• Demands ‘clean medals’
Olalekan Adetayo, Abuja
President Muhammadu Buhari on Tuesday said his administration would ensure successful participation of Team Nigeria at the Rio Olympic Games, by ensuring immediate release of funds budgeted for the Games.
He however warned that in the face of dwindling revenue and global economic challenges, all those concerned must ensure that funds provided are utilised judiciously. Specifically, the President directed that those who have no business at the Games should stay in Nigeria to cheer the team from home. He said those who do not have business in Rio and wish to travel should do so at their expense.
Buhari spoke at the official handover of Team Nigeria by the President to the Nigerian Olympic Committee and his (President’s) investiture as the Grand Patron of the NOC at the Presidential Villa, Abuja.
He said, “Let me assure you that the Federal Government is fully committed to our delegation’s successful participation in the Rio Olympic Games and will ensure that funds budgeted for the Games are released without further delay.
“We are all aware of our nation’s dwindling revenue and the current global economic challenges. It is therefore imperative that funds provided for the Games are utilised judiciously.
“In this regard, any official who has no business at the Games should stay at home to cheer the team from here and if they must travel to the Olympics, they should do so at their own expense.”
Buhari charged all athletes and team officials going to the Olympic Games to be worthy ambassadors of Nigeria both on the field of play and outside the sporting arena.
While saying that the eyes of the global community are on them, the President warned members of the contingent to desist from acts that could dent the image of the country.
Although Buhari said the athletes should return home with as many medals as possible, he said it was better for them to compete fairly than to bring a pack of medals as a result of bending the rules and denying the Games of fair competition.
“You are very aware of recent doping allegations which cast aspersions not only on the individual athletes but on their home countries. Please keep Nigeria clean.
“The menace of drug use in sports is threatening the core foundation of sports and has led to embarrassing situations as well as sanctions of some great sporting nations.
“I therefore urge you to keep the integrity of our nation intact by competing clean and fair at the Olympic Games.
“Please bring as many medals back home as a result of your efforts and endeavour. But remember it is more important to compete and acquit your country as a fair sporting nation than to bring a pack of medals as a result of bending the rules and denying the Games of fair competition
“Finally, let me assure you of the support of over 170 million sports-loving Nigerians who are solidly behind you as you depart to bring glory to our fatherland in Rio.
“Therefore, go for gold in Rio! Go, Team Nigeria! Go!” the President said.
Buhari who said he had been updated on the outstanding performances of the athletes and teams at their various qualifying championships, noted that Nigeria has 49 qualified male athletes and 29 female athletes, giving a total of 78 athletes in 10 sport disciplines.
Aside the sports that the athletes have qualified for the Olympic Games, the President said he had also been informed of athletes that have qualified for the Paralympic Games, which comes up immediately after the Games in Brazil.
He congratulated all the athletes on their qualifications for the Games, even in the face of daunting challenges in their preparations.
Earlier, the Minister of Youth and Sports, Mr. Solomon Dalong, had promised Buhari that Team Nigeria would perform well at the Olympics Games.
“We will win medals without cutting corners, we will excel without cheating,” Dalong promised.
The minister commended the President for his support despite the economic hardship.
He said Team Nigeria represented the best that Nigeria could muster both at home and abroad, saying athletes were picked strictly on the basis of competence.
“The athletes are roaring to go and determined to do the country proud,” he added.
The President of NOC, Mr. Habu Gumel, also promised Buhari that the athletes would be worthy ambassadors of the nation. He said team members would abstain from acts capable of tarnishing the image of the country as discipline would be their watchword.
Courtesy: The Punch