The Olympic flag was flown at half-mast on Friday after Nigerian sprinter Hyginus Anugoin, who had come to Sydney in a last ditch attempt to make the Olympic team, was killed in a road accident.
The doping scandals and organizational glitches that have clouded the build-up to the Games were forgotten as Olympic leaders and Australian political figures expressed their sympathy to the Nigerian team.
“All members of our Olympic team are both shocked and saddened to learn of the untimely death,” Nigerian chef de mission Fidelis Kibri Kaigama said.
“Despite the fact he was not in our Olympic team, we all still feel a great sense of sadness.”
Anugo, 22, was killed instantly on Thursday evening when struck by a car while crossing a road in suburban Sydney.
Anugo, a 400 meter specialist, missed out on a place in the Nigerian team, but he paid his own way to Australia in the hope he would be called up for the 4x400m relay.
The executive board of the International Olympic Committee (IOC) decided president Juan Antonio Samaranch should send a letter of condolence to the Nigerian Olympic Committee.
The IOC also ordered that the Nigerian and Olympic flags be flown at half mast inside the Athletes’ Village as a mark of respect. New South Wales Premier Bob Carr said his thoughts were with Anugo’s colleagues.
“We grieve with them as they do about the death of someone drawn to Sydney by this huge event, the Olympics,” he said.
Police reported he was running to get a bus near the Nigerian team’s headquarters at the Southern Cross Bible College.
Kaigama said Anugo had been training with the rest of the Nigerian team in Adelaide before flying to Sydney last week. He was due to return to Nigeria on Monday but decided to stay on.
In Lagos news of Anugo’s death was broken to the Nigerian Athletics Federation by an official who rang from the team’s training camp in Sydney.
“It is very sad indeed. This has never happened in the history of this country,” federation president Oluyomi Adeyemi-Wilson said.