By Albert Akota
The National Stadium in Abuja yesterday commenced sporting activities for the 19th edition of the multi-sports events.
Originally meant to be biennial multi-sports events to foster unity and help unearth new talents, the glory of the National Sports Festival (NSF) has been fading and virtually knocked to comatose since the last edition was held in Lagos six years ago.
It took the doggedness of the Youth and Sports Minister, Solomon Dalung, to get the NSF back to life; but how much of a success this will be cannot be said for now.
While one would expect that Abuja 2018 will showcase new talents for the country, the build-up to the games across the different states leaves much to be desired.
From Ekiti, Kwara to Ogun and even to oil-rich Bayelsa State, it has been a story of one form of neglect by the athletes; thus giving rise to fears that the 2018 NSF may not throw up the excitement that is usually associated with the country’s local ‘Olympic Games’.
Regardless of the fears and pessimism in some quarters, Mr Dalung and Mohammed Bello, Minister of the Federal Capital Territory, have both expressed readiness to host a befitting festival
The sports minister told journalists at a press parley in Abuja that significant progress has been made considering the time the federal government decided to take up the organization of the sports fiesta.
Speaking on progress made, the minister said, “We have produced medals for the games; produced doping control information and education materials for athletes, coaches, technical and accompanying officials; distributed the festival general rules and regulations to all stakeholders,” he said.
Mr Dalung added that athletes’ welfare will be a thing of priority before, during and after the games. He said medical equipment were already in place for the sports festival.
Organisers say the sports festival will host 8,861 delegates which comprises of 7227 athletes, 710 coaches, 322 other team officials, 602 state delegates.
Ebonyi State will, however, be missing in the action as they failed to participate during the delegation registration Meeting (DMR).
Few hours before the opening ceremony yesterday 15 states are already on the ground with the duo of Lagos and Delta state sending the largest number of athletes.
Kweku Tandoh, chairman of the Lagos State Sports Commission reiterated that Team Lagos is in the FCT to give their very best and represent the state proudly.
“We will be showcasing our ‘Made In Lagos’ talents in Abuja and by God’s grace, we are confident that we will do well,” the Lagos sports boss stated.
As hosts of the 2012 edition of the NSF, tagged Eko 2012, Lagos State finished in the third position behind Delta State and Rivers State.
Indeed the festival is an important feature on the country’s sporting calendar going by the long list of champions it has nurtured.
Some of the athletes that came through the Sports Festival in athletics include Henry Amike, Yusufu Ali, Ezinwa brothers, Innocent Egbunike, Chidi Imoh, Mary Onyali, Falilat Ogunkoya, Faith Idehen, Beatrice Utondu and Patience Itanyi, among others.
With over 27 events expected to be competed for in the 19th edition of the National Sports Festival tagged “ABUJA 2018, the country awaits to see the budding stars that would rule the world from Abuja
The 2018 festival will run from December 6-16 at the Abuja National Stadium.
Number of Athletes per state, athletes, Yobe 167, Plateau, 234, Ogun, 294, Delta, 545, Akwa Ibom. 416, Lagos, 548, Anambra. 211, Borno. 60, Kano, 210, Jigawa, 53, Oyo, 199, Bauchi. 127, Rivers, 362, Kogi, 79, Cross River, 60