The Nigeria Olympians Association on Thursday in Abuja honoured 24 veteran Olympians with award of service as part of efforts to ensure Nigerian sports heroes were immortalised.
The News Agency of Nigeria reports that the colourful ceremony, which had the theme: “The Labour of Our Heroes Past,” was graced by several sports stakeholders in the country.
The list of veteran athletes honoured dates back to those who participated in the 1952 Helsinki Olympics, up to those who were at the 1980 Moscow Games.
Olumide Oyedeji, President of Nigeria Olympians Association, emphasised on the need to ensure that the efforts of Nigeria’s sports heroes were continually celebrated.
Oyedeji added that their welfare should consequently be taken care of like it was being done in several other countries.
He said: “The Nigerian Olympians Association has made the decision to be actively involved in the welfare of its members.
“We are bringing all Olympians together to celebrate and also ensure we create a platform for meaningful engagement and sports development.”
The former captain of the national male basketball team, D’Tigers, called on government at all levels as well as sports administrators to ensure the welfare of Nigerian athletes remain their top priority.
Earlier, the Minister of Youth and Sports Development, Sunday Dare, had said the ministry was ready to partner with the association in developing sports in the country.
The Minister, who was represented by Peter Nelson, the ministry’s Director of Planning, Monitoring and Information Management (PMI), said the welfare of athletes and coaches remained a top priority.
Dare reiterated Federal Government’s commitment to ensuring that Team Nigeria prepares and does well at the Tokyo Olympics.
The President, Nigeria Olympic Committee, Habu Gumel, in his remarks commended the association for the initiative, stressing that Nigerian Olympians are global ambassadors.
Gumel said so far 51 Nigerian athletes have qualified for the Tokyo Olympics and the Federal Government and the NOC were working round the clock to ensure podium finish for the athletes.
NAN reports that the veterans honoured included Edward Ajado (Sprint-1952 Helsinki Olympics), Nojeem Maiyegun (Boxing-1964 Tokyo Olympics), and Peter Anieke (Football-1968 Mexico Olympics).
Others are Module Oshikoya (Athletics-1972 Munich Olympics), Segun Odegbami (Football-1980 Moscow Olympics), Hammed Adio (Athletics-1980 Moscow Olympics), and Gloria Obajimi (Athletics-1980 Moscow Olympics), among others.
Special recognition was also given to the Atlanta 1996 medal-winning athletes.
The association later announced that the award to other Olympians would be a continuous process.
Odegbami, while reacting to the honour later on, called for more investment in sports in line with international best practice.
Adio also called for sports to be seen as big business which can fast-track the socio-economic development of the nation.
NAN reports that over 1,000 Nigerian athletes have featured at 16 editions of the Olympics since 1952, winning 25 medals which comprise three gold, 10 silver and 12 bronze.
The award was graced by Olympians, sports administrators, coaches, politicians, media moguls, ex-internationals and officials of the National Council for Arts and Culture.