THERE was an avalanche of stories to tell about Brazil. There were the bad and ugly ones. There were some that seemed all-too dazzling. But generally, the sweet and alluring ones hugely overshadowed all.
Of course, there may not be enough ‘leg-room’ to splash it all.
But after nearly two-and-a-half weeks of sporting excellence, the curtains on the Rio 2016 Olympics were lowered last Sunday night with a resplendent carnival-style ceremony and the official handover to the next host city, Tokyo.
The Olympic flag was officially handed over to the Mayor of Tokyo, Yuriko Koike, with organisers briefly showcasing the 2020 Games.
As you may be aware already, USA swept away an incredible 121 medals (46 gold) to top the medals table.
Hosts Brazil amassed 19 medals (7 gold) and finished 13th, its best Olympic showing ever. Overall, Brazilians were really satisfied with their medal tow. But their biggest joy was winning their maiden football men gold at the Olympics. It was one medal that had eluded them many times after grand final losses in 1984, 1988 and 2012. Defeating no other side than Germany for the Holy Grail, was an accomplishment they would cherish forever.
The grandest name at the games, was Jamaica’s super legend, Usain Bolt,
who confirmed his ‘immortality’ in athletics’ history with the famous ‘Triple-Triple’ as he completed an unimaginable 100m, 200m and 4x100m gold medals from Beijing 2008, London 2012 and Rio 2016. Indeed, his name will continue to be on the lips of generations even yet unborn.
Another athlete whose name cannot go without mention is USA’s swimming legend Michael Phelps. In Rio, Phelps underlined his status as the King of the Olympic Games. He won five more gold medals to bring his total to 23, more than any other athlete in history. No one else is even in double figures. He won silver, too, meaning he has won 28 medals over the five Olympics in which he has competed. After those stellar feats, he has finally hanged his swimming suits.
Sadly, yet refreshingly, Rio was Bolt’s last Olympic Games as he turned 30 on the day of the closing ceremony (August 21) – and the nine-time Olympic champion has confirmed he will retire in 2017 after the world championships in London, where he will only run in the 100m.
His legacy, doubtless, is fully ingrained forever in athletics history.
The low performance of Team Ghana at the Games may have come as a stunner to many Ghanaians, but it should not be. Were we thinking about medals? Which medals? Gold, silver or bronze? That was not going to be possible! Why are we all pretending?
In any case, when was the last time we annexed a medal at the Olympics? You are talking about some 28 years ago and that even came through football. Before then, we had not won anything at the quadrennial games since 1972 when middleweight boxer Prince Amartey (who we have now forsaken) fetched the nation bronze in Munich, Germany.
Have we asked ourselves why many African nations swagger home with at least one, two or three medals at the Olympics every four years and we have taken a ludicrous 64 years (our first Olympics was in Helsinki ’52) to win four medals? This is simply pathetic, to say the least!
You see, the problem with us is that we have not taken our sports seriously over the years. Where are the infrastructures for the other sport disciplines? Zero! Only football stadia galore. We pride ourselves as four-time African champions in football. Yes! That is all we know; when even the last time we annexed the Nations Cup was in 1982!
Winning medals at the Olympics does not just come like that. Let us not forget that all our 16 representatives from the fields of athletics (11), judo (1), swimming (2), boxing (1) and weightlifting (1) were all ‘novices’ as they were making their maiden Olympic appearance. Aside from that, these were athletes who were not even rated in the Top-10 in their disciplines heading into the Games and clearly it was only going to be whimsical for anybody to think they were out there for a medal blast.
All is not lost at all. Evidently, the future holds a lot of prospects for these athletes, especially 14-year-old Kaya Forson who, though could not make it to the next stage of the competition, became the first Ghanaian female swimmer at the Olympics and also produced a life-time best of 2:16.02 secs in the women’s 200m freestyle.
“It’s cool. It’s fun. It’s definitely cool and interesting. It’s an experience that will inspire me to greater heights in the sport,” she told the media after her event, hoping to return to the Tokyo 2020 Games to compete alongside her younger sister at the swimming event.
Whilst encouraging our Olympic athletes (mostly foreign-based) to participate in many competitions in a bid to improve on their ratings, we should also endeavour to groom those we have here and sponsor them to many international events.
The nation’s boxing team, Black Bombers, for instance failed to participate in the 2015 World Championship Olympic qualifier in Doha due to lack of funds. Such competitions, even if they were not meant for qualifiers, should be encouraged to put our boxers in the best of shapes.
This must go for all the other disciplines like hockey, handball, weightlifting, volleyball, table tennis, tennis and judo, to mention only a few.
As a matter of urgency, let us make it as a priority to develop the other games. Developing games means investing in them, not the frustrating lip services that we are now accustomed to. Now, let it be known to our sports authorities that to be able to beat the best, you need to fight the best.
If we continue to sit in the comfort of our homes to train amongst ourselves alone and think that we can go out there and upstage the best of the world, then we are joking. The reason why countries engage in friendly games all over is to test their strength as well as their battle-readiness ahead of competitions.
Interestingly, we were doing this in the past; why have we stopped now? The legendary no money syndrome is killing our sports and it is high time we got serious!
By John Vigah
(Back from Rio de Janeiro, Brazil)