Sunday, 31 October 2010

Childhood: Atòólé

A part of my childhood

Atòólé I heard it many times, fingers in a direction that looked like I was being pointed out. It was not a jeering though a song could be made of it.

The shame that encompassed you because you had done something wrong, maybe not normal, maybe lazy, maybe stupid, dare say heinous.

You could not make your bed in the morning without someone coming to check what you might have covered up. The rising tide of compounds of ammonium assailing your olfactory organs, all day long, but not the guarantee of a cooling on a hot night.

Earlier meals and no fluids, the sleight of hand, the deprivations inflicted by those who thought punishments and scolding would help, in my little mind; it simply aggravated the anxiety, the fear, the tortuous expectations of rebuke – did they also feel an inadequacy amidst my shame?

Did my parents help?

My thumb-sucking sister suffered no less at the abnormality of our foibles, good parenting should probably come with manuals and best practices – the key word being understanding what your kids might be going through expressed in seeming anti-social behavior.

For years, it was my problem and no one else’s, maybe now there is knowledge of the psychological travails of an Atòólé, why one would become an Atòólé in some places and not at others.

Months of staying away from home at 10 were a break from my role, I was the principal in my play, I said all the lines and was the spectacle of a few if not the envy of others. A pause from the gardening at home was punctuated by a visit from dad.

He invited me to stay at his swanky hotel and asked if I still did it – going from evidence of almost 4 months, I didn’t but that night I did again.

It continued exceptionally

What could it be? Why was it happening? Apparently, there was no medication for it and therapy was the hope that I would grow out it. It was probably another 3 years before it seemed that I had ditched the role of Atòólé.

Before then, as I started secondary school, there were 3 of us who seemed to have our bedding subjected to the scorching livelihood of sun-dried tomatoes – the tropical heat serving as the drain for waters that should have been given elsewhere.

Mattresses like beached whales starved of the comfort of their beds; thankfully, beyond the punishment of shame and the put-down no one exerted corporal punishment for it.

No definite answers

Now we know, Nocturnal Enuresis [1] (NE) to put a glossy medical term on a subject so personal put me in the 5 percentile, a delayed developmental issue that could have been due to stress, sexual abuse and other unexplained matters at home and amongst my family. Going through stages of Primary Nocturnal Enuresis and Secondary Nocturnal Enuresis, it might even be genetic, perish the thought that my parents ever heard Atòólé shouted in their direction.

If I did have a child whilst I would hate to see them inflicted with the Atòólé moniker, I would hope that I would be considerate, understanding and helpful in helping them through what could be as traumatic and very shameful without having anyone to turn to in time of great childhood need.

Yes, I have a history, I was a bedwetter and the endearing term for that in Yoruba was Atòólé.

Sources

[1] Nocturnal enuresis - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Saturday, 30 October 2010

Maison Tropicale film in Amsterdam

Meeting Jeremy Weate

I had the pleasure of meeting Jeremy Weate of http://naijablog.co.uk on Thursday on his visit to Amsterdam to attend an event organised by the Prince Claus Fund [1], a charity named for the late consort of Queen Beatrix of the Netherlands and the African Architecture Matters [2] organisation.

Jeremy has a doctorate in philosophy, has lived in Nigeria since 2004; a veritable commentator on Nigerian affairs who has probably more than many indigenous Nigerians travelled the length and breath of Nigeria, seeing lots of unappreciated sites national importance, heritage and culture whilst running together with his wife a publishing outfit called Cassava Republic Press [3].

I dare say, Jeremy has almost unchallengeable claims to being quite Nigerian and for his birthday present just about a month ago desired having his own Nigerian passport – the irony was not lost on the fact that many with a Nigerian heritage could not see why he would cherish such an association whilst they had rejected theirs by exercising rights to other nationalities but Nigerian.

Jeremy was one of the founding proprietors of the Nigerian Next newspaper [4] which has a well visited online presence, he has since left that company to concentrate on other progressive and development ventures in Nigeria.

