The 2012 Olympics is already here and London is enjoying the hype. Countries have started arriving and the athlete village is bubbling. The games is all about specialty and every country has its comparative advantage.
Team Nigeria unfortunately will not present a representative in football in both the male and female category and this has dealt a big blow to the country. In the last Olympics, Nigeria’s men made it to the finals before losing narrowly to Argentina.
Team Nigeria however has hopes of doing well in some sports. Nigeria’s best chance for medals may come in the form of Blessing Okagbare and Chika Chukwumerije.
In the Diamond League 100 meters in London last week, Okagbare defeated Olympic champion, Shelly-Ann Fraser-Pryce of Jamaica and reigning world champion, Carmelita Jeter to win the 100 meters. This will go a long way in boosting her confidence and preparation ahead the Olympics. Chika Chkuwumerije is another medal hopeful for Nigeria in the Olympics.
The men basketball team surprised everyone including themselves to qualify for the Olympics for the first time in history.
They could be ambitious enough to pull some surprises. LEADERSHIP WEEKEND SPORTS brings looks at how countries may fare based on past Olympic form, sporting hegemony and chances at the Games.
ARCHERY: Nation In Focus - South Korea
If there’s an Olympic archery final, chances are that a South Korean is in it. South Korea has won 16 of the 32 gold medals on offer since the reintroduction of archery to the Olympics in 1972. The US has won eight, while no other nation has won more than one Olympic title in the sport, the Brits have picked up four bronze medals.
At Beijing 2008, the Koreans again won half of the four gold medals available, with China and Ukraine picking up the other two, in both cases at the expense of Korea. So, I is not surprising that Korea is among the 10 nations to have qualified the maximum six archers for London 2012.
ATHLETICS: Nation In Focus - United States
Athletics is not all about Jamaica. For example, Kenya sits sixth in the all-time athletics medal table, but half of the nation’s 22 gold medals in athletics came in distance events of 3000m or farther. United States still dominates athletics having won more than 300 gold medals.
Even the combined tally of the Soviet Union and Russia could only produce 82 gold, with Britain third on a total of 49. Finland, by virtue of gold medal gluts during the Games’ adolescence in 1920 and 1924, occupies fourth place with just one athletics gold medal less than Britain.
In recent history, Jamaica has carved out a niche as a rising athletics power. All of Jamaica’s 13 gold medals in Olympics history have come in athletics, and eight of those have come from Athens 2004 and Beijing 2008.
The US finished with seven athletics gold medals inside Beijing’s Bird’s Nest stadium, with Russia, Kenya and Jamaica all taking six. Ethiopia’s distance runners make them the other major medal factor in athletics, winning four gold medals in 2008.
BADMINTON: Nation In Focus - China
Badminton has been dominated by Asian nations since its introduction to the Olympics in 1992.
Eleven of the 24 gold medals contested at that time have gone to China, with South Korea and Indonesia accounting for another six each. Completing a varied collection of nations, Denmark - which has a strong badminton heritage is the owner of the one remaining gold, won in the men’s singles at Atlanta 1996.
Were badminton and weightlifting removed from the Olympics, Indonesia’s medal hopes would be devastated. Of the 25 Olympic medals Indonesians have won in history, 24 have come in those two sports (18 in badminton, six in weightlifting).
Archery accounts for the 25th, a silver medal at Seoul 1988.
BASKETBALL: Nation In Focus - United States
American dominance in this sport is unlikely to shock anybody. The nation whose NBA league monopolises global interest in basketball has racked up 19 gold medals, of which 13 came in the men’s event and six won by women.
Historically, the Soviet Union and Yugoslavia were both major basketball powers with Olympic titles to their names.
However, the break-up of both has handed dominance to the United States. In the last 20 years, the only Olympic title not won by the US was the 2004 men’s event where Argentina knocked the defending champions out at the semi-final stage before going on to win.
Basketball-mad Lithuania will be worth watching at London 2012. Its national side having come through a qualifying tournament held in Venezuela earlier this month will also try to prove a point. The Lithuanian men won a world bronze medal in 2010 but failed to reach the European final on their own soil last year, squandering an early chance to reserve a place at the Games.
BOXING: Nation In Focus - Cuba
Cuba is synonymous with boxing. The Communist nation’s love for the sport is reflected in its Olympic prowess. Cuba’s medal record in boxing is second only to the United States, with 32 gold medals to America’s 48.
Cuba topped the boxing medal table at every Olympics from 1992 to 2004, enduring a frustrating succession of silver medals at Beijing 2008 but still earning a medal in eight of the 11 events, even if none was gold. Now, men’s boxing is wide open as a sport.
Ten different nations were represented among the 11 winners in Beijing, including Britain’s (James DeGale who won middleweight gold), with only China picking up two titles.
In women’s boxing, new to the Games at London 2012, the story is different. China looks set to become the dominant force.
At both the 2008 and 2010 women’s World Championships, Chinese boxers reached the final in each of the three weights to be contested at the Olympics.
CANOEING: Nation In Focus - Slovakia
Slalom canoeists are among Slovakia’s greatest exports. Though the nation has only competed at the Olympics as a separate entity since 1994, the year after the dissolution of Czechoslovakia, it has won seven slalom canoe gold medals in that time - Slovakia’s only summer Olympic titles.
