Views From The States.
Idorenyin Uyoe writes on the African Journey
The opening ceremonies for the 22nd edition of the Winter Olympic Games, will be held on Friday in the mountain resort town of Sochi, Russia. This year’s Winter Olympics will feature 2,800 athletes, from 88 nations competing in 98 events, in 7 sports, across 15 disciplines. African athletes will once again be largely “gimmicks” in these Olympics, but hey, why not? Have you been to Sochi?
Africa will be represented by 3 countries, sending a total of 5 athletes. The breakdown follows:
Morocco – 2 athletes
Togo – 2 athletes
Zimbabwe – 1 athlete
Of the 5 athletes, there are 4 females and 1 male.
It’s generally understood that athletes who represent countries from the Southern hemisphere at the Winter Olympics are usually part of a marketing “stunt” intended to draw attention to a company or cause, with the African athletes having no real chance of winning anything..
At the 1998 Winter Olympics in Nagano, Japan, the US apparel company, Nike, sponsored Philip Boit from Kenya, to compete in the 10km classic cross country ski race. Leading up to the Olympics, Nike funded Boit’s training in Finland, and paid all his travel, training, meal and hospitality expenses. Boit finished 92nd, and last, in the race, crossing the finish line a full 20 minutes after the race had ended. Boit finished so far behind in the race, that the winner of that race, had time to finish his media interviews and still had time to go back onto the race course to greet and hug Boit as he mercifully crossed the finished line, saying, he “deserved encouragement.” Umm … okayyyyy!
Though the spectacle of the Kenyan skier Boit was humiliating for the highly respected Kenyan Olympic Committee, Nike gained HUGE publicity from the marketing gimmick, as it used the attention to successfully launch its new line of Ski Apparel. Then of course, the company dropped him. Shocker!
Occasionally, by a fluke of circumstance or nature, an unforeseen event occurs, which propels one of these athletes to a gold medal. At the 2002 Winter Olympics in Salt Lake City Utah, Stephen Bradbury of Australia became the first athlete from the southern hemisphere to win an Olympic gold medal, when he did so following a collision in the finals of the men’s 1,000 meter speed skating race. Apolo Ohno of the US was leading the race heading into the final turn, but collided with another skater, causing a “pileup” of several fallen skaters. This allowed Bradbury, who was trailing far behind the pack, to avoid the “pileup” of fallen skaters, and cross the finish line first to win the gold medal.
Barring some unforeseen circumstance of that nature, African athletes at these Winter Olympics are not expected to make any noise, and certainly not expected to win any medals.
Let’s face it, winter sports are not likely to take off on any level in Africa or the southern hemisphere at large, I do believe we should salute each of these athletes for their hard work, discipline, and dedication, as they have distinguished themselves at the highest levels of their respective sports.
No sir, they won’t win anything, but being invited to an event as prestigious as the Winter Olympic games is a FANTASTIC achievement, an achievement each and every one of these 5 African athletes absolutely earned, and should be proud.
The 22nd Winter Olympic festival will run from February 7-23rd in Sochi, Russia.