In any case, I received an Facebook message from Jeremy that he was coming to my city, I could not miss the opportunity to meet him, so I offered to meet him at the airport and help him round the city to his hotel, the venue of the event and possibly a vegan restaurant – we ended up at an Indonesian restaurant where we were well catered for addressing our opposite palates with tasty cuisine.

Modernist architecture and the Maison Tropicale narrative

The event Jeremy was attending brought together elements of colonialism and modernist architecture in a film featuring Ângela Ferreira [5] called Maison Tropicale [6] directed by Professor Manthia Diawara [7]; a perspective of prefabricated architecture prototypes of aluminium by Jean Prouvé [8] built in Niger and Congo Brazzaville between 1949 and 1951.

These buildings after much neglect and enticement coupled with collusion of African government officials were dismantled in 2000, refurbished, reassembled and put on display in London with permanent exhibits at the top of the Georges Pompidou Centre in Paris and in New York where the one from Congo Brazzaville sold at auction for almost $5 million [9] in 2007.

The programme [10] for the evening at De Brakke Grond [11] included an introduction by Manthia Diawara launching his new book , African Film: New Forms of Aesthetics and Politics [12]; the screening of his film, Maison Tropical after which there was an open discussion with Manthia Diawara and Joe Osae Addo; a Ghanaian architect of international renown.

It was so easy to miss the import of the film and the issues covered because the obvious reference to modernist architecture and interest in architecture and the work of Jean Prouvé could easily have masked the societal, cultural, heritage and contemporary attitudes to things we should treasure but fail to appreciate – those matters I would address in a series of Maison Tropicale narrative blogs besides this one.

Afterwards, I met with lots of people from all backgrounds, many architects, had my copy of Manthia Diawara’s book signed by the author himself and found that I was not that much a dabhand at networking as Jeremy was. It was a fine evening and was glad to have been there.

Sources

[1] Prince Claus Fund for Culture and Development

[2] African Architecture Matters

[3] Cassava Republic Press - feeding the African imagination

[4] NEXT: latest news, sport and views from Nigeria

[5] Ângela Ferreira – MAISON TROPICALE / e-flux

[6] Jean Prouvé - La Maison Tropicale - Presented by André Balazs

[7] Manthia Diawara - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

[8] Jean Prouvé - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

[9] The Prouvé Prototype Maison Tropicale Sold for $4,968,000 at Christie's | Home | Art Knowledge News

[10] AAMatters, Invitation for an evening with Manthia Diawara and Joe Osae Addo

[11] Brakke Grond - English - Language no problem

[12] Amazon.com: African Film: New Forms of Aesthetics and Politics (9783791343426): Manthia Diawara

Youtube references

YouTube - Angela Ferreira on her film project the Maison Tropicale

YouTube - La Maison Tropicale

YouTube - Jean Prouvé – 3D Animation construction of La Maison Tropicale

La Maison Tropicale Series

Maison Tropicale film in Amsterdam

Deconstructing Maison Tropicale - Introduction

Maison Tropicale - Ownership

Maison Tropicale - Heritage

Maison Tropicale - Corrupt enterprise

Maison Tropicale - Grand Projects

Friday, 29 October 2010

This opera is shrill

Now doing Blogger

I feel I must address this issue once and for all and hopefully from an objective perspective. When I first started blogging, my blog hosting platform at Blog-City was one of the leading providers in the midst of the many fledgling offerings in 2003.

Just 2 months ago, Blog-City informed us that the service will close in January 2012 and thus began the race to re-host my blog on a platform that would not pull the plug at whim.

I eventually chose the Blogger platform because I had already started a blog there in 2007 and from the 6th anniversary of my blogging I had begun co-hosting my blog there.

From the statistics of market share [1], WordPress leads Blogger which has consistently been second for at least 4 years.

The new life of Blogger

The lesson learnt from having patronised a small Scottish firm for a service I did not realise might end has been to acquire a domain name for my blog http://akinblog.nl something that would have made it easier to move traffic from my old blog to the new location.

In a sense, my using Blogger offers a sense of security and if I do have to pay for the service at least it might come with better exercisable rights than those I’ve had with Blog-City.

