With a few hours to the commencement of the 2018 edition of Okpekpe Road Race scheduled for Saturday, May 12, enthusiasm is at a fever pitch in Edo State, host of the first 10-kilometer International Association of Athletics Federations (IAAF) silver label road race in Nigeria.
Social and economic activities have witnessed positive spike from the Benin Airport, through the ancient city and to the communities hosting the event, as participants, including Elite and local athletes, sports journalists, sponsors, supporters of the event and dealers in souvenirs arrive the state for the event.
Investigation showed that hotels in Benin City are fully booked and late comers are resorting to smaller lodging facilities in the city while operators of outdoor bars, taxis, guest houses and relaxation spots are counting their gains.
The Okpekpe international 10km road race, currently in its sixth year, is the only road race recognised by the Association of International Marathons and Distance Races (AIMS) in Nigeria.
The number of endorsements by corporate organisations has raised the profile of the event, the latest being the Nigerian Breweries Plc.
The Edo State Governor, Mr Godwin Obaseki, on Friday restated his administration’s commitment to a successful race and assured participants of adequate security.
Special Adviser to the Governor on Media and Communication Strategy, Mr. Crusoe Osagie, said the governor’s assurance is coming after he had earlier encouraged Edo indigenes and other Nigerians to register and compete in the 10km Road Race because of the inherent benefit of building an army of home-grown long-distance runners to represent the country in similar competitions within the country and overseas.
Obaseki noted that much as the state is happy to play host to athletes from East African countries and other parts of the world, the competition also presents an opportunity for Edo indigenes to prove their mettle and strive to clinch the top prize.
“As Nigerians, we are known to never give in easily in contests. So, this competition presents another opportunity for us to put up a challenge and compete to win the top prizes,” the governor said.
According to him, “Edo State is blessed with planes and conditions that can groom people for long-distance races. Highlands such as Somorika Hills can groom athletes to favourably compete in this competition. It even presents a good training ground for many others who would like to participate.
He added, “The Okpekpe road race is one of our emerging sports and tourism assets and we need to tap from this unique opportunity to build grassroots sports and project ourselves as a welcoming and sports-loving people.”
Describing the backing of Nigerian Breweries as a big boost, spokesman for the race, Dare Esan was quoted as saying that the company is “coming in as a Friend of the Race. It is a massive boost for the image of the race to have a pioneer brewing company support an event in which history will be made on May 12, 2018.”