we had in the past.
Dalung also said there was the need for a National Sport Trust Fund to reduce dependence on government for sports funding.
“If you take a look at most of the multi-nationals in Nigeria, they invest on nothing at all but they spend most of their money on most of the teams and clubs in Europe.
“They need to also invest little from what they get from Nigeria into this trust fund.
“It is something we have discussed with the leaders of the National Assembly because everybody is tired of all these things that have been happening,” he said.