EDO 2020, National Sports Festival

Edo 2020: We saw work going on, like putting finishing touches to different things. How ready is Edo for the festival?

Like you rightly noted, you can see that the guys are working round the clock. I don’t know if you have visited the swimming pool, the indoor sports hall, the tartan tracks are going to be marked from today(Tuesday), and we are planning to test run the tracks on the 14th of this month.

If they were not completed we won’t be talking about test running them. What is left now is to evacuate all the rubbish in the stadium? I think everything is ready. The athletes are moving into camp on Thursday (March 5) and the bottom line is, we have a target to win the festival.

You said the athletes are just moving to closed camp on Thursday, is this not coming too late?

The athletes are professionals. They are paid salaries to train and compete. Camp or no camp, their basic work is to train and compete for the state. As a matter of fact, in the civilized world people don’t go to camp.

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You don’t hear American athletes staying long in camp when they are preparing for a championship. But here we put athletes in camp in order to curtail some of their excesses like trekking long distances after training, like the problem of poor or absence of power supply; you don’t expect an athlete who has spent hours training to stay long, sweating because there is no light.

But when they are in camp, some of these things are minimized. While in camp, there is constant supply of light, no long treks and no matter how bad the food is, they rest assured of three square meals a day.

When they are not in camp, that is not guaranteed, so these are some of the reasons that make camping inevitable. Now that the festival is very close, we bring them to camp to be able to monitor them and make sure they are doing what they are supposed to do.

How many sports are we expecting Edo to take part in?

We are hosting, so we will take part in all the sports.

How many athletes is Edo going to parade?

About 768 athletes. One sport that I am certain would not feature is canoeing. Initially, they asked us to include it on the grounds that the national federation agreed to provide the facilities- like dredging the water.

First, they were to use a flying boat to clear everything hiding under the water, dredge it and mount the spectators stand. In the late hour, what the federation promised to do in order that the sport could feature, they are shifting the responsibility to Edo state government and I don’t think the state is prepared for that so they have yanked off canoeing from among the sports that will feature in the festival.

What message do you have for other states coming for the games?

My message for other states is that the name of the game is fair play. I don’t want to participate in a festival that would be full of rancour and quarrel. I also know that there are some states that will be very desperate to win.

I hope the officials will be able to control the excesses of those states because sports is supposed to bring people together. I know as Nigerians, some people who may have gotten so much money from their states and in the process of trying to justify it will apply all sorts of tactics. I would not want to see that.

I have spoken to my coaches and the officials that I want to win clean. I don’t want a situation which after you win they will say you won through gangsterism or through cheating. I don’t want to see that.

As Team Edo, before we get to the final point, we are going to analyse our chances and we will announce to the state the number of medals we are likely going to win. We don’t win by luck. By the time we are ready, we will sit down and tell the state we are ready and these are the possible gold medals we are going to win. That is how we do it. We are not going to the festival and play for luck.

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What happens if you don’t meet the target you set for yourself?

What do you mean by if I don’t meet the target. If I said I am going to win 150 gold medals by projection and at the end of the day I win 140 or 160, I am on target. I am not a magician.

Is the National Sports Festival still eliciting such passion and enthusiasm as during your days as an athlete?

From what is going on everywhere you can see that there is a lot of excitement. You can see the beautiful stadium, I am sure a lot of Nigerians will be very dazzled by the new look the Samuel Ogbemudia stadium is wearing.

I think we are very ready and you are going to see a lot of excitement in this festival. The government too has been very supportive and very determined to make a change. Another message I want to send to the athletes coming is that those athletes who are fund of collecting salary from multiple states should stay away from Edo 2020.

If they come, it might be the first time we are going to jail some athletes. You cannot say because you are an athlete, you go to Kano and collect salary, you go to Delta you collect salary and you go to Edo State to do same and when you come to the festival and when there is a protest, the only thing you suffer is disqualification but the states lose their money.

The states lose but the athlete don’t lose because the money is already in his pocket. But this time around, any athlete found to be collecting money from multiple places will not only be disqualified but will also be arrested.

Engineer Femi James:

Project co-ordinator, Engineer Femi James was helpful when we met him on site, The Samuel Ogbemudia Stadium, the main venue for the Edo 2020 National Sports Festival.

He invited us to return in one week’s time and we will be surprised at what we are going to see. The Samuel Ogbemudia stadium has been transformed into a modern-day arena with lush green grass, all covered stand with state of the art dressing rooms, akin to what one finds in great European stadiums.

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