Host of the 18th National Sports Festival, Lagos, has said that developing her athletes to global standards rather than winning at all costs, remains a top priority for the state.
Lagos State Commissioner for Sports and Youth Development, Wahid Enitan-Oshodi insisted Wednesday that nothing was going to distract the Governor Babatunde Raji Fashola from derailing from that policy thrust.
Enitan-Oshodi however observed that that did not preclude the state from picking the top spot from the ongoing EKO 2012, having put so much effort into preparing Lagos athletes to excel.
"Gov. Fashola has not said that Lagos is not interested in winning Eko 2012. What he said is that developing our athletes from the grassroots will remain the focal point of his administration rather that dissipating energies on how to win with poached athletes," observed Enitan-Oshodi at an interactive session in Lagos Wednesday.
He revealed that the state way back in February hired six foreign coaches including American Lee Evans to help transform Lagos sports from the grassroots. The coaches are handling the states' track & field, swimming, weightlifting, boxing and rowing at the on-going games.
The commissioner stressed that the youth development focus of the Fashola Administration informed why the opening ceremony was largely dominated by youths.
"The colourful opening ceremony we presented to Nigerians and the global audience was deliberately focused to be youths dominated. We planned it to be a celebration of the youths since the focus is to discover talents. We did not want the controversies of the past editions where states were at each other's throats on who is overall winner. For us in Lagos, the slogan is: Free and fair games," he noted.
On whether the festival be thrown open to every Nigerian irrespective of where they are based, Enitan-Oshodi insisted that Lagos has no quarrel with that.
"What that however means is that only the richest state will continue to win the National Sports Festival," he cautioned.
The Lagos Sports Commissioner pleaded with other states to concentrate of developing their school sports if Nigeria is to truly make head way now and in the future.
"We in Lagos have instituted measures to revamp our school sports. We have top grade facilities in place for use by the youths. There are now quarterly competitions, funded by the state. There is the monthly boxing Hall of Fame drawing attention to the sport once again. These and many others are been used to refocus attention to the grassroots. Even the Lagos Principals' Cup that has been revamped has not reached the position of glamour we planned for it yet," stressed Enitan-Oshodi.