After months of inactivity as a result of the impact of Covid-19 pandemic which brought the world postrate on its knees, sporting activities are getting back on track with Minister of Youth and sports Development Sunday Dare taking over the driver’s seat for the much postponed National Sports Festival and the Tokyo 2020 Olympics.
Moved by the urgency of lost times and missed opportunities, Dare is in a hurry to rev up the country’s lost momentum and the quest for a podium performance at the biggest sporting event in the world. Prior to the lockdown, Dare had initiated and commenced the “Adopt An Athlete” Initiative Program which had State Governments, Corporate bodies and individuals adopting some athletes by giving them financial support to commence early preparations for the Olympics.
This not only seeks to address poor funding, but nip the delay often associated with the release of funds for major sporting events. Prior to the lockdown, five athletes were fully adopted, 10 were on the last lap of adoption. According to the Minister his plan is to get at least 45 athletes adopted to commence early preparations for the Olympics and secure podium success without being bogged down by financial encumberances which had always mitigated against early preparations.
The Minister had to put to good use his clout, integrity and personal relationships to convince States like Lagos, Delta, Edo, Ondo , his Friends and some companies to key into the “Adopt An Athlete” idea which is already yielding fruition. Top rated athletes and Nigeria’s best medal prospects like Blessing Okagbare, Ese Brume, Divine Oduduru Egwero Ogho-Oghene, Ekevwo Raymond, Itsekiri Ushoritse are all doing extremely well in their build-up to the games, thanks to the heightened expectation that they may soon be adopted by their state Governor. Ruth Usoro who is a Student athlete in the USA is equally doing extremely well, just as Wrestler Odunayo Adekuroye who already got Adopted for the Olympic Games.
Grace Nwokocha is burning the tracks and ready to give others a run for the medal by Winning the 100m Women at the Evaluation meet in Akure where others also set personal best times of the year. Despite initial hiccups, there is hope in the horizon for the Adoption of Tobi Amusan, Elizabeth Anyanacho and the fast rising Enoch Adegoke. Just last week, some foreign based athletes hit great forms, thereby setting the tone of what to expect at the Olympics. The fruits of the adoption campaign is already germinating, hopefully it would lead to bountiful harvest of medals.
The Adoption of high performers is an attestation of the Minister’s vision and mission to up the ante at the fast approaching Olympic and Paralympic Games. Driven by the passion and mission to support the athletes dream, the Minister visited the High performanc Centre at the Universityof Port-Harcourt, Rivers State After inspecting the facilities at the Centre, he lamented the long years of neglect and poor funding.
He promised to redress the anomalies through a supplementary budgetary presentation to the Federal Executive Council. Home-grown athletes are to be the first beneficiaries with plans underway to camp them at the facility. Under Dare’s directives, only sports with comparative advantage of excelling at the Olympics are participating at the games.
To fulfil this mandate, the Basketball Federation has commenced early camping in the US for both the male and female teams, friendly matches have been lined up in Spain, Australia, USA to get the teams into proper shape. Dare has also approved funds for the Rowing, Canoeing Sailing Federation, Wrestling, Table Tennis, Weightlifting, Special Sports to take part in Olympics Qualifiers and pre Olympics events to shape up the teams. In the same breath, he has set up a Relay camp in Florida, USA. With 5 Relays at stake, this looks like Nigeria’s trump card to ensure a podium success at the Olympics.
Early camping would not only ensure that the athletes reach their peak at the right time, but ensure the right synergy for victory. Unlike in the past when the mantra was last minute preparations, the tide has changed dramatically as the Minister has hit the ground running. Despite daunting challenges created by the fallout of covid-19 pandemic, funding Dare is determined to ensure that the National Sports Festival holds in Edo from April 2nd- 14th.” Since this is our local Olympics, we have solicited the support of every stakeholders to make it a success.
The Festival will put our athletes in proper shape before the games”, the Minister had said in Akure during the AFN Evaluation programme . His resolve has convinced the Federal Government to lend support to the Ministry and the Edo State Government to make the Nigerian version of the Olympics a reality.
Dare has made great strides in rehabilitation of facilities, welfare of athletes, re- classification of sports from mere recreation to business, revived the Principal’s Cup, marathon races, restored confidence in corporate Governance, his legacy would be determined by how well Nigeria fares at the Tokyo Olympics. The signs of a leap of success from past failure is already ingrained in the athletes
*John Joshua-Akanji is Media Adviser to Minister of Youth and sports Development.