With Blogger has come the menace of spam something Blog-City protected me from including legitimate comments when the readers failed the numeracy test.

Pulling my hair at comments

Whilst I do appreciate those who have left comments on my blogs I am beside myself with a whole set of generic comments that could go on any of my blogs that they are beginning to have the appearance of benign spam.

Typical ones like, “I find this article from Google, it's really useful for me, hope I can post this in my blog.”

“It took me a long time to search on the net, only your site explain the fully details, bookmarked and thanks again.” This appears on a few blogs without context or purpose.

“I am doing research for my college paper, thanks for your helpful points, now I am acting on a sudden impulse.” On a blog on slips, slippers and saunas – I had to reread the blog, helpful points, maybe I need help.

Moving on from what is persistent nuisance I got this, “I think, that you are not right. I suggest it to discuss. Write to me in PM.” From Anonymous who wants me to send a private message to challenge my assertions to corroborate his opinion. Did I say, he? The person could as well be gender indefinite and possibly not human; I have seen primate type letters on television.

For compliments, I get the acceptable, “Thanks for the post.” To which one could plausibly say, if you have nothing to say, say nothing at all.

When, I got the comment, “Absolutely with you it agree. In it something is also idea excellent, agree with you.” My perspicaciousness for correctness and annoying propensity for pedantry in grammar could not be excited for the want of trying.

This Opera is shrill

However, having made my case about choosing Blogger which is generally a popular blogging platform with no particular frills, it goes without saying that one would assume that readers would be using of the popular browsers to view by blog.

As I responded in a comment recently, my blog is more text-based than having multimedia content, I simply have not mastered that tack yet and really whilst the razzmatazz of pictures, audio and video can spice up a blog, they might well be a distraction from the writing. I try to be good enough at writing to obviate the need for glitter and bling.

Microsoft Internet Explorer, Mozilla Firefox and Google Chrome browsers gets used by 46.45%, 29.33% and 9.00% of the market respectively [2], adding up to 84.78%. A long-standing but somewhat obscure web browser in September 2010 comes a distant 6th with 3.19% of market share on the pie chart and 5th on the tables; it is called Opera.

Ranking below Safari and Mobile Internet, users of Opera must be enjoying the show in an empty theatre waiting for the fat lady to sing, but she has long since gone to bed.

My blog on a popular blogging platform with basically no frills displays well on the leading Internet browsers, I would not know how to reconfigure the broad and basic format of the Blogger platform to shoe-horn its aesthetic viewability into the narrow spectrum of Opera.

I am being asked or it is pestered to make my blog viewable in Opera, I don’t think so.

Sources

[1] Which Blogging Platform Do You Use? | Peltier Tech Blog | Excel Charts

[2] Usage share of web browsers - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Monday, 25 October 2010

Panda diplomacy comes to Stockholm in terracotta splendour

Stockholm this winter

Despite the cold weather and other complaints about Stockholm there is at least one reason to visit this winter if China is not on your itinerary.

Before leaving for Stockholm I searched for tourist things to do just to ensure I got a feel of the city and there is quite a lot to see in Stockholm on a good day with the strength and will.

However, I came upon a once in a lifetime opportunity present in Stockholm and running until the 16th of January 2011, exhibits from the Chinese Qin and Han dynasties including part of the terracotta army and recently excavated findings.

Unfortunately for everything else Swedish, they all had to take second-place for this unique event – at least my thinking was that everything about Stockholm will still be here but this was too transient to miss.

Secret tunnels of unveiled statues

The exhibition [1] was in a cavern of tunnels under the Museum of Far Eastern Antiquities; the cavern was built by the navy in the 1940s and had heretofore been secret and not accessible to the public until these exhibits presented a unique opportunity for opening up the place and setting for displaying the exhibits.

After breakfast, well brunch, we got to the Museum of Far Eastern Antiquities and there was a long queue in place that seemed immobile for a while and then people were let in in batches, we thankfully fell in the last batch before we got frozen in the cold.

