In the strata of pecking in world sports, the Olympic Games is the most prestigious, bigger and more valuable event than even the Fifa world cup. The event also dwarfs all sport events in terms of boosting images of both the host country and the over 200 nations who compete in it. An Olympic medal; gold, silver or bronze is an eternal treasure for any athlete or country fortunate to win it.
The hunt for an Olympic medal can take a lifetime for some countries not endowed with talents or resources to produce top class athletes.
The Gambia has been attending the summer games for more than 40 years now. In the 1960s, 70s and 80s, the Gambia had a gallery of track and field athletes continuously being produced from schools and sports clubs. Names like Dodou Joof, Chico Njie, Bamba Njie, Bambo Fatty, and then later the generation of Victoria Decker, Jabou Jawo, Georgian Freeman, Okeke Andrews, Omar Faye, Frances Fama-Jatta Secka, Adama Njie, Lamin Marikong and many others have all represented Gambia in great ways. But this current one in Japan and the London 2012 stand as the most memorable with Swaebou Sanneh and Gina Bass reaching the semifinals of the men’s and women’s 100 meters respectively. Their achievement should not only serve as a celebration but a reference point from where we must endeavor to get even better.
For a very long time in this country, athletics and other less promoted sport have not attracted much government funding as opposed to football. A clear-cut case is the current national football team on which government spent over D100 million to support their campaign to qualify. Another D100million would have to be spent to transport and keep the team in Cameroun.
Can you imagine if D200 million is spent on Gambian athletics alone in the past few years how many Gina Bass’s would The Gambia have produced for this Olympics? Perhaps with the performance of Gina and the rest of Team Gambia, the sports authorities would realise that athletics and other sports too deserve attention and not just football.
In the same vein, the Gambia athletics association GAA too must have to run a more efficient programme to scout, train and build a pool of talented athletes who government can support to attend higher levels abroad. The school sports must be well funded and athletics clubs formed around the already existing sports clubs to compete in well organised championships at all levels. The Gambia National Olympic Committee must continue to collaborate with government and the IOC to provide training and funding opportunities for Gambian athletes. With a little more effort from the GAA and government, Gina Bass could have a national competition from many new stars before the Paris 2024 Olympic Games.