Get set go..Nigeria ready to shine as Olympics 2012 kicks off in London


London is agog as thousands have flocked in to the  Olympic Park  for the spectacular opening ceremony, heralding the start of the 2012 Olympic Games.

It is a moment to relish as the World under one umbrella gather to slug it out in various sports activities.

Seven years of planning are culminating in a breathtaking £27m (€34.5m) show devised by film director Danny Boyle.

At the end of the three-hour ceremony, the Queen sets to declare open the Games of London and the Olympic cauldron will be lit.

The ceremony comes at the end of a day that has seen the Olympic torch complete its 70-day odyssey around the Britain and Ireland.

Bells also rang out across the UK as the final countdown to the start of the 2012 Olympics began.

Big Ben was joined by hundreds of churches across the nation as it chimed non-stop for three minutes to ring in the Games.

British Prime Minister David Cameron said the country would show the world “the best of Britain” over the next two weeks after describing previews of tonight’s opening ceremony as “spine-tingling”.

Mr Cameron pledged Britain was ready to welcome the “greatest show on earth” after US presidential hopeful Mitt Romney cast doubt upon the country’s readiness.

Jacques Rogge, president of the International Olympic Committee (IOC) added: “London is ready.”

Oscar-winning director Mr Boyle said the curtain-raiser at the Olympic Stadium was fitting both for London and everyone who will compete at the Games.

Special effects, big names and bags of enthusiasm will be used to help celebrate the best of British in Stratford, east London.

Millions more globally are expected to tune in on television but many competitors will be missing from the long and late-starting athletes’ parade.

And so in the next seventeen days,  more than 10, 000 greatest sportsmen and women around the globe will gather in London for this year’s edition of the biggest sports competition on earth.

Specifically, 205 International Olympics Committee (IOC) member countries will send athletes to compete in 300 events at the quadrennial sports fiesta, which has 30 venues across the United Kingdom.

Nigeria, with a contingent of 116, made up of 55 athletes, 12 coaches, 29 administrative officials,  five contingent officials, six secretariat official and nine medical officers, is aiming to surpass her previous achievement at the global sports gathering.

The contingent, which is the smallest presented at the games by the country in recent time, will feature in eight sports which are athletics, men’s basketball, boxing, canoeing, table tennis, taekwondo, weightlifting and wrestling.

A breakdown of the contingent by sports shows that athletics has the highest number of 49 persons, including 29 athletes, 14 coaches and two administrative staff; followed basketball with a team of 16, comprising 12 players, two coaches and two accompanying officials.

Boxing has a total of seven-man team, made of three boxers, two coaches and two accompanying officials, among others.

This year’s edition will mark Nigeria’s 15th appearance at the quadrennials sports jamboree, since her first participation at the 1952 edition in Helsinki, one year after the creation of the country’s National Olympic Committee (NOC) in 1951.

Since her first outing in Helsinki, Nigeria has participated in virtually all the subsequent editions of the games, except for the 1976 Olympics, which she boycotted alongside other African countries to protest the apartheid regime in South Africa.

Out of the previous 14 editions that she participated in, Nigeria has won a total of 23 medals, made up of three gold medals (including the one awarded the country this week after the US was stripped of the 4x400m relay gold from the Sydney 2000 Games), nine silver medals and 12 bronze medals.

The records have shown that the men, who were the first to win a medal at the 1964 games in Tokyo, through Nojim Maiyegun, who won bronze in the men’s light middleweight boxing category.

The records show that the male athletes have hauled more medals for the country at the Olympic Games more than their female counterparts. The men have in their kitty two gold medals, seven silver and seven bronze medals, while the women have won one gold medal, two silver and five bronze medals.

Besides the bronze medal won by Chika Chukwumerije in the +80 kilogramme category of taekwondo event at the Beijing Olympics, most of the country’s medals at the Olympics are in athletics and boxing.

The national U-23 football team, which won gold medal at the 1996 games in Atlanta, also has to its credit a silver medal that it won at the Beijing Olympic Games in Beijing.

Nigeria’s best performance at the games was at the Atlanta 1996 edition where the country’s contingent won two gold medals in the men’s football event and long jump, as well as one silver and three bronze medals.

Just like in previous editions, when a lot of energy and resources were spent to ensure that Team Nigeria does well at the games, the leadership of the National Sports Commission (NSC), who are the custodians of the nation’s sports sector, has pledged to leave no stone unturned in ensuring that Nigeria surpasses her previous performance at the games.

The Commission’s assurance in line with President Jonathan directive last month that Team Nigeria should strive to surpass its best performance ever at the games which was posted at the 1996 edition in Atalanta, Georgia USA.

Speaking at the Grand Patron’s Dinner in Abuja, organised in his honour by the Nigeria Olympics Committee (NOC), Jonathan noted that Nigeria has the potentials to achieve more in sports; given the nation’s human resources and sports talents.

Assuring that the government would continue to play statutory role in developing sports in Nigeria, within the limits of its resources, the number one citizen charged athletes that have qualified for the games to prepare adequately to enable them excel at the games.

Last year, National Sports Commission’s Director General Chief Patrick Ekeji told a media briefing in Abuja that Nigeria’s target is at the London 2012 Games is to post the best African record.

This position was echoed by Mallam Al-hassan Saleh Yakmut, who is the Chairman of the Advisory and Coordinating Committee for Nigeria’s participation at the London 2012 Games and doubles as Deputy Chief of Mission in Abuja before leaving for the games that the country was in course for its best performance at the quadrennial sports fiesta.

Yakmut said the decision to go to the games with the lowest number of athletes was in line with the country’s desire to present only those who have the prospect of hauling medals at the games.

He said athletes who represent Nigeria at the Olympic Games were picked on merit, as the country is not ready to experiment at the games.

“There is no room for experiment and that is why the number of athletes is concise and good for business.

Speaking on the efforts to nip in the bud the ugly trend of drugs from Team Nigeria at the London Olympic Games, Yakmut disclosed that three sets of internal dope tests will be carried on the athletes representing the country to ascertain their state before being sent to the Games Village.

Compiled report.