The Ministry of Youth and Sports Development has said there will be no National Sports Festival and other sporting activities in the country until the rising cases of COVID-19 begin to drop, the sportsbay.com reports.
This was made known by the minister, Sunday Dare while featuring on a Channels TV program on Monday and monitored by our correspondent.
According to him, the ministry will be guided by the Presidential Task Force on COVID-19 (PTF-COVID-19), the Nigeria Centre for Disease Control (NCDC) as well the Health ministry before any decision can be made.
“I can say that our expectation is that it happens this year. I take our cue from the meeting of the National Council of Sports. That is the highest sports decision making body in the country. The council unanimously agreed that the Sports Festival should hold in 2020.
“We immediately set up an 11 man committee that went to Benin to check the sporting and COVID-19 infrastructure in place, to see how the protocols are set out. The report has been submitted to the ministry and an implementation committee is looking at it. But for us, the most important is working with the PTF and NCDC.
“We are hitting the spike in this country, before we can return to sports, we must flatten the curve. When you look at Europe, they were able to return to sports because their numbers are coming down and they have put in place enough testing and COVID infrastructure. The ministry of youth and sports will be properly guided before we take a decision,” he said.
It will be recalled that the 20th National Sports Festival originally meant to take place in March through April 2020 in Benin City, Edo State was scheduled to hold from October 25 to November 4 as announced by the 11 man committee led by Tony Okowa.
Edo 2020 was postponed due to the coronavirus pandemic which has disrupted a lot of activities across the globe including the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games among other sporting events.
In the same vein, the minister confirmed that there are plans in place to ensure the gradual return of about eight non-contact sports in the country with strict compliance to COVID-19 protocol.
Mr Dare said the Federal Government plans to return the national stadium in Surulere, Lagos State to its original blueprint.
He said previous administrations abandoned the national asset for two decades.
“We intend to return the National Stadium, Surulere to its original blueprint. We intend to make sure that every illegal structure that has been put in place that is not part of the blueprint will be removed,” he said.
Dare noted that the move is necessary in order to create room for individuals interested in concessioning the stadium.
He explained that the Ministry has approached billionaire businessman and philanthropist, Kessington Adebutu, who has agreed to fix some key facilities in the stadium pending when the concession process is being completed.
“We are also looking at Adopt a Sports Centre and a Pitch. We have approached Chief Kessington Adebutu who has agreed to make available half a billion naira to start fixing some of the key facilities in the stadium.
“I think that will help because that can open a slight window to make some of the facilities in Surulere to be functional,” he said.