Nigeria Needs N7bn For 2016 Olympics — Abdullahi

The Minister of Sports and Chairman National Sports Commission, Bolaji Abdullahi, has revealed that Team Nigeria will need N7bn to be at the Rio 2016 Olympics.

Abdullahi, who decried Nigeria’s poor outing at the London 2012 Olympics, said that the money would be used, among other things, to source for and train quality athletes while also restructuring the various sports federations.

He added that President Goodluck Jonathan will host a special retreat on October 22 where plans for the 2016 Olympics would be discussed.

“The President believes Nigeria should win nothing less than five medals at the next Olympics and he is not leaving anything out to get our athletes ready,” Abdullahi said. “We’ll need about N7bn to prepare the team for the Games.

“Government alone cannot carry the burden; the corporate sector has to weigh in. The private organisations will not come in because they are nice people; they’ll only come in if we presented it as a business proposal, and they see it as a worthwhile investment otherwise we’re not going to make any impact. I believe all those issues can be tackled in no time,” he added.

Abdullahi had yet to overcome his disgust at seeing the national stadiums in Lagos and Abuja in sorry states, saying playing was on to have them managed by private organisations.

He said, “It’s a shame and I’m embarrassed that these huge monuments of our sports could be left to decay over the years. The question is, when the National Stadium in Abuja was constructed nine years ago, what was the maintenance plan for the facility? Is there any maintenance plan? If there was, what happened to it?

“You can’t put in place this kind of infrastructure and hope that it would take care of itself. At the London 2012 Olympics, the organisers were clear about what they are going to do with the facilities after the Games.

“At the time of building the stadium in the name of Nigeria 1999, what plan did we have? There wasn’t any plan on ground, that’s why we’re where we are today. Routine maintenance cannot help hence we’re talking about giving the stadiums out on concession. We’re trying to get organisations that can manage the stadiums, especially in Abuja and Lagos.

“The President has set up a small committee headed by the Coordinating Minister for the Economy, Dr. Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, to look at what we can do with some of the infrastructures.

“But why I’m angry is that while we’re working on this long-term plan, what does it cost us to keep the stadiums clean and trim the grass. It’s embarrassing (especially) when someone in my Commission is the Director of Facilities.”

The Minister also told The PUNCH that the planned reformation for the Nigeria Institute of Sports would not mean the loss of jobs at the institute.

“We’re starting with a fact-finding mission to determine what is wrong with the institute,” he said.

“The traditional role of the NIS is to train sports workers – coaches, athletes and so on. But we want it to play a greater role like the English Institute for Sports which was vital in turning sports around in Great Britain.

“I wouldn’t say we’ll relieve anyone of his position; this is not about individuals, it’s about the institute.”

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