Olympics 2012 - Welcome to London
As a man living in London I can make a straightforward invitation to anyone who is interested in coming for the games to please come.
London is buzzing and is waiting to receive visitors from all over the world. Forget what you might have read and heard in the press, the London Organising Committee of the Olympic and Paralympic Games (Locog), has done its bit and the city is ready and waiting to make everyone welcome. Arrive on time, have your documents and be ready to party.
I have a great affinity for the Olympics. They provide the most incredible sporting stories and moments that tend to live with one and you even hear or read about stories from the Games before one’s birth and you just nod in awe.
I attended the ’91 World Universities Games held in Sheffield in England – a competition called “the student Olympics” – and I experienced how lasting friendships can be started from events like these. I know of many great athletes who are still sad that they never attended an Olympic Games.
Some great Nigerian athletes like Christian Chukwu, Thompson Usiyan, the late Haruna Ilerika in football, and the late Dele Udoh regretted not attending the ’76 Olympics when they were in their prime. My first good memory of the Olympics was the ’84 event in Los Angeles. Carl Lewis dominated the games with his four gold medals while the people I looked up to in the track and field events, Innocent Egbunike and Chidi Imoh, did not do well.
A friend once told me that his mother was so captured by the famous Ugandan legend John Akii Bua that she used to call my friend by that name. I have read about Akii Bua’s exploits during the tragic Munich Games of ’72 and so has my friend so he shares the honour with humility.
1984 was also the first Games in which Fifa sanctioned the use of professional footballers in the football event. Brazil lost to France in the final – a certain Daniel Xuereb was the French hero. Let me state for the records that I have never attached too much importance to the Olympic gold medal in football.
By that I mean, I will rate higher a team/country that reaches the semifinal of the FifaA World Cup over an Olympic gold medal-winning team. It is an age-group competition in all but name, despite the allowance of three over-aged players. The Nigerian and Cameroonian footballers whohave won gold medals from the Olympics will no doubt disagree with me but they all know that, should any of their respective countries ever make it to the semifinals of the Fifa World Cup anytime in the future, the players doing so will acquire bigger heroic status with regards to their achievements.
The football event at this Olympics will serve two purposes for South America. Firstly they want to show European countries that Spain cannot dominate every competition. Secondly, Brazil’s coach, Mano Menezes, has these matches as his best competitive options at preparing his country for the 2014 World Cup in Brazil. His stock is not very high and so a first gold medal here – the only male football title Brazil have NEVER won – will strengthen his hold on the job. Outside of football I am hoping for an Olympic Games devoid of drugs controversy. The absence of these controversies will make the games a success first and foremost, as I know that testing is so very stringent these days.
A sight I know I will see, but one which no doubt will sadden me, will be those of athletes of African descent – who were born and bred till their teenage years even – competing for other countries. It is a show of shame for the home countries’ governments where these young men and women were born, for if the conditions were right at home, they would not be competing and winning laurels for other countries.
Come to London, even if you do not have a ticket at the moment for some events – many will be available nearer to the dates. If the hotels seem all booked up online do not worry. Get here. Buy a tent and go to the many parks where there will be parties and music and other tent people. Just come with a clean heart and mind to come and meet new people.
London is hosting a party for the world.