In a recent development, Habu Gumel, President of the Nigeria Olympic Committee (NOC), has urged sports federations to assess their level of preparedness for the 2024 Olympics by utilising the African Games as a testing ground. He emphasised the importance of using the African Games for both qualification and raising awareness for the upcoming Olympics. Gumel stated, “Before then, the Youth Winter Games will take place in Gangwom, South Korea, from Jan. 19 to Feb. 1, 2024. The Games will offer opportunities for more athletes to qualify for the Paris Games.”
The statement by Tony Nezianya, NOC’s Public Relations Officer, revealed that after several delays, the 13th African Games would finally be hosted by Ghana from March 8 to March 23, 2024, in Accra. “Out of the 29 sports at the Accra Games, eight will be Olympic-qualifying and seven will be demonstration events,” the statement noted.
Gumel expressed hope that Nigeria, which has a history of performing well in past African Games, would seize the opportunity to qualify more athletes for the Summer Games in Paris, known as the “citadel of love.” However, he pointed out, “Currently, we have only qualified for eight slots at the Olympics. As of today and heading into the Olympic year 2024, our nation has only qualified three in athletics, three in boxing, and one each in cycling and wrestling,” which he found worrisome.
Gumel highlighted the concern that some of Nigeria’s talented athletes and teams were missing out on opportunities due to their failure to participate in mandatory qualification events leading to the Olympic Games. He stressed the need for a change in strategy to achieve better results.
Gumel emphasised the ongoing qualification process for individual and team sports for the Paris 2024 Olympic Games. He said, “Qualifying more athletes would not only brighten the chances for a podium finish but build up Nigeria’s quota for an official team contingent to the Olympic Games.”
Gumel appealed to the Minister of Sports to ensure Nigeria’s active participation in the African Games and other qualifying tournaments, emphasising that failure to do so would result in self-disqualification from the Olympic Games. He expressed confidence in the commitment of all parties to surpass the 1996 record.
The NOC President mentioned that Atlanta ’96, where Nigeria won two gold medals, remains the country’s best Olympic performance to date. He urged the Minister to strengthen the federations and provide critical financial support for the sports sector.
Adewale Oladunjoye, President of the Nigeria Triathlon Union (NTU), emphasised the need for substantial funding from the ministry to support teams in their pursuit of qualifiers. He acknowledged the Minister’s call for collaboration with the private sector but pointed out the sector’s challenges in sourcing foreign exchange to stabilise their businesses.
Brig.-Gen. Oyelade Akinniyi of the Nigeria Boxing Federation requested the Sports Minister refund the money spent by his federation to attend the qualifiers that secured three boxing slots at the Olympics. He noted that there were more qualification opportunities awaiting cash backing from the sports ministry.
Ademola Damilola Daniel, Chairman of the Curling Sports Federation, also sought swift intervention to support his team’s participation in the Youth Winter Games in Gangwom, South Korea.