The Minister of Sports and Chairman, National Sports Commission (NSC), Bolaji Abdullahi has said that subsequent editions of the National Sports Festival would now be open to all athletes, be it foreign-based or local to compete for medals.
Speaking during the Opening Ceremony of the 18th National Sports Festival, Eko 2012 at the Teslim Balogun Stadium in Lagos Tuesday, Abdullahi, said the decision to throw future festivals open to all athletes, was informed on the need to allow the nations best athletes to compete and bring out the best from them.
"Future editions of the National Sports Festival will now be open to all our athletes. This will encourage a keener competition from the athletes and make our sports better", said Abdulahhi, in his keynote address at the occasion.
The implication of this is that the likes of London Olympics 100m finalist, Blessing Okagbare and African tennis legend, Segun Toriola can compete at the festival if they want to. This is what all our sports technocrats of repute have been clamouring for. This view was resonated by the Delta State Governor, Dr. Emmanuel Uduaghan at the Delta State Sports Summit, where he called for the National Sports Festival to be thrown open to all athletes, irrespective of their status or where they are based.
In fact, most of the speakers at the Summit held in Asaba, recently, were of the view that limiting the festival to home-based and amateurs was not going to do our sports any good.
Another major point in Abdullahi's address was that a Technical Selection Committee has been set up to go round the venues of the ongoing Eko 2012 to pick talented athletes for nurturing for future competitions.
Also speaking, Lagos State Governor, Babatunde Fashola, in his address said that Lagos was not desperate to top the medals table, noting that what is important is sports development.
He said that Lagos would be competing to discover new athletes
"It would not be meaningful if they compete for only medals. The purpose is to discover new athletes for future competitions", said Fashola.
President Goodluck Jonathan, who was represented by his vice, Namadi Sambo, said that the winning state of Eko 2012 would earn N20m, while the second and third placed states would get N15m and N10m respectively, a continuation of the cash reward he introduced at the last festival held inPort Harcourt,RiversState.