Abuja — Except Ebonyi State, athletes from other states of the Federation are in Abuja for the 19th National Sports Festival, which starts today with the Festival Torch expected to arrive the venue.
The 19th National Sports Festival may not meet the standard previously set, as most states did not make adequate preparation to participate in the festival that was hitherto a delight for many Nigerian athletes in past years. Worst still, the Abuja National Stadium that is expected to host some of the events, was just partially 'recovered' from the bush that had taken over the multi-billion naira edifice built and commissioned in 2002 for the 8th All Africa Games, COJA 2003. More irritating is the Velodrome that is yet to host any event since it was built and commissioned. It has been reduced to a warehouse.
The glamour that attend the Games since inception may elude this 19th edition, as most states including the host, FCT, were not adequately prepared.
The only good thing that may be recorded is that the festival will provide the avenue for some athletes to make some money, as the states that are ill-prepared would hire them to amass some medals to justify the huge amount they must have collected from their governors. The Games Technical Committee is said to be under pressure to resolve issues arising from poaching of athletes by some desperate states.
The Guardian learnt that money-bagged Sports Commissioners and Directors of Sports, who failed to give their athletes the preparation they needed for the festival, have been arranging with their coaches to 'poach' top grade athletes, and pay for their services so as to win medals to justify the huge amount of money collected.
The horrible condition of the tartan tracks and other facilities at the dilapidating multi billion naira edifice might not allow promising athletes to showcase their skills, just as the outdoor courts are not in proper shape for good performance.
The FCT administration in its bid to ensure a hitch-free hosting of the 19th National Sports Festival in Abuja has confirmed deploying a total of 1,500 security personnel to protect athletes, officials and spectators at the games.
The Permanent Secretary of the FCT, Christian Ohaa, said yesterday that the administration would leave no stones unturned to guarantee the success of the festivals.
While unfolding the FCT plans to successfully host the sports festival, Ohaa said over 10,000 competitors and officials from 36 states of the federation, including FCT would feature in 40 different sports, hence the need for thorough security.
He disclosed that the security personnel, including undercover agents, have been mobilised since Monday to control crime in the nation's capital.
"The issue of crime has been discussed at the highest level, and we are not going to take chances with the security of participants and spectators. Police officers will be deployed to the venues and strategic places. They will be engaged three days before and three days after the Games. This approach is in line with international best practices," Ohaa disclosed.
He similarly revealed that the games transport committee had mapped out special routes for athletes and officers, adding that thy acquired 75 different vehicles to be used for the events.
"We are hosting and arrangements are in top gear. Apart from security, we are providing accommodation and transportation to ensure successful hosting of the games that will harness the talents of our youths. We have closed the schools to pave way for success of the games. The FCT will also send 470 athletes to participate in 27 sports. They are in different camp preparing, and we have made funds available for their participation," Ohaa said.