Below is the short speech that I recently gave at the 2017 Russian International Olympic University, Sochi, Open Day on April 14, 2017.
Let me welcome you once again to the Russian International Olympic University, Sochi, on this occasion of the 2017 Open Day.
As you know, the Russian International Olympic University is a human and educational legacy of the 2014 Olympic Winter Games that was held here in Sochi, Adler and the surrounding mountains of Rosa Khutor and Krasnaya Polyana.
How can one better preserve the memory of a great event like the Olympics than by establishing a university for research and teaching future generations about the ideals of the movement in an ultra-modern facility such as that which the Russian International Olympic University presents?
As you might be aware, I hail from Nigeria, the most populated country in Africa. And I happen to be the first Nigerian admitted to study here at RIOU.
My earliest memory of the Olympic Games was from Seoul ’88. I remember watching Ben Johnson win the 100metres final before he was ignominiously stripped of the title which was then handed deservingly to Carl Lewis.
I did not see my country on the Olympic medal podium until Barcelona ’92 when we got silver medals in Boxing and Athletics (Nigeria’s first ever medal came in Tokyo ’64 in Boxing).
In 1996, we seemingly arrived into our own as we clinched two gold medals (Men’s Football and Women’s Long Jump). We celebrated these feats with wild chanting and street parties back home and my love affair with the Olympic Games was truly cemented.
The 2014 Sochi Games had its critics but it ran smoothly through. I watched on TV as the athletes competed with all their energy but never once gave it some thought that I would be studying in the city three years later.
When the opportunity came for me to apply for the MSA course in April 2016, I took it with a lot of enthusiasm. While the thought that one may not be good enough to get into such a prestigious global programme crossed my mind, my wife encouraged me to apply. And I am glad I did.
Here at RIOU I have come to a fuller, deeper understanding of the Olympic Movement and global sport through the well-designed teaching modules put in place for the MSA programme.
The module of the MSA is broken into five, like the Olympic Rings. They are as follows: The Economics of Sport and the Olympics; Governance, Politics and the Olympic Movement; Research Methods for Sport Management; the Business of Sport and the Olympics and Sport Marketing and Communications.
Our classes have been very hands on, with world class professors who give great attention to students’ individual and group presentations as we work our way through knotty issues in modern sport management via case studies and exploratory essays.
My personal favourites have been Sport Tourism, Sport Development & Management Concepts, Leadership and People Management, Sport Branding and Communication and Marketing Communications.
Situated in a former Olympic city, RIOU offers internships with top sport events venues, organisations and events like the F1 Russian Grand Prix, Rosa Khutor, Fisht Stadium, Sochi Hockey Club, etc. Students have also been able to go abroad to places like Finland, Switzerland and Austria for internship in order to practice what they have been taught in class.
The strength of any graduate programme depends on its alumni network. Many RIOU graduates have gone on to take up important positions in sport federations, National Olympic Committees, marketing companies and sport communication agencies. Others have gone on to pursue further degrees in sport management.
Personally I am looking at a PhD position at the Universite Paris Sud in France. I have also recently been contracted as a Contributor to The Guardian, one of Nigeria’s biggest newspapers where I write twice a month on global sport topics.
The RIOU MSA offers limitless potentials for candidates. For anyone looking to a career in sport, this Olympic legacy is the ideal place to start.
I leave you with a quote from RIOU Rector, Professor Lev Belousov: “The key element to our flagship MSA course is its emphasis on creatively applying the knowledge and expertise accumulated by the organisers of previous Olympic Games, especially from Sochi 2014. Whilst a lot of university programmes focus on narrow areas within sports management, such as administration or law or by specialising in a single sport only, RIOU’s model combines a traditional university curriculum with features commonly found on a career development programme.”