The 20th edition of the National Sports Festival to be hosted by Edo may yet suffer another setback following reports the ‘Nigerian Olympics’ may be postponed for the fourth time.
The Games was initially scheduled for March 21 to April 1, 2020 before it was postponed due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
It will be recalled that the Edo State governor, Godwin Obaseki had cried out that the state was not financially buoyant to host the event and sought for support from the Federal Government.
“Since March last year, you know the financial strength of most States, sub-nationals and countries. For us as a State, we are ready to host but don’t have the funds at this point in time to host the games; this is the plain truth.
“If the Federal Government however in its wisdom decides to bring the funding for the games, we will be too willing to host the country. We have to live with COVID-19 because it has come to stay; even with the vaccination, the virus will still be around,” he said then.
It will also be noted that the sports minister, Sunday Dare had said the request from the Edo government has been passed on to the federal government and are awaiting approval.
“Yes they are ready to host and they have worked together with the ministry of youth and sports to get to where they are at this point. We are dealing with COVID-19 protocols, sporting infrastructure, health issues and provisions.
“When they are postponement like this, there will be cost implications and we have some postponement. Edo state has realized that there have been implications and just had an election. They have spoken to the ministry that they will need financial support which has not come from the federal government.
“The ministry has put up that case and it takes a process. We are sure we will get approval for that support. We are committed to the Nigerian youths who are the major participants and beneficiaries of this national sports festival,” he said then.
Speaking with an official of the ministry, the minister is frantically making efforts to see the intervention funds released.
“The minister was at the Villa yesterday to see Mr President. He wants the Festival to hold as scheduled and he is making all the efforts to see it happen. The funds are needed for the Games to hold and we are confident it will hold.
“You will also know that the games have been reduced as well. But as events unfold, I will let you know. But as at this moment, the Games will hold once we get the funds,” she said.
It will be noted the Main Organising Committee (MOC) recently directed all states to reduce the number of team sports for the Games in a letter from the sports ministry that only teams that finished first at the zonal qualifiers would be allowed to feature at the festival.
The letter, signed by the secretary of the MOC, Peter Nelson, stated: “I write convey to you, the decision of the Main Organising Committee for the 20th National Sports Festival, to amend Rule 13 (v) of the General Rules and Regulations of the National Sports Festival (2020) by reducing the number of qualifiers from each zone due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
“Accordingly, only one team (i.e. the team that placed first at the Zonal Eliminations), shall represent a zone in each Team Sport at the 20th National Sports Festival in order to reduce the number of participants.
“It is pertinent to state that this, amongst other measures, are being put in place to safeguard the lives of all participants during the Festival. You are kindly requested to bring the content of this notification to all concerned.
Following the lifting of restrictions on contact sports in October, the National Sports Council and the LOC fixed 3-18 December for the commencement of the event subject to approval by the Presidential Task Force on Covid-19.
The PTF, however, failed to grant approval leading to strong criticism from the Edo state deputy governor and LOC chairman Philip Shaibu who accused the Task Force of acting on bad advice with the sports ministry announcing February 14 as the commencement date for the Festival and 28 February as the closing date.
With the Tokyo Games also holding this year and without plans for international competitions, camping for participating athletes, the National Sports Festival could act as a tune-up for athletes looking to compete in Japan.