Sports News of Tuesday, 31 July 2012
Source: Theodore M.K. Viwotor
By Theodore M.K. Viwotor (Multi Sports Columnist)
After years of preparations and expectation, the London 2012 Olympic Games have taken off with very interesting happenings.
Ghanaians were certainly amazed at the beautiful and colorful opening ceremony that marked the beginning of the games that is bringing competitors from all over the world to make a name for their country.
But for the sad and heart-breaking demise of our President John Evans Atta Mills, the greater part of national focus would have been on the Olympic Games. It is appropriate at this point to join Ghanaians in expressing our condolences to the family of the good Professor whose death hit the world like a thunderbolt. We at Multisports are dumbfounded by the death and are yet to truly believe he is dead. We wish to share in the grief of the nation, the ruling government and the bereaved family. Prof, Damirifa Due!, Due!!! Due!!!
Back to the Olympic Games, it is interesting to see a multiplicity of cultures and people coming together to seek honor for their various countries, whilst inscribing their names in the history books for setting or breaking a record or another. Already, nations like China, the US, Australia, Italy and Brazil, among others, have started making strides on the medal table.
In Africa, medal hopefuls remain Eastern African countries who dominate the long-distance races, an area considered as their specialty. Therefore, it would not be surprising to see Kenya, Ethiopia and the rest picking medals at the end of the games.
The question now is whether Ghana has any hopes of coming home with any medals. In the first place, we need to look at the number of athletes being sent to the games, though it is not about numbers but capabilities.
Aziz Zakari, Margaret Simpson, Ignatius Gaisah and Vida Anim are the four track and field athletes who managed to qualify to the games and they were joined by four boxers, Isaac Dogbe (bantamweight), Duke Micah (flyweight), Suleimana Tetteh (light flyweight) and Maxwell Amponsah (heavyweight). One judoka, Emmanuel Nartey and a female weightlifter, Alberta Ampomah, are also in London to represent Ghana.
What are the hopes of Ghana making it to the medal table? Do we have the men and women to win laurels? Are we just adding to the numbers because we are a participating country? These are the questions on the minds of Ghanaians. Before answers to these questions could be answered, Azumah Nelson, a former medalist at the Commonwealth Games in 1978, raised doubts over Ghana’s medals hopes when he stated that the nation should not expect medals from Team Ghana in the boxing arena. He blamed lack of proper preparations for the loss of hope in them. His statement was quickly rejected by the General Secretary of the Ghana Olympic Committee (GOC), Mr Richard Akpokavie, who expressed hope in the boxers and the rest of the team. It is not surprising that the latter had come out that boldly because as Secretary of GOC, he would have to defend his organization’s actions else he would indict himself. Alluding to what Azumah Nelson said would have amounted to admission of failure on the GOC’s part. Why would you send a team to this all-important game knowing that there were no hopes of winning any medals?
That did not imply that he was defending his team for the sake of it; he knows what they are made of and may be speaking from that perspective. Experienced as he is, Azumah Nelson may also be looking at things from a more technical point of view, noticing some weaknesses that are not visible to Mr Akpokavie. Whatever the case, the issue is not about who is right or wrong but how we can all work together to make Ghana proud at the games.
It is very obvious that Ghana’s chances of winning medals are not that good, considering the size and preparation of the athletes and boxers. Size may not matter much but quality training does. So, prior to this event a lot of training programmes should have been organized to keep the players in good conditions to win more laurels for the nation. Something was done but it appears inadequate. However, we can all hope that Ghana wins medals at the games to serve as encouragement and reference point for generations yet unborn. Since Ghana won Olympic medals in boxing in the 60’s nothing much has happened in that discipline and making it this time would be historical. The lack of confidence in Team Ghana could end up becoming a good omen if they put their acts together and shock their critics.
That is why Ghanaians ought to support them achieve their promise to win medals in honour of departed father of the nation, Professor John Evans Atta Mills. They have what it takes and they alone hold the keys to success at the games. On the other hand, it is bad for Ghana to be taking things for granted during such events. Other countries put in their best in preparation towards the games and their efforts have started paying off with the medal haul. They know what the Olympic Games means to them so they prepare adequately for the event long before the time.
It is unfortunate that the Ghana Olympic Committee was embroiled in leadership crises at a time others were putting touches to their teams and monitoring their progress at various locations. Our approach to such events ought to change to ensure that we aim at the highest and not just going in as participants, something any other country could do. One may say that qualifying in itself is an achievement. That is true but does not put a nation’s name on the medal table.
The GOC ought to learn from this experience in order to make amends in subsequent competitions. Officials to the competition have a responsibility not only to be with the team but to learn from the experience of other countries in order to improve upon what we have in Ghana. Four years later when the games are held in Brazil in 2016, the committee should be able to prove to Ghanaians that they truly learnt from their mistakes, else they would have no business staying in office.
In spite of all these, Team Ghana have history beckoning them at this stage and they have to glitter to prove their worth. Nothing is beyond them; they can come out with medals to our surprise, no matter what. This is not the first time so the team ought not to be intimidated by any person or country.
Government has done well by motivating them with rewards for medallists, in addition to the usual per diem that comes with such events. If they allow such fortunes to bypass them, then they have themselves to blame.
As the nation mourns the painful death of the ex-President of Ghana, what befitting memorial could be better than winning medals that would be dedicated to him for the wonderful works he did while on earth and his contribution to sports in general in the country.
As we look at the Olympic Games, the Paralympic Games also beckon us. The athletes are also preparing to win Ghana’s first Paralympic medal in London. There are a few inadequacies at their front that ought to be tackled now. In the next article, much time would be used delving into Ghana’s participation in the Paralympic Games.
For now, may we know what a Paralympian gets for winning a medal? For the records, the Olympians get US$20, 000, US$10, 000 and US$5, 000 respectively for gold, silver and bronze. Answers needed urgently.
The Writer is also the Administrative Secretary of the Ghana Amputee Football Federation as well as the News Editor of The Daily Democrat