Ondo State Government Tuesday promised higher financial rewards for athletes that win medals for the state at the 18th National Sport Festival, which kicked off Tuesday in Lagos.
The State Commissioner for Sports and Youth Development, Mr Yekin Olanipekun made the promise while speaking with journalists on the preparedness of the athletes representing the state in the festival tagged Eko 2012.
Olanipekun, who did not disclose in specific terms the amount to be given, insists that Ondo State athletes who won medals at the last edition held in Port-Harcourt, Rivers State will be child's play compared with what would be given those who do the state proud at Eko 2012 Games.
Gold medallists at the last festival went home with N200, 000 each, while silver and bronze winners got N150, 000 and N100, 000 respectively. The sums were a hundred percent increase over what the athletes got at the KADA Games in 2009.
Olanipekun said the state government had put in place all necessary machinery to ensure a credible outing at the Eko 2012 festival and thus the coaches and athletes owe it a duty to do the state proud.
He admonished the athletes to remember that the festival is a golden opportunity for them to show the world what they are capable of accomplishing on the sports scene, coupled with the prospect of earning multi-million naira sporting contract.
"You must remember that the state government has demonstrated unflinching support to your welfare and equipment needs. You must therefore reciprocate by going out there and doing the government and people of the state proud in your respective games," Olanipekun said.
"I want to assure you that we will improve on the financial rewards you got for the last festival outing in Port-Harcourt.
"The government of Dr Olusegun Mimiko is determined to ensure that the number one sporting position Ondo State currently occupies in the South-West remains intact.
"We have set a target of finishing among the top three, and we are confident that we shall get there."
Olanipekun however warned the state contingent, which consists of 285 athletes and officials for abut 24 events, to steer clear of acts of indiscipline and cheating that could tarnish the image of the state government at the festival.
He also called on the coaches and other accompanying officials to be alive to their duties and ensure that the welfare of the athletes is accorded paramount attention.