As we walked in we caught a glimpse of the first statues of the full-size army and we just taken by the human likeness, the size and the intricate work that had gone into the creation of the heads, the tunics, the hands, the stances and the sheer numbers back in China.

A feat almost beyond belief

One could only imagine the project management that went into the mass production of this army in buried along with the 1st Qin Emperor and then probably the understanding of scale and cost that informed the miniature army created for the tomb of the 4th emperor of the Han dynasty that succeeded the Qin dynasty and empire.

Along with all the exhibits that included weapons, farm animals, weights and measures this was quite well curated and gave a sense of Chinese history with the persuasion to visit China itself.

Until then, this the foretaste that gives China the historical footing literally at par with the wonders of Egyptian pyramids not to talk of the lucrative returns of panda diplomacy [2] offered as cultural exchange – it would be well attended and the catalogue does not come cheap either.

I took a few pictures of the exhibition – see the slideshow here.

Sources

[1] Östasiatiska museet - Exhibitions » Future Exhibitions

[2] Panda diplomacy - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

As a hostage to a baggage crisis

Hostage to a baggage crisis

Everything went well for my return to Amsterdam from Stockholm until we got to Schiphol airport where the dial on the Farce-meter did read empty on competence and problem management.

Apparently there was an accident in the baggage sorting area that meant a delay in retrieving our baggage from baggage reclaim.

We were told there would be a delay of about 15 minutes; I think it was well passed the hour before I picked up my luggage.

As we waited by the assigned conveyor belt there were certain announcements made about the delay, then about the airport being a non-smoking airport, the advice not to leave luggage unattended and then changes to the assigned conveyor belts for baggage reclaim.

Amsterdam we are told has one of the most sophisticated baggage sorting systems and it has featured on the National Geographic television channel.

Between computers and silly human ideas

My concerns about those changes were two-fold, at first the indicators were not updated to reflect that change and then only the flight numbers were announced.

On the matter of the indicators, it should have been an easy software fix to show that under the remarks column that passengers to go to another conveyor belt and the newly assigned conveyor belt updated with the information.

I was quite surprised by the use of only the flight numbers because I never once checked my flight number and I felt people would have been better served by first announcing the origin of the flight and then the flight number, that way we would have been better focused on using the information properly.

Cities and flight numbers

From what I noticed of all fellow passengers as myself, none of us moved to the new conveyor belt because for each KLM flight number there were at least 5 code-sharing flight numbers – the time between scanning though the list of flights from other origins and then the one that pertained to your journey just left you hoping you will hear the advice again.

I did match the flight number to my flight but by then I had lost the other crucial information that I had to go to the service desk to be helped when Stockholm was cleared off the indicator as all baggage completely off-loaded.

At the service desk, I was told where to get my luggage and when I said they should have announced the origin with the flight numbers the lady looked at me as if it was a stupid suggestion and gave the silly excuse that there were so many flights to handle.

What it would have saved them and us if only they had done the sensible and easy thing – all announcements for boarding are made with flight numbers and destination, all notice boards with arrivals or departures always have origin or destination with flight numbers – I think the point is made.

The smell of home

As I walked to the trains a hawker of perfumes accosted me and ask if I had a wife, I had no time for small talk, talk less of smelly talk, I just wanted to get home but I had the presence of mind to refuse the offer of a cheap ticket bought in error to Amsterdam when the ticket machine offered a better discount.

I got home tucked in a mozzarella salad and that was home sweet home.

Only my friends provided Swedish warmth

The cold of sunshine

The journey to Stockholm was quite pleasant, as we flew over the Southern parts of Sweden from Denmark unto Arlanda airport the countryside was a white-out with snow.

Winter had arrived in Sweden just when we were thinking autumn had come early in the Netherlands, it was getting cold at home but I had not yet resorted to the almost Eskimo look.

Amazingly, in Stockholm even though it was cold, the sun was at its radiant best as I hailed a taxi-cab from the airport to my hotel which was supposedly in down-town Stockholm. The taxi driver said he knew the place but I began to have my concerns when he started typing every variation of the tonal representation of Radisson except the right spelling.

