The Commonwealth Games and the Olympic Games are two renowned international athletic events where competitors often come from various nations and compete in a variety of disciplines. The Commonwealth Games are primarily intended for former subjects of the British Empire and those who want a political and socioeconomic alliance with the UK. Many African nations, including Nigeria, take part in the games every four years. The Olympic Games, which are similarly held every four and two years (during the summer and winter seasons), do not place restrictions on participation based on colonial ties. Instead, they are open to all nations in the world.
The first Commonwealth Games was held in 1930, and the Second World War forced the cancellation of two subsequent events. The games was referred to as the British Empire Games from 1930 to 1950. In 1954, it was renamed the British Empire and Commonwealth Games, and it ran until 1966. The British Commonwealth Games was the new name given to it in 1970. Up until the 1974 edition, the Games went by this name. Since 1978, the term “British” has never appeared in the nomenclature of the Games.
According to our analyst, the elimination of “British” was done with the purpose of making the Games not represent Britain’s colonial control over the participating countries, as well as to demonstrate the essence of viewing the Games as communal efforts of all nations. Nigeria has attended 15 of the 22 editions of the festival between 1950 and 2022. Nigeria skipped the Games in 1962 (Perth), 1978 (Edmonton), 1986 (Edinburgh), and 1998 due to various regional and global political schisms (Kuala Lumpur). Nigeria similarly skipped the 1976 Olympic Games in Montreal owing to a similar cause.
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Exhibit 1: Nigeria’s Medal Performance at Both Games
Manufacturing One Game for Success of the Other Game
Nigeria competed in 11 Olympic Games before finally winning, but her second appearance (at the 1954 Commonwealth Games) resulted in her first gold medal (see Exhibit 2). Nigeria began winning gold at the Olympics in 1996, a year in which it won a sizable amount of gold medals. Nigeria made history by being the first African nation to ever win a football-related gold medal during the year. The country, however, was unable to maintain the momentum at the games in Sydney in 2000, Beijing in 2008, and Rio in 2016. She had one of its lowest performances in 2020, winning a small number of medals (see Exhibit 3).
As previously indicated, Nigeria earned a set number of medals across all medal categories at both games. Over the years, however, the country has performed better in the Commonwealth Games than in the Olympic Games (see Exhibit 1). In comparison to the Olympic Games, she has won more gold, silver, and bronze medals at the Commonwealth Games. Analysis of both games shows that Nigeria’s highest Olympic achievement was in 1996, and 2022 remains her year of great accomplishments in the Commonwealth games since 1950.
Exhibit 2: Nigeria’s Performance at Commonwealth Games 1950-2022
Exhibit 3: Nigeria’s Performance at Olympic between 1952 and 2022
Bronze medals at the Commonwealth Games had a greater impact on the winning attitudes of athletes during previous Olympic editions than other medal categories, according to our analysis of the relationship between winning medals at the Commonwealth Games and achieving the same result during Olympic editions. Nigeria had a 42.90 percent greater chance of earning silver medals at previous Olympic competitions after winning bronze. Over a quarter of the gold medals won at the Olympic Games came from the bronze category. Analysis also reveals that Nigeria’s past Commonwealth Games silver medals helped the country achieve gold, silver, and bronze at the Olympics at a moderately high percentage (see Exhibit 4).
Exhibit 4: Percentage Contribution of Commonwealth Games Medals’ Winning to Olympic Medals’ Winning
The Need for Exploring Sustainable Policy, Infrastructure and Incentives
The key insight is that leveraging the country’s performance at the Commonwealth Games might help her put up a strong show at the Olympics. Concerned stakeholders should take into account other potential elements that could have improved the performance throughout the previous five Commonwealth Games editions in addition to using medal exploits to determine this. Does this imply that athletes competing in athletics for the Commonwealth Games received greater instruction using top-notch resources and rewards than those who competed in past Olympic competitions?
The orientation and readiness of each involved stakeholder to make sport contribute to Nigeria’s growth and development would heavily influence the answers to this question. According to our analyst, using sport as a tool to achieve specific SDG goals and targets cannot be done with “mere paper policy” without taking tangible steps to translate stated goals and policy focus into physical activity. As a result, both the private sector and the Nigerian government, through the Ministry of Youth and Sports Development, need to step up and find creative ways to deal with the sector’s many problems.
There is a need to reexamine school sport activities, which created many excellent athletics who competed in the early editions of both games. Genuine infrastructure development investment must be undertaken, with an emphasis on creating a win-win situation. Sports coverage by media professionals must also be improved. The government’s sole focus on football is not assisting in the development of other sports across the country. Meanwhile, fixing these issues and/or challenges without proper financial and non-financial incentives for athletes would continue to facilitate citizenship change. As a result, it is critical that the Nigerian government consider developing special pay and remuneration packages for men and women in the sport sector.