By Paul Bassey
In the next two weeks Lagos, host of the first and second National Sports Festivals in 1973 and 1975, will be the focus of Nigeria’s sports attention as all the states of the federation and Abuja run, jump, kick lift, swim and throw all in search of glory for their states.
The founding fathers of the National Sports Festival will also tell you that the festival was meant to engender unity among the youths of the country and in the true spirit of the Olympics with “…glory in participation” as the driving principle.
Immediately after the second All Africa Games, the National Sports Commission sent a three man committee to West Germany to study their principle of mass participation in sports and they came back to recommend a biennial sports festival in Nigeria founded on the German model.
The festival was to be amateur in nature, mass participation in concept and discovery of talents as the ultimate.
They also recommended the promotion of unity and friendship among the youths throughout the country.
Intermediate and senior categories
It will be recalled that when the festival kicked off in 1973, competitions were held in the junior, intermediate and senior categories. There was no problem with this until Kwara 1985 when the craze for gold and ephemeral glory eroded the original aims of the festival leading to mass cheatings and falsification of age and medical documents.
Then came an era of poaching of athletes, where potential gold medalists sold their skills and prowess to the highest bidder. It was therefore common to see states without rivers and pools winning swimming medals! Till date, the National Sports Festival has not recovered from the canker worm of “superiority” where emphasis is placed on the medals table rather than on the discovery of talent. The craze and fight for positions which leads to accusations and acrimony has also led to the relegation of friendship and unity that is meant to rule the games.
Perhaps the only legacy that the festival is still propagating is the provision of infrastructure, one that host states benefit from. More recently,Kaduna, andPort Harcourtcan boast the best sports infrastructure, one that may not have been possible without them hosting the festival. Ordinarily this development is also expected to extend to the provision of roads, upgrading of hotels, communication facilities, beefing up of security and other social amenities.
This is where Governor Godswill Akpabio ofAkwaibomStatetook off from, when he sent off the state athletes toLagos, Friday night at the ultra modern banquet hall in Uyo. The apostle of “Uncommon Transformation” said he was not going to wait till he hosts the festival to provide the state with the state of the art sports facilities. He pointed at the President Goodluck Jonathan foundation laid Olympic size stadium under construction in Uyo and went ahead to invite the country to its opening in 2013.
Most importantly the governor told the state contingent that gold inLagosshould be a means to an end, “….try me and see. Win gold inLagosand benefit from sponsorship to the best sporting programmes and training facilities anywhere in the world. You and this state will be the ones to bail this country out from the present sports doldrums.”
The governor spoke about the billions of dollars that can be gotten from the sports industry and wished he was a successful sportsman rather than a governor ( those present were willing to switch positions with him ….)
On a serious note he told them to go toLagosand win medals and then come back and tell him what they want to become.
“ …Let your success inLagosbe a passport to future greatness. Remember that you come from a state that has been acknowledged for its uncommon transformation and sports cannot be different.
“ You must remember that he who wakes up in the morning to find himself a success was not sleeping. It is only in the dictionary that “work” comes before “success”.
You must go toLagosand be true ambassadors of your state by imbibing the culture of discipline and dedication. You must stay focused and concentrated, knowing quite well that victory comes in a split second.
“ Don’t dope. If by chance you find yourself lying second, forge on, you may get to your hotel room to discover that the athlete ahead of you was on dope and you have been elevated to a gold medal position….”
He rewarded the gold medalists in the 2011 festival in Port Harcourt with a million naira each and said though he congratulated them for coming out 8th overall, he was expecting something better from Lagos.
Chioma Ajunwa Junior dedicated for gold
FRIENDS, well wishers, colleagues, kith and kin were all praise to God as Olympic Gold medalist Chioma Ajunwa dedicated her set of triplets yesterday at the Four Square Gospel Church, Mende Maryland.
The highlight of the service was of course the dedication of the kids especially when it came to the girl, Ruth, Chioma Junior. The officiating minister saw another Olympic gold in the making, 15 0r fewer years from now.
For Joshua, Caleb and Ruth he prophesied divine protection and guidance, now that they have been handed over to God.
Chioma Ajunwa in her testimony gave glory to God for visiting her when she had lost hope. That after eight years of marriage, she was at the point of resigning to fate when God appeared and gave her cause for everlasting joy.
After much dancing and songs of praise, the Police band took the stage and entertained guests present with sweet melodies of praise.
See you during the festival