The 17th National Sports Festival, christened the “Garden City Games”, has no doubt, raised the stakes in the hosting and organisation of the fiesta.
The innovative creations, the prize money, the colourful opening and closing ceremonies were very unique aspects of the festival that have had very little precedent in the fiesta’s history.
At the close of the games, the host, Rivers State, came first with 135 gold, 79 silver and 85 bronze medals, while the defending champion, Delta came second with 82 gold, 89 silver and 81 bronze medals. Edo placed third with 46 gold, 41 silver and 43 bronze medals.
No doubt, Rivers State entered the record book as one of the few states which have hosted the games twice, its first being in 1988.
Demonstrably, Rivers State had yearned for the opportunity to host the games again and when it came, it was with unrivalled zest and showmanship that it hosted the games.
Against this backdrop, it is understandable why the glamour that attended the 17th national fiesta has elicited from Nigerians, a clamour to rebrand the sports festival, with a view to making it a money-spinning ground for athletes and the nation.
President Goodluck Jonathan may have himself set the pace of such advocacy, when, during the opening ceremony, he announced cash prizes for the winners of the newly introduced trophies at the fiesta, in honour of Gen. Yakubu Gowon, Chief Jerry Enyeazu and NojeemMayegun.
Sports analysts recall that it was Gowon, as the nation’s military head of state, who introduced the games in 1973, partly to enhance national unity in a nation that had just gone through a civil war, as well as enhance the physical wellbeing of the nation’s youth.
Enyeazu on his part was the first director of sports to organise the national sports festival, while Mayegun was the first Nigerian to win an Olympic medal.
The trophies were donated by the Plateau, Abia and Lagos State governments.
As the curtain closed on the 17th edition of the games, Rivers state won the N20 million prize money and the “Gowon trophy” that goes with the first place position, while Delta carted home N15 million and the “Enyeazu trophy” for the second placement. Edo won the “Maiyegun trophy” to go home with the third prize money of N10million.
Sports analysts predict that greater awards may well be available in the future, especially as President Jonathan pledged that the prize monies would be reviewed upwards to make the games more competitive.
Invariably, the federal government’s gesture has opened up calls for the general rebranding of the games.
Such calls have been diverse and varied, though they seemed to tally with trends in the world’s major games such as the All-African Games, Commonwealth Games and the Olympic Games.
Mr Patrick Ukah, the President of Nigerian Hockey Federation and a marketing consultant, said that it was obvious that the “Garden City Games” had raised the bar for the nation’s sports fiesta hosting.
“I want a situation where other games will be made attractive for participating states and athletes. Corporate bodies and organisations could come in and sponsor the trophies donated for the various sports.
“If for instance, the winner of the Gowon trophy is given N500 million, the Enyeazu trophy – N300 million and Mayegun trophy – N25 0million; such will go a long way towards getting the best out of our athletes.
“In addition, it is also possible for states to get sponsorship from corporate bodies for the games,’’ he said.
With the benefit of hindsight, Ukah said that the sponsorship of the Garden City Games by some companies was good but believed that more could still be done.
Retired Brig-Gen Emmanuel Okaro, a sports administrator and Chairman of the Games Services Committee, shared similar viewpoints with Ukah and stressed that the nation’s athletes would be the major beneficiaries of the re-branding.
“Just as it is being done in major games like the All-African Games, Commonwealth and Olympic games, we stand to benefit more if the National Sports Festival is given enough sponsorship.
“Take for instance, the opening and closing ceremonies of the Garden City Games; it was a spectacular scene like we normally see in other countries of the world.
“With this kind of show, glamour was obviously added to the games and if more money is added to the trophies, our athletes will strive to do better at the games,’’ he said.
Chief AdokiyeAmiesimaka, former Green Eagles winger, also shared same sentiments with Ukah and Okaro, and stressed that the games deserved more glamour and greater competitiveness.
“Apart from acting as an avenue for our youths to meet and for new talents to be discovered, the festival will get more value with good sponsorship. I believe that our sportsmen and women will get busier preparing to compete in every festival’’ he said.
Amiesimaka, after whom the magnificent complex for the games was named, advised that conscious efforts should be made to improve on the value and status of future games, especially as the Rivers State government had raised the bar very high.
As the nation prepares for the next edition of the games in Lagos, sports enthusiasts, athletes and officials are optimistic that greater heights will be attained at the games, in terms of competitiveness, financial benefits to athletes, as well as national prestige.
Mbonye writes from the News Agencye of Nigeria.