Putting the s before t in hotel

When I offered advice about the spelling he obstinately refused to accept that he might not be aware of where he had to go, I just prayed I would not be doing an unexpected tourist trip round Stockholm before I was ready to be a tourist.

In the meantime, Waffy had arrived at my hotel waiting for me as we hit a bit of traffic and soon we were at our destination without any real sign of our having gone round the town – thankfully.

For a supposedly 5-star hotel, I have been in 4-star hotels that would make an assessor grudgingly award Radisson Blu Strand Hotel a charitable 3-star rating at the best of times; I have seen better service and attention to customer service.

My room with an enlarged version of cubicle and the bathtub just about long enough for me to stretch my legs. I thought cathode ray tube televisions were so last century in hotels, not in this vintage hotel if one were to put a finer point on the detail.

It leaks milder than it’s broke

I ran a bath and found I could not drain it as big puddles of water formed from the leaking tub, that did get fixed when we went out on Saturday though expressing the fault in English did not seem to convey the severity of the situation until Waffy said it in Swedish.

Apparently, the Swedes cannot bear to think of something as broken, a sense of unease and shock seems to take over the face when told of faults.

If I thought there was a sense of indifference about others on the streets as people bump into you without apology in Amsterdam, in Stockholm it is a veritable art of calumny, they are completely oblivious and unconcerned at remonstration – you get a look from the offenders as if – What is your problem, I was just taking my space regardless of where you are?

Their way in your way

After breakfast in a converted church building of about 7 floors where the African equivalent of Pentecostalism appears to thrive for meeting places, we went to the Far Eastern Antiquities Museum where exhibits from the Chinese Terracotta army were on display.

There a man in a wheelchair ran over my foot and cared for nothing as if being in a wheelchair gave him that right and though I used a cane, my foot was a pathway, an inconsequential bump on the way to his intended destination.

You got to the point where it did not seem to matter anymore, you just walked and hoped and prayed.

Foods and palates

Whilst the further north you go from the Mediterranean food loses vivid colour, palate and taste, we did find appealing restaurants with Swedish fare on the Friday night and a Lebanese restaurant in the company of another friend from the Saturday night.

I thought giving a Lebanese restaurant the name Sahara was a bit of a misnomer, Lebanon is hardly near the Sahara except if Sahara means something else entirely.

There was quite a variety of cold and warm small dishes called mezes along with the wonderful company of people who I have befriended through my blogs – there is something in blogging and it does have the value of establishing friendships.

We did not get to do much else of Stockholm, our mornings were quite late in starting but it was a very worthwhile visit, the received wisdom is to do this in summer, it is cold days like the ones I had that makes one a helio-phile.

Friday, 22 October 2010

I'm told it snowed in Stockholm

Tundra-times loom

This should have been done in the summer, Scandinavia is not for Sub-Saharan Africans at this time of the year nor is it for the faint-hearted or the warm-blooded.

However, gratitude and appreciation cannot be delayed for the discomforts of the weather, I heard this morning that it had snowed overnight in Stockholm so I should be prepared.

Happily, I packed my shorts and T-shirts, my sandals and sunglasses back into my wardrobe and prepared for the trek to the North Pole with huskies to my sleigh.

Alright, 3 years ago, at just about the same time, I was in Stockholm but on business for just one night staying in a hotel that was so out of town, it was another country or I mean, it was literally in the country.

Plans that work over those that fail

Itching to get out of town this weekend, plans were well ahead of other office plans which somehow have a regularity of failure that nothing was so certain – so rather than cancel, I just waited for the reality of farce to materialise and once that happened I booked my flight, my hotel already secured from days before.

Nothing too formal on this trip, a change of Ascots and the mandatory bowler hat for weather so treacherous, maybe I am a woos, people live there comfortably not accounting for the extreme notion that the sun sets at 10 in the morning having risen 30 minutes before.

My good friend who provided great succour to me when I was in hospital just over a year ago and visited me in the milder winter of the Netherlands in December is my hostess.

