It is a tradition for me to watch the opening ceremonies of every Olympics games. I have done so with every Olympics that I can remember. I'm not sure what it is about the opening ceremonies, but there is always a sense of optimism, hope and pride that I find compelling. Since I have never had the fortune of absorbing such good vibrations by being present at an Olympics opening ceremony, I participate in the experience vicariously in the comfort of my living room.
As I watched athletes from around the world walk into the Vancouver stadium, I was thrilled to see representatives from Algeria, Ethiopia, Ghana, Sudan, Morocco and South Africa. The African continent is not known for snow and snow-related sports. Sprints and East Africans who seemingly burn the track in long distance running, is one thing. But snow-related activities is another. It was equally thrilling to see athletes for Bermuda, India and Jamaica, though discovering that Jamaica's bobsled team failed to qualify was a bit of a letdown.
I was not disappointed to learn that Nigeria had no athletes participating in the games. Quite frankly, their presence would have been a surprise. Except for the fact that in December 2009, my good friend sent me an email about an aspiring winter Olympics athlete of Nigerian heritage. Seun Adebiyi is a Yale Law School graduate and bob sledder. He was a swimmer for 16 years and missed qualifying for the 2004 summer Olympics by a fraction of a second (who said Africans don't swim). Although Nigerians are typically known for preferring the warmer climate of their ancestors than the cold of the Western hemisphere, Seun loves the cold and the snow. He hopes to be the first Nigerian to participate at a winter Olympics. The only thing standing in his way is leukemia.
Seun needed a bone marrow transplant and there was an international drive to find him a donor thanks to publications like the New York Times and the international artist, Rihanna. Thankfully, he found one donor that was a match and as of February 13th, he reported that the surgery was a success, though he now needs time to rest and allow his body to heal.
Nevertheless, Seun is looking forward to participating in the 2014 winter Olympics which will take place in the one place I imagine to be the coldest on earth, Russia. I have always wanted to go to Russia and I have always wanted to be a part of an Olympics opening ceremony. Until the Olympics comes to a location near me or a lovely country on the African continent, I daresay watching Seun walk as the flag bearer for the nation of my ancestors would be a wonderful thing to see. In person.
To learn more about Seun Adebiyi and to make a donation to a fund created in his honor, please visit his Seun's Skeletal Blog. To learn more about Leukemia, please visit DKMS Leukemia. Leukemia is a cancer of the blood forming tissue in the bone marrow. Apparently, the chances of finding a bone marrow donor for Africans, African Americans and Caribbean patients is low, simply because people from these groups are not as aware of the need for bone marrow and other related donations. So, please take the time to educate yourself about this issue as well as other cancers. And, consider becoming someone's angelic life saver.