Emotions went high Thursday at the Unity Hall of Government House in Asaba, Delta State, when 86 year old Awoturo Eleaya said that he felt like running again and that the event that he was witnessing would make him live longer.
Delta State was unveiling the mascot for a sports programme named after him, the Awoturo Eleaya
Athletics Fiesta. The finals will hold this year in Sapele. It is a fall-out from the Sports Summit the state held on October 30 last year.
Implementation of the report has already started although the report was officially submitted to government in the same event that also witnessed the inauguration of the
Local Organising Committee for the African Youth Athletics Championship that will hold in Warri in March.
State Governor Dr. Emmanuel Uduaghan had promised that Delta would produce Olympic medalists and the Awoturo Eleaya Fiesta is one of the launching pads towards achieving the feat.
It will see track and field taking place from ward levels to Local Government Areas and from there to Senatorial districts and then the state finals which will take place in Sapele. Juniors, intermediates and seniors will all compete in the fiesta and world stars like Blessing Okagbare will compete in the senior event.
The idea is to mentor the young athletes who, no doubt, will be inspired by their presence. Okagbare attended the event. Former Africa's queen of the tracks Mary Onyali was also in the hall. And little Ese Brume whom Amaju Pinnick, head of sports in Delta, touted as one to step into the shoes of Okagbare was also there with her parents.
Eleaya was so moved by the day that he prayed that God blessed Dr. Uduaghan and his government for not only honouring him while he is still alive but also embarking on what he likened to a revolution that will turn around sports in the country. Grassroots football has already started in Delta with the Governor's Cup and weightlifting, swimming and other events would follow in due course.
"I'm so delighted that at almost 86, I feel that I should be in the field running again," Eleaya said in his remarks that attracted ovations. "Many of those I ran with are no more. Some are on wheelchairs and
some not too strong again. The concept of this competition really covers grassroots, it's what will make athletes graduate from juniors to intermediate and then to seniors. This is great. (turning to Governor Uduaghan) You are making me to live longer and I pray that God blesses you and all those putting this together. You will live to watch these competitions and your children will live to watch them too."
Before Uduaghan spoke he paid tribute to late Ayo Ositelu and asked that all stood for a minute silence in honour of the veteran journalist who passed on last week. He extolled the virtues of sports and
reiterated his commitment towards transforming sports in Delta, saying that "sports reduces criminality, enhances good health and employs the youth and as we are planning for a period without oil sports is one key area that could be vital to the economy."