We’ll be snapping away at Swedish heritage before I return on Sunday. Ah yes! I am prepared for the situation where I might wear a pair of leather gloves over an underlying pair – I don’t do cold that well.

Wednesday, 20 October 2010

Thought Picnic: Prospects to a company

Exploring a prospect

The difference between mentors and protégé could not be starker as they were corporation men and he, a man in some corporation and many at that.

The regularity of the pay-check as the politics of the firm determined stagnation, promotion, ejection or resignation, the hope for a boss that did not set your blood pressure off to the wrong readings at the risk of shortening your life.

The irregularity of great rewards of risk as your great utility at onset diminishes in significance as problems fall to solutions you proffer and the absence of panic suddenly points you out as too luxurious – a wave of austere angst is the tide that sweeps you back onto the street which becomes the treadmill again.

The talk

Before the last sunset there was a talk, a discussion, a possibility and opportunity, maybe a change to the unusual with the prospect of the interesting.

A deposition like an interview, exchanges that speak of you and who you are, whether the change is good or not, one cannot tell but until explored that land remains undiscovered.

After another sunset one would know if the path is to corporation man or one remains a fireman good for emergencies but never in the garden.

Tuesday, 19 October 2010

Thought Picnic: A heart that feels

A heart that feels, a heart of flesh,

Two hearts unsure and absent from a thinking head,

Beating with great rapidity,

Like African drums in readiness for a cannibal feast,

The tales we heard once before, a truth untold.


A heart that feels, a heart that yearns,

For a love that seemed once there but unaware,

Giving all for very little,

Like an infatuated adolescent only twice that age,

To have and to hold, if only one were so bold.


A heart that feels, a heart that bleeds,

Bruised by hurt and disappointments too many,

Healing fast to forgetfulness,

You return like a battered wife to the arms that did harm,

Is one so completely sold out to one so cold.


A heart that feels, a heart that breaks,

Love found but so out of reach,

Remembering the dust and the ashes,

Of the one who stole your heart long ago,

The story will fold with no love again past old.

A fire drill to nil

They’re out we’re in

The day at the office was not supposed to be as eventful as this. My main system at home had a major hiccup such that what I used to be able to do at home now had to be done at the office.

The hours of the mid-afternoon, I looked out from the window of my fifth floor office to see people trooping out of the building as if for a fire drill.

It had me wondering why people from one wing were being ushered out and the rest of us being left to burn, in fact I did surmise to colleagues about their testing the firewalls just to ascertain that they were fire-proof.

Beckoning our charred remains

A few minutes afterwards the alarm did sound at our end of the building and an announcement was made in Dutch for us to vacate the building with the instruction not to use the lift.

I picked up my hat and cane and made for the stairwell walking down at pace in order not to hold anyone up; on the ground floor we were held back by the automated pass-entry system which each of us had to use to step out to the reception where another crowd waited to get out.

Once we were out we were herded like sheep, no instructions, no guidance just taking the cue from those who had gone one before.

After we crossed the road to the other side we noticed a fire engine, a fireman disembarked with a portable fire-extinguisher and entered the building we none the wiser about why we had to leave the building.

No (E)mergency in this Respons

Soon afterwards a Quick Respons Team vehicle arrived, it made me wonder whether the sign-painter was trying Dutch, English or a Dutchified version of Response without the “e” and there was no space for the “e” in case you thought the “e” had fallen off.

The fireman came out of the building a few minutes after and we were ushered back into the building in what might well have been a fire drill but not by any standards brilliant.

Why it failed

The questions I had in mind were many:

Why the alarm had been going on at in one wing of the building without notifying the other parts of the office block.

Why the announcements were only made in Dutch when it is clear that most functionaries in the building work in a bilingual situation with the possibility that a good few did not speak Dutch but at least manage English.

Why the exit gates were monitored when they should have been open especially if the exit process involved panic or a stampede.

And what for?

Why no one bothered to explain what the reason was for evacuating the building – even if it was a fire-drill, it would have been to simulate the process to managing emergancies that could be fires, bombs, leakages or any dangers that would have necessitated conducting the exercise.

