Over 10, 000 athletes and officials are expected to hit the ancient city of Benin in Edo State following the confirmation of the new date for the 20th edition of the National Sports Festival to kick-off.
The Ministers of Youths and Sports Development, Sunday Dare, on Friday confirmed April 2nd to April 14th as the new date.
The Sports Minister made the announcement during a visit to the Edo State Government House in Benin City, the Edo State capital.
He also announced that Edo State will be used for the National Camp in preparation for the 2020 Tokyo Olympic Games taking place later this year.
Dare said further that the Federal Government is determined to go ahead with the Unity Games which is the sequel to participation at the Tokyo Games.
However, he noted that due to logistics under the circumstances occasioned by the COVID-19 pandemic, the number of athletes has been reduced from 14,000 to 8,000 athletes.
Edo State Governor Godwin Obaseki in response assured that the state is ready to host the games.
He appealed to the Federal Government to make funds available to enable the state to take good care of visiting athletes and officials at the sports festival.
He explained that the series of postponements have taken its toll on the state government and that the country is winning the war against the COVID-19 pandemic, which makes the games safe enough to go ahead as scheduled.
The governor also led the minister on a tour of facilities for the Sports Festival, adding, “It is clear that the facilities at the Samuel Ogbemudia Stadium are world-class.”
Noting that the state was ready to host the sports tournament, the governor said the postponement was very challenging for the State following the preparation and resources committed in hosting the games.
“Hosting the games is the right thing to do despite the challenges from COVID-19; our spirit is lifted. The world is going to the Olympics in Tokyo and it’s important that we participate in the Olympics. We can’t be defeated by the pandemic. Data shows that we are winning the war against COVID-19.
“We will work with you to ensure that the festival holds. We will open up the camp for the games but however the financial position of the State is difficult. As a state, meeting up with all our obligations has put strains on our treasury.
“We would be hosting up to 10,000 athletes and officials within 10 days of the game; it’s going to be expensive. While we strain ourselves to provide the support, we don’t have all the resources to host these athletes while they are here. It’s important that the Federal Government comes through with its commitment before the tournament opens.
“We want to reassure you that the games will hold. I have no reason to doubt the Federal Government knowing that the president is a man of his word. We will commence to prepare to host the tournament,” he added.
Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the Festival had witnessed series of postponement after the initial date of March 18th to April 1st, 2020 date was fixed.