The 2017 F1 VTB Russian Grand Prix takes place at the Sochi Autodrome this weekend. For the past two weeks, the organisers have been creating public events meant to engage the local community who are expected to make up the highest number of spectators at the races from April 28-30.
When I visited the largest shopping centre in town, the Moremall [pronounced Moramol], a few days ago, I witnessed a fan event right in the middle of the mall.
Yesterday was an interesting one. I finally got the opportunity to make a presentation about the RIOU MSA course to the visiting staff and 20 sports management masters students of the Université Paris-Sud while being watched by our Vice Rector and Director of Studies. My talk started with the city of Sochi being the “gateway to the Russian Riviera” (Lonely Planet) before delving into the uniqueness of the MSA course and RIOU as a legacy of the 2014 Olympic Winter Games.
I recently watched an Al Jazeera documentary about the progress that is being made by women footballers in Rwanda, more than two decades after the ugly genocide that tore that country apart.
While football is not and can never be a panacea for righting the wrongs of the past and making amends for human rights abuses, it certainly has changed the way of life and given a breath of hope to the women who play it.
I’ve been a journalist for 11 years now. For the last seven years I’ve worked in sport and core football for the last five. The first thing for me had always been about the story. I concentrated on sharpening my story sniffing and telling skills, that’s all that mattered.
But in 2016 I started to feel that there was more to sport than just the story, which unfortunately abounds so much in Nigeria – stories of corruption, neglect, negligence, in-fighting, etc.
As a journalist you want to have your fingers in the juiciest stories. But I began to think that there should be a better way. Why do people in Nigerian sport act the way they do?
I wanted to know why sport thrives in other parts of the world but not in Nigeria. I love stories of triumph but wasn’t seeing enough in the local media where reports of corruption abound.
It was the reason why I left my job at Goal Nigeria last August to pursue a Master of Sport Administration at the Russian International Olympic University.
My mind has opened up to the limitless possibility that sport offers a country endowed with immense physical ability like Nigeria.
While this piece is just a tip of the iceberg, it is my hope that in 2017, administrators will begin to focus more on the issues that really matter.
Sports ministries from state to the Fed should be looking at increasing the number of people who have access to sports facilities in order to increase participation all over the country.
For too long we have been fixated on qualifying for international competitions while failing to develop a strategy for creating a healthy society.
My advice to my friends who will hold political office in the years to come is, do not see sport as just another portfolio for putting your friends who have no experience whatsoever. It’s a key portfolio where you need experience in order to engage youth and create a long lasting healthy and strong society.
Sport is about winning medals and the glamour of stardom, but it’s also beyond that.
Sport is about increasing participation and ensuring that every boy and every girl in every community all over the country can have access to sports facilities in order to improve their health and lifestyle. We should have a deliberate strategy to engage them instead of placing all our focus on qualifying for the World Cup.
I’ve recently been in touch with other Nigerians who are studying for future management roles in sport. I believe that this crop of passionate people will help to transform our understanding of how the industry works when they return home and get the opportunity to bring their experience to the ground.
I wish Nigerian sport all the best for 2017.