If there is any event in the world that brings people of different cultures, colours and languages together, it is the Olympics Games. The Olympics are a major international event in which thousands of athletes participate in a variety of sporting competitions. They are considered to be the world's foremost sports competition and more than 200 nations participate in them. There are both summer and winter Olympic Games which each occur every four years (and two years apart from each other). The modern event has its origins in the ancient Olympic Games which were held in Olympia, Greece from the eighth century BC to the fourth century AD.
Almost every nation in the world is represented at the Olympics. Every two years, the Olympic Games and their media exposure provide unknown athletes with the chance to attain national (and in some cases, international) fame. The Games also constitute a major opportunity for the host city and country to showcase themselves to the world. Nigeria’s first appearance at the Olympics was in 1952 where ten athletes competed in various events including long jump, high jump and the 400m, 200m and 100m relays. Since then, Nigeria has sent athletes to compete in every Summer Olympic Games with the exception of the 1976 Games in Montreal which the country boycotted in protest at the IOC decision to allow New Zealand to compete after its national rugby team had toured apartheid South Africa earlier that year. The nation has never participated in the Winter Olympic Games. The desire of any nation competing in the Olympics is not just to be on the medal list but also to win gold medals. Nigerian athletes have demonstrated their prowess in different sporting activities by winning 23 medals, mostly in boxing and athletics, three of which were gold. The 1996 Atlanta Games were especially successful for Nigeria as the country’s contingent won two gold medals that year. Chioma Ajunwa’s gold medal in the long jump was the country’s first and it was quickly followed by a second in football. The ‘Dream Team’ triumph was all the more spectacular as the U-23 team overcame South American powerhouses Brazil in a pulsating semi-final, followed by Argentina in the final. Nigeria’s third gold medal was awarded on July 23, 2012 to the men’s 4x400m relay team that represented the country at the Sydney 2000 Olympics. The team, led by the late Sunday Bada, had initially won the silver medal but was awarded the gold after Antonio Pettigrew of the winning US team admitted to taking performance-enhancing drugs. The 2012 Summer Olympic Games began in London on July 27 and will continue until August 12. Nigeria is being represented by a total of 55 athletes in a variety of events including basketball, table tennis, athletics, weightlifting, canoeing, boxing, wrestling and taekwondo. Every well-meaning Nigerian is looking forward to seeing a Nigerian's name on the gold medal list again and the athletes in the country’s contingent at the Games are doing their best to make these hopes a reality.