A TikTok video of a Nigerian athlete washing his uniform on Wednesday was yet another low moment in a disappointing Olympics, with a low medal count and serious drug-testing issues, for Africa’s richest and most populous nation.
In the clip, male shot put thrower Chukwuebuka Enekwechi said he had to wear the same apparel for his semi-final and final events, because he had just one set for the Tokyo games. It is especially puzzling because Puma, the German sportswear giant, signed a $2.7 million contract in 2019 to produce kit for the Nigerian team, and enough for each athlete to have more than one set.
That deal has now been canceled by the company. Puma said it ended its sponsoring and licensing agreement with the Athletics Federation of Nigeria “as a direct consequence of recent developments, particularly at the Tokyo Olympic Games 2020,” according to a press release by the federation on Aug. 4.
Puma would have supplied Nigerian athletes of all age groups with uniforms for four years. It had also pledged to offer cash rewards to Olympic athletes with podium finishes: $15,000 for Gold, $5,000 for Silver and $3,000 for Bronze.
None of that is going to happen anymore, but Nigeria’s current sports administrators are delighted. The athletics federation said Nigeria’s sports minister had successfully stopped athletes from receiving Puma bags containing about 40 items each in Tokyo through the Nigerian embassy. To this set of administrators, the 2019 deal was not properly agreed between Puma and previous leaders of Nigeria’s athletics body. Indeed, the deal has been at the center of a power tussle between past and incumbent leadership teams.
But the whole affair has highlighted Nigeria’s poor preparation in other aspects of these Olympics.
Five days after the opening ceremony, 10 athletes were disqualified for not meeting drug-testing requirements. The Nigerian athletics federation had somehow failed to arrange for the athletes to be tested before the games. Feeling betrayed and in despair, the athletes carried signs to protest peacefully around the Olympic village in Tokyo.
Fidelis Gadzama, a silver medalist at the 2000 Summer Games in Sydney and now a vice president of Nigeria’s athletics body, admitted it was the administrators’ fault. “Our recklessness led to the exclusion of these athletes. We are responsible,” he told Quartz Africa.
It’s been an awful outing for Nigeria but there have been some reasons to cheer in the midst of the chaos. In the final of the women’s freestyle 68 kg wrestling, 32-year old Blessing Oborududu became Nigeria’s first-ever Olympic medalist in the sport.
The remaining athletes may be pacified by the fact that after Oboruduru’s silver medal, Nigeria increased cash rewards for all podium finishes (these are separate from what Puma promised). A gold medal is now worth $15,000, up from $5,000, while silver went up from $3,000 to $10,000. Ese Brume, who won bronze in the women’s long jump, will now get $7,500 instead of $2,000.
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