With the18th National Sports Festival, Eko 2012, rounding off Sunday, Secretary General of the Local Organising Committee, Dr. Kweku Tandoh, says Lagos will stage a captivating closing ceremony which will be a fitting end to what has been a successful festival
"For the first time in the history of the National Sports Festival, the date scheduled for the event was not altered by the host state while lots of innovations were also included in the sports fiesta by the host of the 18th edition tagged Eko 2012. From the day the protocol agreement was signed to the start of the festival, Lagos has kept to all details."
You would likely be as effusive as Secretary General of the Local Organising Committee (LOC), Kweku Tandoh, if you were at the festival or had indeed witnessed a few other past ones.
Eko 2012 has indeed thrown a major challenge to other states hoping to host the championship. Despite the challenges faced prior to the games, Tandoh noted that the cordial relationship between the LOC and MOC has helped to lift the games.
Asked to assess the festival, he said: "In terms of the organisation of the festival I want to say and I believe the LOC has done very well in terms of providing facilities we had to provide. In terms of providing logistics, accommodation, feeding, security and medical, to a large extent we have been able to cope with everything that has happened since the festival started. And this is just a testimony to the planning that has been put in place over the last nine to 10 months that the LOC has been functioning. On a general level, the MOC and minister of sports, Mallam Bolaji Abdullahi, and the LOC have done very well for this festival," he said.
Reacting to the issues of complaints about feeding and accommodation, the LOC scribe said: "The earlier complains we received were actually by people who were not entitled to accommodation. We were mandated to provide accommodation for athletes, coaches and a certain category of officials of which we did and even surpassed in terms of provision of accommodation. But we found out that a lot of states came into the games village with a lot of people that have not been accredited and so we have more people in the games village that were not supposed to be there and that is what some people termed as having accommodation hitches.
"We have appealed to the states to ask all those who came with them and are not meant to be in the games villages to vacate the games villages so that those we were supposed to provide for can enjoy what we have put in place for them.
"Also in terms of entertainment, there are a lot of activities lined up for the athletes. For example, film shows, music, cultural performance were made available every evening at the games village from 7pm. Besides, we put a tourism package together for the athletes especially those that were from outside of Lagos. We had the sea tour and the bus tour, which took them around Lagos by boat and we used the boats at Oyinkan Abayomi Jetty in Victoria Island. I was at the flag off of that tour and I must tell you that the athletes were excited and I saw some of them when they came back saying they really had an exciting time on board. Also, educationally, they were able to see a lot of things they had only read in the newspapers and history books.
"On a daily basis we were having these tours. Centres were set up in all the games villages for people to register for the tours, which was termed See Lagos, Feel Lagos. Every day it was available by sea and by land," he said.
On the complaint about poor lighting in some of the events held at the National Stadium like boxing and table tennis, Tandoh said: "There is a limit to what the LOC could do about that because the National Stadium is a federal facility and we expected that the National Sports Commission would have upgraded at least those aspects of the National Stadium that we would be using for the festival. But for one reason or the other they were not able to do it, so we had to at the last minute put up some contingency plans to get those places up and running.
"The fact we are even able to have any event at the National Stadium was because of the work we did to bring them up to the standard where they are right now. It is not a nice story about the stadium. But I believe the minister of sports who has also been visiting the venues for these games would have noted the areas of deficiency and I am sure they would do something about the National Stadium."
There was however a conspicuous presence of stern-looking soldiers at venues of the festival with a few confrontations between them and some athletes recorded.
"It was an incident that was brought to our attention and we acted on it immediately. We got the army commandant to speak to his men and asked them to be patient with the athletes. It was just a misunderstanding and we ensured it never repeated itself again."
Speaking on the opening ceremony which was applauded by many and what should be expected of the closing ceremony, he remained optimistic. "The opening ceremony like the closing ceremony of such event is usual a bit more carefree in terms of it being more fun, more of a party, more of a carnival atmosphere. However, the LOC is putting together a closing ceremony that would remain in the minds of Nigerians and even the rest of the world. All I can say for now is that we are going to have a lot of musicians like Wizkid and Wande Cole, and efforts are being made to get one or two others.
"But in the next couple of days, we would have a list of those that would be entertaining. Even before the official closing ceremony starts at about 6pm (on Sunday) we would have the gates open at about 2pm and between that time and 6pm there will be a lot of entertainment and musical shows entertaining the crowd before the closing ceremony. After the closing ceremony the party continues as there will be fireworks and other entertainment. We believe it is going to be an event that would stay in the mind of everyone who witnesses it."
With regard to the challenges he had to contend with as the secretary general of the LOC, he said: "I worked with an excellent team, the LOC is headed by the Deputy Governor of Lagos State, Adejoke Orelope-Adefulure, and she is a an excellent administrator who has made herself available by ensuring that things are done properly. The LOC vice-chairman, who is also the commissioner for youth, sports and social development, Wahid Oshodi, is also a pleasant person to work with and we have the rest of the LOC members, chairmen of the sub-committees who have been wonderful.
"Together we have worked as a team and whatever we have been able to do is because of the joint effort that everyone has put in. For me as the secretary general it has been exciting, I have learnt a lot over time, I have been exposed to a lot of other areas I did not know about but the totality of the experience is something that would always be with me and I am sure would help me in my future endeavours," he said.
Tandoh would not disclose exactly how much was spent on the festival, but noted that the state did not have to approach the House of Assembly for additional funds aside what was initially approved. "I am not too sure about the exact figure, but I know there was a figure approved for the festival sometime in December which was about five billion naira by the House of Assembly and I know the state has not gone back to ask for more money. So whatever we have spent is in line with that budget, which is another plus for the Lagos State government because it means we have been able to work in line with the budget."
He applauded the contribution of the private sector towards the successful hosting the festival.
"The private sector has done quite well and they could have done better but for one reason or the other. I will also commend those who put in money and products. Towards the close of the festival, many more came on board, but we would have liked to see more commitment earlier so as to help us plan better and also to enable us integrate them into what we are doing. The support of the private sector has been encouraging for us in Lagos State and I am sure it is something we would build on for future events.
"We also did a lot of things in preparation for the festival. We organised international sports seminar where we had speakers from all over the world come to talk to us about the legacies of hosting sporting events. We have empowered our people in Lagos and we have put in place infrastructures that would be available for Lagosians to use to develop themselves in various sports.
"We have a brand new sports medicine centre in Rowe Park and we have also created an adequate environment for athletes to perform by providing for their welfare, giving them an atmosphere where they can relax and also where they can mazimize their sporting potentials so they are able to come out with performances that would be to the benefit of Nigeria. We also have worked on this arrangement with the private sector.
"We have got good support from the private sector and, more than anything else, I believe we have been able to tell the world that indeed we can begin to operate in Nigeria using international standards and that is what we are trying to do in every sub-committee. It is not the way it used to be but the way it should be. That has been our driving force in everything we have done. I believe we have been able to set new grounds, lay new standards that subsequent festivals and hosts of festivals would build upon to take Nigeria's sports to where it is supposed to be," he said.