The 2012/2013 National Sports meet kicked off officially Saturday, January 5, in Harper, Maryland County with a colorful ceremony which attracted thousands of sports enthusiasts and spectators in Maryland and other surrounding counties.
Sports and county officials from the political sub-divisions of the country, carrying their respective county colors, paraded the principle streets of Harper to welcome the ceremony to this coastal city.
At an indoor program held at the Harper City Hall, the Mayor of Harper, on behalf of the county, welcomed the decision by the Ministry of Youth & Sports to stage the official opening ceremony of the event in Harper.
The people of Maryland, she said were honor by the selection and assured representatives of the counties of a memorable, peaceful, hospitable environment.
The Minister of State without Portfolio, Ambassador Comany Wesseh, representing President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, extended warm felicitations from the President to all county sports officials, participants and sports enthusiasts.
Ambassador Wesseh, on behalf the President, expressed regrets for her inability to personally witness the opening ceremony, owing to other pressing state matters, but assure participants that the Chief Executive would follow closely the events which he indicated are the heart of government's policy of reconciliation through sports, "because without it our development agenda will be hampered."
He also commended officials of the Ministry of Youth & Sports, County officials and sports administrations as well as athletes for gracing the occasion and admonished them to be good sports ambassadors for their respective counties. Minister Wesseh later took the ceremonial kick-off, signaling the official start of the 2012/2013 National Sports Meet.
Speaking at the occasion, Youth & Sports Minister S. Tornorlah Varpilah explained that the hosting of the event in Harper was in furtherance of the spirit of unification and integration which was promoted by the late Liberian President William V.S. Tubman, a son of Maryland County.
"It is our hope that these events will also help to promote the policy of reconciliation amongst all Liberians," he added.
The Youth & Sports Minister praised County sports officials and administrators as well as athletes for their cooperation and assured them of the Ministry's continued support to ensure the success of this year's competition.
Minister Varpilah also commended the National Oil Company of Liberia (NOCAL) and other institutions, including Lone Star cell MTN for their sponsorship. The collaboration, he noted, will go a long way in strengthening and enhancing the growth of the National Sports Meet.
The Vice Chairman of the Board of Directors of the National Oil Company of Liberia, Mr. Fred Bass Golokeh, welcomed NOCAL's involvement in the 2012/2013 National Sports Meet.
He said the company's involvement was part of its corporate social responsibility aimed at promoting youth development, in line with President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf's efforts to reconcile the country and its people.
Mr. Golokeh said NOCAL is committed to promoting government's policy of reconciliation through sports, and hoped the spirit of national reconciliation will be manifested among all participants well beyond the national sports fiesta.
Several speakers at the occasion welcomed NOCAL's support for the event. Such assistance, they said was crucial toward the achievement of the overall objectives of the National Sports Meet.
NOCAL is providing two sets of outfits for each participating county team in the five disciplines of the competition in the 2012-2013 National Sports Meet. The five disciplines are football, kickball, basketball, athletics and volleyball. The company is also providing boots and sneakers for the players, as well as promotional t-shirts for spectators and county officials. Billboards have also been printed and erected in the counties to promote this year's National Sports meet.
In Saturday's opening games, the girls of Maryland County over-powered their River-gee counterparts in kickball while the two counties settled for a goalless draw in the male category in football.