Abuja residents shun 19th National Sports Festival

By Olusola ‘Jide @jide_olusola

The opening ceremony of the 19th National Sports Festival tagged ‘Abuja 2018’ was marred with low attendance following the poor publicity of the biennial competition.

The opening ceremony was attended by the Secretary to the Federal Government, Mr Boss Mustapha; the Minister of Youths and Sports Development, Barr Solomon Dalung and his counterpart at the FCT, Mohammed Bello amongst other personalities.

The Main Bowl of the 60,000 sitting capacity National Stadium, Abuja was largely empty considering the magnitude of the event looked like a secondary school inter house sports.

Speaking with a group of Abuja residents, they collectively said they don’t know what a sports festival is, let alone know the FCT was hosting such an event.

One of the residents our correspondent spoke with, a taxi driver who declined to give his name asked “what is a festival”?

It was gathered that the poor attendance was blamed on the almost non-existent media hype as promised by the sponsor of the Games, Greenfield Assets Limited.

The sponsor at the early stage of the preparation rolled out plans that involved massive media hype while launching the mascot and logo of the Festival.

However, the planned media hype on the Festival failed to materialise leading to having the stadium almost bar the presence of journalists, performers, security agents and a large number of delegates who left the stadium after the athletes’ parade.

In the same vein, our correspondent counted 23 states who filed out during the athletes parade as against the 35 states and the FCT who according to the organisers were billed to participate in the Festival.

The states are Abia; Akwa Ibom; Anambra;Bauchi; Bayelsa; Benue; Borno, Cross River, Delta, Edo, Ekiti, Jigawa,  Enugu, and Kaduna.

Others are Kwara, Lagos, Niger, Ogun, Ondo, Oyo, Plateau, Yobe, FCT and Rivers.

In his welcome address, the FCT minister enjoined the athletes to savour the beauty of Abuja while urging them to participate in the Festival with sincerity.

The chief host and minister of youths and sports development, Solomo Dalung harped on the benefits of the Festival while urging stakeholders to ensure it is sustained.

“We will sustain the Festival as one of our national heritage for the continued unity of our national unity.

“We must sustain this national tradition as it is our Nigerian Olympics. In the last three years under this administration, we have achieved huge successes,” he declared.

To underscore the poor planning and logistics towards the Festival, the minister who during his speech had stated that the vice president, Prof Yemi Osinbajo was still being expected to declare open the Festival on behalf of President Muhammadu Buhari left the stadium with other personalities without the Festival being officially declared open.

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