Reps Summon Dare Over Doping Crisis At Tokyo
The House of Representatives has begun investigation of the disqualification of Nigerian athletes at the 2020 Olympics over alleged doping, asking the Minister of Sports and Youth Development, Sunday Dare, to come and explain the preparedness of the Nigerian contingent for the sports festival.
Tidesports source gathered that the resolutions followed the unanimous adoption of a motion at the plenary on Wednesday titled, ‘Need to Investigate Activities of the Federal Ministry of Sports and Youth Development on Failed Doping Test by Nigeria Athletes at the Olympic Games in Tokyo.’
Consequently, the House resolved to “invite the Minister of Sports and Youth Development (sic) to brief the Committee on Sports on the level of Nigeria’s compliance with extant regulations set by the International Association of Athletics Federations and the independent anti-doping arm, Athletics Integrity Unit.”
The House also urged the Federal Ministry of Youth and Sports Development to put necessary measures in place to ensure compliance with extant regulations at both local and international competitions, while mandating the Committee on Sports to “investigate the immediate and remote cause of the failed doping test to forestall future occurrence.”
Moving the motion, Mr Babatunde Ayeni said the Nigerian delegation to the Olympic Games fared well in terms of performance, thereby raising the country’s rating in the comity of nations.
Ayeni recalled the outstanding performance of the Nigerian Football Team which bagged the historic first soccer gold medal at the 1996 Centennial Olympic Games in Atlanta, United States of America.
The lawmaker lamented the incident of July 20, 2021, where the Athletics Integrity Unit of the International Association of Athletics Federations barred 10 Nigerian athletes, including the highly-rated Blessing Okagbare, from the Tokyo Olympics for failing to meet requirements for out-of-competition drug testing.
He recalled that the Athletics Integrity Unit alleged that Okagbare, who won the opening heat of the Women’s 100 meters, had tested positive for human growth hormone.
“The House is also aware that the allegation further affirmed that the affected athletes failed to comply with the rules requiring those from countries deemed to be at high risk of doping to undergo three no-notice out-of-competition tests in a 10 months’ period leading up to a major event.
“The House is concerned that despite the huge funds being made available yearly for the regulatory agencies in the sports sector, adequate efforts have not been made to get Nigeria into the category where they would be deemed to have made significant improvements in anti-doping tests,” Ayeni added.
NYG: Rivers B’Ball Team Intensifies Preparations
Coach of the Rivers State Male Basket-ball Team, Dagogo Okumgba, has said that preparation, are in top gear for the forthcoming 2021 edition of the National Youth Games (NYG)scheduled to hold in Ilorin, Kwara State.
Coach Okumgba disclosed this yesterday during an exclusive interview with Tidesports in Port Harcourt.
According to him, the team is doing everything necessary to get a better outing in Ilorin when the chips are down, saying that the players are in high spirits and are poised to compete favourably when the competition gets underway.
The coach said his players are committed to their preparations for the task ahead and determined to do the state proud at the games come November this year.
“We are doing our part to prepare as a team and wait for a go ahead from the Sports Ministry for camping so as to further prepare and fortify on the earlier made preparation,” Okumgba added.
The team qualified from their zone at the recently concluded zonal elimi-nation for team sports ahead of “National Youth Games” coming up next month.
It would be recalled that the zonal elimination for team events which comprised Rivers, Delta, Akwa Ibom, Cross River and Edo states took place in Asaba, Delta State, fortnight ago.
The date for the competition was earlier fixed for September 7 to 17 this year.
10 Athletes To Represent Nigeria At Winter Olympics
Following the successful completion of its inaugural Olympics Trials in Lagos last Saturday, the Bobsled and Skeleton Federation of Nigeria has stated that 10 athletes would represent Nigeria at the Beijing 2022 Winter Olympics Games.
Technical Director, BSFN, Dr. Seun Adigun disclosed this in Lagos.
“Ten athletes will be named for the Winter Olympics.
“We will have two athletes for Bobsled, two in the Monobob women’s team, two athletes for the Bobsled men’s team, two male Skeleton and two female Skeleton athletes for the national team,” Adigun, who played a key role in Nigeria’s debut at the last Winter Olympics Games in Pyeongchang, Sourh Korea, said.
President, BSFN, Solomon Ogba stated that the team would train on ice in Europe, ahead of the Winter Games.
“This is the first stage of the preparation for the Olympics before the athletes train on ice,” Ogba said.
History was made earlier in the year when six athletes, who were selected from the first-ever trials in Lagos, trained and participated on ice for the first time in Pyeongchang.
Tidesports source reports that after a few days of training on ice, Perpetua Nwanna and Alawode Sekinat won bronze medal in their debut competition, after finishing third in the women’s double Bobsleigh IBSFSliding Korea Cup.
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