This Time for Africa

There are four years to go until Rio 2016. There’s time then to alter the games in order to be advantageous to the African continent.

Words Tolu Ogunlesi

By the time you read this the 2012 Olympic Games will long have ended. Many across the world, blissfully glued to their televisions for two weeks, will suffer the unimaginable trauma of realising that they need a new diversion to displace the standard operating tedium of much of what we call human existence.

And of course all eyes will turn to Rio, where the next Olympics will take place, in 2016. Rio of the gyrating waists and endlessly throbbing drums; Rio of the festering favelas and of the gorgeous weaves without which life would be nasty and brutish for millions of Nigerian women. Rio, where Nigeria will be hoping to perform better than it did in London (The London medals’ sack came back tragically empty).

I’ve always argued that the array of Olympic sports currently on offer presents a competitive scenario that is disadvantageous to the African continent. As part of an ongoing push for equality – to wit, the push for a permanent African slot on the United Nations Security Council, the recent push for a World Bank president of African origin, I think it’s high time we (and by ‘we’ I mean ‘Africa’) started a serious lobby for the convening of a global summit to revisit the constitution of the Olympic Games.

Olympic sports are too first-world for the reality of a planet in which one of every five people lives on less than a dollar a day. We need to start a campaign for a more realistic, more representative assessment of the physical-slash-sporting potential of the human race.

I already have some suggestions, and would like to use this medium to invite your contributions:

  • The Olympic Walk should be lengthened dramatically, from 50km to at least 500km (which is not even up to half the distance across the Sahara), and contestants should have to carry Olympic torches made from, er, cement.
  • Swimming should become a long-distance night-time-only event, involving obstacles, freezing waters, and blinding beams of light projected from around the swimming arena.
  • The decathlon should include at least one phase that involves the quest to board a moving bus.
  • One of the cycling events (there are currently four variants of Olympic cycling!) should be replaced by Motorcycling. And then we could have a variant of that sport: Synchronised Motorcycling. Imagine a dozen okada riders hooting to the tune of Oliver Twist by D’Banj and stunting pretend-angrily around a Range Rover Sport that has pretend-hit one of them.
  • Fencing should stop being misleading, and become actual ‘fencing’: abseiling 12-foot fences topped by barbed wire (Without the barbed wire it wouldn’t be the same).
  • Traditional African wrestling is another sport that belongs in the games. Traditional wrestling in this part of the world is not complicated by all those strange rules that encumber WWF-style tumble-rumbles. The idea is simple (and refreshingly so in a world ruining itself with complexity – think sub-prime mortgages and credit-default swaps): ‘unite opponent’s backside with ground.’ Africans have been fighting that way for ever. Insisting on WWF-style wrestling clearly disenfranchises us.

Tweet us your suggestions (@Wingsmagazine) on the kind of sports you’d like to see in 2016. There are of course no indispensable Olympic sports. Over the years several have been dropped, including yachting, cricket, polo, and baseball. Perhaps we might be able to pressure the IOC to pay more attention to African sporting passions? After all, isn’t one out of every five people on this planet African?

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