Sports

Various sides of the sports festival postponement

In most countries, an evaluation of respective segments of human endeavor reflects that sport has persistently been at the receiving end especially in Nigeria. The effect of COVID-19 on the day-to-day life of everyone is enormous but in recent times, the world is coping with it and people go about their various activities as if nothing has gone wrong.

As severe as the pandemic is in the United States of America, electioneering took place while elections proper were also held to exit Donald Trump and welcome Joe Biden as new US President. Marathon events which attract huge crowd of participants, officials and fans also took place in various parts of the world including Washington and Cairo, Egypt. Back home, campaigns and elections took place in Ondo and Edo states respectively.

Nothing affected the day-to-day running of the states and normalcy was maintained before, during and after the elections. One of the four Grand Slam Tennis events of the year, the Australian Open, is currently ongoing ‘down under’ with full COVID-19 protocols duly observed. As it is, the world is not waiting for the pandemic to weigh them down, rather people, governments and organisations are going about their normal day-to-day activities with caution. During the week, Nigeria’s mini Olympics, the National Sports Festival, was again postponed for the third time.

The government of Edo State under Governor Godwin Obaseki has spent so much money on the NSF Project especially on facilities just as the ministry of youth and sports has been resolute to stage the grassroots event. So many reasons could inform the shift ranging from COVID-19 second wave threat to financial situations but truth is sport is not taken seriously in Nigeria. If not, the event which already has the approval of the Presidential Task Force on the pandemic should not have been shifted again but due to financial constraints and logistics, it was shifted again to April.

It was originally slated for March 2020, postponed indefinitely and January 3rd was picked as another date which was later shifted to February 14. Now it is April without a fixed date announced. At the point of the first postponement, the Federal Government, represented by the Minister, Sunday Dare, noted that the postponement would cause additional expenses to Edo State and therefore promised to provide financial assistance to the state. Paucity of funds coming from Ministry’s 2019/2020 budget spending isn’t available. The sports festival is a talent hunt project where budding talents are to emerge from various sports disciplines.

It is sad that after Edo State spent so much money on the elections, the government came out that there was no money for the festival. All the states of the federation have wasted money three times preparing the athletes only to decamp them.

The February 14 date was shifted largely due to money issues and not because of the pandemic. It is really sad that sports suffer at crunch times rather than enjoy despite giving the country a good image abroad. For example, a product of the sports festival, Blessing Okagbare, entered the Guinness Book of Records only during the week. How many of such cheery news do we have in other spheres of endeavour? Now that the April arrangement is tied to the Olympics preparations, attention should be geared towards a huge success.

It is also important to stress that having a national sponsor for the event is not out of place because it will bring in more credibility and remove the bottlenecks of the bureaucracy. The NSF surely deserves better in the country. The youths are eager to showcase their talents. Wrestlers and boxers representing Nigeria at the Olympics will be part of the festival and so it is not a joke. If the competition is taken seriously, there could be a title sponsor which will create a template for huge excitement for the games.

There are little or no expectations toward the event and that is why it is easy to shift the event anyhow. The sports ministry should work with all the national federations to give attention to the National Sports Festival so that a good template could be created for the country’s future champions

 

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