In my view, for all the people in high-visibility vests appearing to know what they were doing and probably returning to some debriefing to pat themselves on the back for a job well done; this was a farce at best and I really do not pray I am in this building when something really serious happens because I honestly cannot trust the “Quick Respons Team” to get me out quickly, safely and securely.

Fire drill assessment – Fail.

Monday, 18 October 2010

Night cycling

The nostalgia of food

The fact is nostalgia runs thick when you have left home for another place. The degree to which you might feel nostalgia might however differ for all sorts of people.

Whilst I have no particular inclination to return to Nigeria, I do enjoy Nigerian food that I either get to cook for myself or order from the gradually improving Obalade Suya in Amsterdam South which seems to have exceeded the African Kitchen in organisation, sophistication and sense of service by far – they even have a website.

Also there is fare from England that you cannot find in Amsterdam supermarkets, from the ordinary things like sliced white bread, through certain cereals and then pork pies amongst other goods – teas, biscuits, puddings, soups to name but a few.

The British shop (Absolutely British) in Amsterdam moved to Amstelveen over a year ago and I usually get there by tram and metro, a journey taking about 45 minutes.

Getting the bike out

This time, I thought I would get on my bicycle and ride out there, the estimated distance using Google Maps was about 11 kilometres from my home but that was using the pedestrian calculation, the journey by car could not be afforded bicycles and the directions by bicycles have not been fully integrated.

So, I thought I had to go due West, then due South keeping a general idea of Amsterdam’s cartography in my head, I did not really miss a turn though I could have made my journey more efficient.

I avoided a mishap where a car that had passed the traffic lights but had been caught in a tailback that was at an intersection, the road cleared in front of the car just when the traffic lights gave me right of way and it was just half a metre from broken bones or a dented bonnet.

The journey took just short of an hour and the ride was leisurely enough not to leave me panting and I stocked up on home goods.

The sleight of lights

On my return journey I got to a sign pointing to Amsterdam Centre but in opposite directions, to the right I could have a river-view ride with less vehicular traffic but it was getting dark.

I pedalled gaining a rhythm that was not too exhausting but met with my pet peeves again and again, the lawless cyclists of Amsterdam.

I would that the police conducted more checks on cyclists at traffic lights who ignore the signs and most especially the ones that ride at night without lights.

It was bad enough that you could not see oncoming bicycles approaching at speed or those coming up from behind so as to take them into consideration, then there were the ones in front who rode oblivious of other road users without high-visibility clothing.

Rules for cyclists broken

The worst situation was with cyclists riding up the wrong way without giving way to those who had right-of-way and I met up with many as I cursed under my breath at the irresponsibility and carelessness of the riders.

I remember that it was my care and concern from a lady cyclist in front of me on a foggy night without lights that held me up the day I got beaten up by drink-and-drug fuelled Moroccans.

It is utterly unacceptable but in Amsterdam cyclists ride as if there are no rules, no laws and they had right of way in all circumstances against cars and public transport.

There is this underlying vice of impatience that pushes them on, they just cannot been seen to stop but some to get stopped and wheeled away, then between the feelings of sympathy and indifference you realise that no matter how fast you are, you are not going beyond your destination – so why the rush?

Sunday, 17 October 2010

Nigeria: Addressing sports corruption

They pulled it off

The Commonwealth Games 2010 in New Delhi, India have finally come to an end as what had all the makings of a farce suddenly transmogrified into a miracle of possibilities we never thought India could pull off.

The very first gold medal of the games went to Nigeria and it almost persuaded me to get interested in the events, I watched the swimming qualifiers, some of the running, a little of the cycling.

It never occurred to me that the selected national anthem for England was interminably long; at least twice I thought we were at the end and we were just about halfway through.

Sometimes, it makes you wonder why the English should be singing “Jerusalem” instead of the more rousing “Land of Hope and Glory” or the more solemn “I vow to thee my country.”

