The Nigeria Olympians Association (NOA) has re-emphasize the need to appreciate the patriotic labour of Nigerian sports heroes by looking into their welfare.
The national president of association and former captain of the national male basketball team, D’Tigers, Olumide Oyedeji, made the call in Abuja on Thursday at the award night in honouring 24 veteran Olympians with award of service to their fatherland.
The award which was put together by the NOA as part of efforts to immortalize Nigerian sports heroes and to give upcoming athletes the sense of belonging that their service to the nation would not be in vain, was graced by several sports stakeholders in the country.
The list of veteran athletes honoured dates back to those who participated in the 1952 Helsinki Olympics, up to those who were at the 1980 Moscow Games. The veterans who were honoured include Edward Ajado (Sprint-1952 Helsinki Olympics), Nojeem Maiyegun (Boxing-1964 Tokyo Olympics), and Peter Anieke (Football-1968 Mexico Olympics). Others are Module Oshikoya (Athletics-1972 Munich Olympics), Segun Odegbami (Football-1980 Moscow Olympics), Hammed Adio (Athletics-1980 Moscow Olympics), and Gloria Obajimi (Athletics-1980 Moscow Olympics), among others. Special recognition was also given to the Atlanta 1996 medal-winning athletes.
Olumide urged the government at all levels as well as sports administrators to ensure the welfare of Nigerian athletes remain their top priority.
He said without the athletes – Olympians – there would be no anybody to administer or coach and therefore their welfare should consequently be taken care of like it was being done in other countries of the world.
“The Nigerian Olympians Association has made the decision to be actively involved in the welfare of its members because we want the welfare of the Olympians to look into.
“As athletes we went through a lot of pain to serve this country and we want a situation where opportunity can be for the Olympians.
“One year in the life of an athlete is seven years in the life of an administrator. But after serving the country meritoriously, many of the athletes were abandoned and maltreated. That was why we decided to celebrate ourselves,” Olumide said.
Earlier, the minister of youth and sports development, Sunday Dare, said the Ministry of Youth and Sports was ready to partner with the association in developing sports in the country.
The Minister, who was represented by Peter Nelson, director of planning, monitoring and information management, said the welfare of athletes and coaches remained a top priority.
President of the Nigeria Olympic Committee, Habu Gumel, in his remarks, commended the association for the initiative, saying the Olympians are global ambassadors.
Gumel said so far 51 Nigerian athletes have qualified for the Tokyo Olympics and the Federal Government and the NOC were working round the clock to ensure podium finish for the athletes.