Vanguard (Lagos)

Nigeria: Sports Festival Hits Sour Notes

Many states are counting their blessings as the 18th National Sports Festival draws to a rousing end tomorrow but not without hisses and sighs and allegations of gang-ups, discrepancies, unethical conducts by officials and some states.

Defending Champions, Rivers State took stock of their outing yesterday and praised the spartan spirit of their athletes and officials but alleged that there was a gang-up to stop Rivers from defending their crown.

Sports Commissioner, Fred Igwe who praised Lagos for a good organisation, however, regretted attitudes that pointed to the fact of sabotage and gang-up against Rivers State.

"They disqualified one of our star swimmer, Duotimi Gagbe when the Main Organising Committee differed that they should not have disqualified her". Duotimi won nine gold medals in swimming when Rivers hosted and got N4.5 million as reward for her efforts from Governor Rotimi Amaechi.

Another sour point that Igwe pointed out yesterday was in Basketball. "We were leading 10 minutes to the end against Lagos State and suddenly they switched off the lights in Rowe Park. Our basketballers were harassed and intimidated. When the lights were restored, we went ahead to win but questions should be asked on why the lights were switched off", he said.

That's not all. Four Wrestlers of Rivers, potential gold medal winners absconded without any trace with allegations that some states paid them handsomely to abandon Rivers. The four wrestlers of Bayelsa origin were registered by Rivers and got their upfront payments before the festival.

"There are rumours of unwholesome acts of offering money to athletes to rock the boat. They are rumours but our Governor will not be happy to hear that we are involved in unethical acts. By and large, we did well against all odds. We won the star events of the 100 m in athletics, winning gold and silver.

We are the Jamaica of the Sports festival. We cleared the medals in Abula, female Volleyball, Handball and performed creditably well in the face of intimidation. We salute our athletes and we still remain the powerhouse of sports in Nigeria", Igwe backed by his officials said, saluting the spirit of fair play exhibited by Rivers State, a state that shattered all the records of the festival with first class infrastructures, unparallelled welfare for officials and athletes and winning the festival without hisses and sighs.

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