Won, lost and disgraced

In any case it was not the winning of medals that captured the news but the losing of supposed wins, the 100m female final that had the winner adjudged a false-start after she had taken the lap of honour and the spoils going to the Nigerian, who after her own lap of honour lost it for the dishonourable conduct of drug doping [1].

The pain threshold of the Nigerian had been tested since she apparently had toothache and took a “remedy” for this condition which then happened to a banned substance.

The jury might be out between the inadvertent and the deliberate but one is left rather deflated after the elated victory by technical default turned into ignominy, infamy and shame for being caught out as a cheat.

The pain of stimulation

To all the protestations of the Nigerian officials as the lady was stripped of her medal and ready for the impending disgrace I could find no place where Methylhexanamine [2] is used as an analgesic and if needed for medication is used as a nasal decongestant, might well be used for hypertrophied (swelling) or hyperplasic (cell multiplication) oral tissues which could be as a result of toothache but is no indication this drug has that therapeutic property.

It is more generally used as a stimulant and hence can give the users undue advantage in sports competition. As that matter was being handled, another Nigerian tested positive and though he did not lose a medal having come sixth, he had compounded the ignominy that Nigeria had already been subjected to.

The doping and testing chase

The issue here is that people try to cut corners, gain advantage and short-cut their way to success without the hard graft with the hope that they do not get caught out.

Testing is getting more sophisticated just as doping is taking on a more scientific bent that leaves testers in a catch-up game.

Maybe the Nigerians were already behind the curve on the doping game and having been promised the possibility of getting past the testers for victories that could bring amazing rewards; they threw caution to the winds and dared to do the ignoble.

Helping the sportspersons

One would think sportspersons and their handlers were quite conversant of the requirements for sportsmanship and the stringent testing procedures that attend to professional athletes.

Maybe sportspersons can no longer use over-the-counter medication for the fear of being caught doping and maybe certain foods need to be reviewed for doping content but the sports officials should be in close supervision of their wards and ensure they are not endangered by either ignorance or temptation.

It would unfortunate if sportspersons are not allowed to use medication for pain relief, common colds or flu just because they might gain undue competitive advantage.

In fact, along with the list of banned substances, there should be a list of commonly accepted medication for ailments that require self-medicated relief without the compromise of cleanliness in sport.

The aftermath

Much as other nationals were also caught doping, the third Nigerian caught probably did the greatest damage to our reputation because that disgraceful act cost us 2 silver medals, the one she won as an individual and that as part of a relay team.

In this case, this was an outright doping case of using testosterone prohormone and in the case of the second and third culprits they waived the option to have their B samples tested – they had been caught out, fair and square.

Probably the rewards for sporting success are great from the accolades of adulation to monetary gain and honours but at what cost?

Some have said maybe doping should be allowed to see exactly to what limits the body can be exerted in the pursuit of glory and the breaking of heretofore unbroken records but do we want to see people or drugged up constructs of flesh, blood and bones masquerading as human doing the impossible?

Retribution

Whichever way the people decide to vote, the battering Nigeria continues to suffer by reason of its representatives in international competitions or on the political stage has to stop; there is no reason for our sportspersons to imitate the kleptomaniacs, cheats and corrupt people who have saddled Nigeria with disrepute.

For change should come from all of us, especially sportspersons who are exposed and are role models whose positive image would in some ways inspire others to excellence through hard work rather than through cheating.

We probably need a sporting crimes body to manage that part of human endeavour in Nigeria as we have for financial crimes, a body to investigate and adjudicate on these matters with regards to Nigerians.

They would have a docket full of corruption investigations into our football management, sports doping, and the matters of selection, participation, loyalty and patriotism in service to Nigeria. These people are supposed to be the standard bearers of the National Pledge inspiring others to national duty.

Culprits should know that there is a lot more at stake than losing medals and facing bans – this is another part of the rebranding Nigerian exercise that needs looking into.

Sources

[1] BBC Sport - Commonwealth Games: Damola Osayemi loses gold medal

[2] Methylhexanamine - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

[3] BBC Sport - Commonwealth Games 2010: Third Nigerian tests positive

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