Organisers of the 18th National Sports Festival Tuesday night lived up to their pledge to give Nigerians a show that they will have fond memories of whenever they remember Eko 2012. The glitz and razzmatazz of the night truly portrayed the state as the preferred entertainment capital of the nation.
Vice President Namadi Sambo who represented President Goodluck Jonathan; governor of the last host state, Rivers, Rotimi Amaechi; host governor, Babatunde Raji Fashola and his deputy, Adejoke Orelope-Adefulire; Sports Minister, Bolaji Abdullahi and the contingents of athletes and officials from the 36 states and the Federal Capital Territory had more than enough spectacle to cheer Tuesday night.
Teslim Balogun Stadium, venue of the opening ceremony in Surulere part of Lagos, momentarily got transformed into one huge theatre of entertainment. Everyone present lapped up the atmosphere and wished it continued long into the night.
But the splendour and lights did not make anyone miss the rivalry between Team Delta and Rivers even as they tried to outdo each other in the march past of participating states.
What made the difference for Delta was the personal involvement of the state's First Lady, Mrs Roli Uduaghan, who physically led the gaily dressed contingent of athletes and officials from Asaba. It was a show of colour and culture.
Even if winning is not a do or die matter for Lagos, as expressed by Gov Fashola, the breathtaking displays of the Fanti Carnival assemblage and the retinue of masquerades like the Igunuko, Eyo etc earned the state excellent marks.
The only missing link of the night was the poor crowd. Perhaps, the 19,000 officers and men of the police force deplored to provide security took their jobs to the extreme, barring spectators from accessing Teslim with unnecessary restrictions.
Like it happened at the Garden City Games last year, Sambo announced that the state which emerges tops will get N15m while second and third placed will also get consolatory N10 and N5m respectively.
"We are happy with the Lagos government for putting together a good opening ceremony, we hope it will be a memorable festival for all," the vice president commended of the opening events
Minister of Sports, Abdullahi, in his speech also commended Lagos and promised to use Eko 2012 to kick-start Nigeria's preparations for the next Olympics in Brazil.
"Part of the lessons learnt from London 2012 London Olympics was that preparing athletics without sound developments will not prevail."
He said that it was to avoid a repeat of the London shame that the National Academical Sports Committee (NASCOM) was reconstituted to get the grassroots involved in the hunt for fresh talents. "When our student-athletes have access to quality facilities to train, the results will be better.
"We will soon commence the review of eligibility of athletes for the festival by making it open for our best athletes to be involved in it. And because the games is a biannual event, we will also be organising U-17 Youth Games before the next festival so that athletes discovered at the games can be integrated into the main festival," he noted.
The highpoint of the night was the rendition of legendary Fela Anikulapo-Kuti's 'Water No Get Enemy' all-time popular musical track. The over 200 ladies who danced to the tune belted by the band on stage, brought back the 'Abami Eda' back to life.
Earlier, Banky W and a host of other artistes had similarly gave good accounts of why Nigerian music has conquered the continent and beyond.