Port Harcourt – Vice President Namadi Sambo on Saturday in Port Harcourt said the government was prepared to harness the sporting potentials of Nigerian youths to further develop the country.
Sambo, who disclosed this at the closing ceremony of the 17th National Sports Festival, said it was important to do so because sports had become a potent tool of development.
“Sports globally is a potent tool of development, not only in the area of infrastructure development but in providing gainful employment as well as enhancing healthy lifestyles
“This is why government is ready to maximise the gains inherent in sports development, and especially in supporting and promoting programmes such as this sports festival.’’
The vice president said government had realised the importance of sports in the way many countries use their sports heroes as sports ambassadors and image projectors.
“We will continue to enhance sporting activities at all levels, knowing full well the role sports plays in nation-building, as well as in projecting the country’s image.”
Sambo noted that the fiesta had revealed a lot of young and new talents, and urged the National Sports Commission (NSC) not to relent in its efforts at improving on the festival.
“With the kind of performances witnessed at this festival, I have no doubt that the athletes that would serve Nigeria better at the 2012 Olympic Games have been identified.
“The NSC should therefore ensure that they are well-managed. The NSC should not relent in working at transforming the festival and making it a brand that will be revered worldwide.
“The responsibility of the commission should not also stop at that but should include ensuring that the athletes discovered here are projected more to be able to win more laurels for the country.’’
Sambo lauded the Rivers government for hosting the festival and committing huge resources into the provision of new facilities.
He, therefore, called on the state government to ensure that the facilities were properly used and maintained.
“The benefits of hosting, far outweighs the quantum of funds that have been sunk into hosting the festival. Yet Rivers must make sure that the facilities serve us for a long time.
“Government must ensure that the facilities are not allowed to disintegrate. There should be proper utilisation of the facilities through maintenance and the organisation of more competitions,’’ Sambo said.
He said the private sector must come in to not only provide more facilities, but work hand in hand with government to ensure constant and proper utilisation of the facilities.
Earlier, Rivers Gov. Chibuike Amaechi had said that it was a relief that the festival was successful.
“When we set out on this journey, we had a firm belief that we would do something that would make all Nigerians marvel.
“Now, we have not only done that, we have set a standard that the next host – Lagos – will find it hard to beat.
“It is all due to the encouragement we got, as well as the co-operation of not only the Rivers people, but Nigerians as a whole.”
Amaechi expressed happiness that his administration had not only put in place new sports facilities, but had also launched the state on a journey toward greater achievements.
In his speech, Chief Patrick Ekeji, the Chairman of the festival’s Main Organising Committee (MOC), pointed out that the festival had metamorphosed into a great sporting spectacle.
He said this had been due to the support the event received from a state such as Rivers.
Ekeji said the state government’s decision to provide new facilities laid the foundation for the high standard witnessed in the course of the fiesta.
“What Rivers has done has not only kept the festival right up there, but has also kept it high up there in terms of standards.’’
The festival, which had more than 13,000 athletes and officials from 36 states and the FCT participating, was won by Rivers, which claimed 299 medals after 11 days of competition.
Rivers won 135 gold, 79 silver and 85 bronze medals to top the chart, while Delta won 82 gold, 89 silver and 81 bronze to place second.
Gombe and Sokoto states failed to win any of the 1,666 medals that were at stake. (NAN)