Four people are responsible for those victories: Michal Martikan won the men’s canoe single (C1) title in 1996 and 2008, Elena Kaliska won the last two women’s kayak single (K1) titles, and the Hochschorner brothers - Pavol and Peter - are three-time Olympic champions in the men’s canoe double (C2), winning in Sydney, Athens and Beijing.
Sprint canoeing is largely the domain of Germany and Hungary, which each picked up six gold medals at the sport’s 2011 World Championships, though Poland may be the one to watch at the London 2012 Olympics despite indifferent showings in Athens and Beijing. Britain has been building a strong sprint canoeing programme and Britain will want more than the one gold medal won (by Tim Brabants) in Beijing.
CYCLING: Nation In Focus - France
Britain dominated track cycling at Beijing 2008, but France has traditionally been a strong cycling nation at the Olympic Games.
The French won five cycling gold medals at both Atlanta 1996 and Sydney 2000, then placed second behind Britain in Beijing - albeit some distance back, picking up two gold and three silver medals to Team Britain’s eight gold and four silver.
France has won the last three men’s mountain bike Olympic titles courtesy of Julien Absalon, finishing with a one-two in the event at Beijing 2008, while France’s women also took first and second as women’s BMX made its debut at the same Games.
DIVING: Nation In Focus - China
The United States may be top of the all-time diving medal table, but that does not reflect the near-total dominance of China since it began taking the Olympic Games seriously.
China’s first major presence at a summer Olympics came in 1984. Four years later, only American Greg Louganis stopped the Chinese from sweeping the board in the Seoul 1988 diving competition. Since then, only eight of the 32 diving gold medals on offer have been won by a nation other than China.
Australia’s Matt Mitcham was the sole non-Chinese competitor to win a gold in the eight diving events contested at Beijing 2008, and China’s divers will be similarly hard to beat at London 2012. China has won more gold medals in diving - 27 in total - than in any other sport.
EQUESTRIAN: Nation In Focus - Germany
Germany is the undisputed equestrian powerhouse of the Games, producing 37 gold medallists in its various guises over the course of Olympic history.
These days, the medals in show jumping and eventing could come from any of the several nations. Alongside Germany, one can expect strong challenges from the likes of Britain and the United States.
Dressage, on the other hand, has been a closed shop for decades. Not since Moscow 1980 has a nation other than the Netherlands or Germany won either the individual or team dressage Olympic titles. However, the British team for London 2012 looks strong enough to threaten that hegemony.
FENCING: Nation In Focus - Italy
Between them, Italy, France and Hungary account for more than half of the near-600 fencing medals awarded since the dawning of the modern Olympic era.
Fencing has provided each of those three nations with more gold medals than any other sport. Italy has 45, France 41 and Hungary 34.
However, while the Hungarians’ glory days came largely in men’s sabre fencing during the first half of the 20th Century, the Italians and French are still leaders in the sport, occupying the top two places at both Athens 2004 and Beijing 2008.
At the 2011 World Championships, held in Sicily, the Italians won four titles in Olympic events while Russia, increasingly a fencing force, won three.
GYMNASTICS: Nation In Focus - China
Gymnastics has traditionally had a strong association with Romania and, up until the 2008 Beijing Games, that remained the case. Romania topped the medals table for gymnastics at Athens 2004 and had been prominent at most Games since the 1980s, off the back of Nadia Comaneci’s famous successes in Montreal and Moscow.
However, 2008 saw host nation China burst onto the scene, rocketing from one gold medal in Athens to 11 in Beijing, nine more than either the United States or Russia.
A repeat of that stunning margin of victory at London 2012 may be difficult. While China still top the medals table with four gold at the artistic gymnastics’ 2011 World Championships in Tokyo, the US won as many titles and hosts Japan, led by men’s superstar Kohei Uchimura, weighed in two.
The Japanese look to be a nation on the rise in the men’s sport.
Russia is the unquestioned star of rhythmic gymnastics while Canada is also to be looked out for in the trampoline events.
Though the Canadians have yet to win an Olympic gold medal, they have won more medals - five - in the sport than any other nation and have a strong team for London 2012.
HANDBALL: Nations In Focus: France, Norway
As holders of the Olympic, world and European titles, Norway’s women are the clear favourites for the handball gold medal at the 2012 Olympics. Handball is popular throughout Scandinavia and continental Europe, with Denmark winning women’s Olympic gold three times in a row prior to Norway’s victory at Beijing 2008.
The men’s Olympic champions are France who, having won both of the intervening world titles, are - like Norway’s women - on track to successfully defend the title.
HOCKEY - Nations In Focus: Germany, Netherlands
Field hockey proved India’s only source of Olympic gold medals for many years, but modern-day hockey has been the playground of Germany, Australia and the Netherlands.
Every hockey gold medal has gone to one of those three nations since Barcelona 1992, when hosts Spain dislodged the Germans after extra time in the women’s final.
Britain’s men and women are both dark horses for gold in 2012 but Argentina may be overdue.
Women’s hockey is hugely popular in Argentina and the World Cup winners, who beat Britain to the Champions Trophy title in January, are favourites to win the gold this summer.