Asaba 2022 Sports Festival will come with lots of benefits — Sports Minister
• Says Adopt-An-Athlete Initiative Paid Off For Team Nigeria
Sports Minister, Chief Sunday Dare, has said that hosting the National Sports Festival comes with a lot of benefits.
“The whole idea of the Sport Festival goes beyond creating the bond of unity among Nigerians youths from different states,” Dare told The Guardian at the Presidential lodge, Asaba, shortly after unveiling the Main Organising Committee (MOC) for Asaba 2022 National Sports Festival during the week.
“The Sports Festival is also meant to be a ground industry to harvest young talent and also to bring grassroots sport talent for the national teams.
“But also, the Sports Festival is meant to help the states develop sporting infrastructure and build a sporting culture because when a state decides to host the Sports Festival, it goes beyond just their athletes coming into that state. It has to do with the injection of funds into the economy of the state. It increases the investments made on the part of the state government in sport infrastructure because there are certain sporting infrastructures they must have in place to host 14,000 athletes. The state must have hostels, and it must have a stadium with tracks. So, the idea is that any state that host Sport Festivals would have developed these sporting infrastructure.
“Look at how the face of Edo State changed completely after hosting the last National Sports Festival. When you have 14,000 athletes for three weeks. It helps the local economy, the hotels, the markets, the infrastructure and it also helps the athletes,” Dare stated.
The Sports Minister also spoke on the success of Adopt-An-Athlete initiative, a programme he introduced in the build up to the Tokyo Olympics Games.
“The Adopt-An-Athlete initiative paid off for Team Nigeria at the Tokyo Olympics Games,” he said. “It was with the soul purpose of supporting our athletes to the Tokyo Olympics. That was the main objective, but then, it was also meant to test the ground to see how we can get individuals and corporate organisations and government at other levels beyond the Federal Government buy into the idea. We had expectations and we are glad that to a large extent, those expectations were met. That is why I mentioned it that for Delta State Governor to adopt almost 12 athletes, paying directly to them at the region of N8 million, some of them $10,000, and some $20,000. These are money that went directly to the athletes. They have never experienced it before the Adopt-An-Athlete initiative.
“Outside Governor Okowa, we had a number of others. Edo State Governor adopted, Edo State Deputy Governor adopted, Lagos State Governor adopted, Ogun State Governor adopted, Halogen adopted, and quite a number of other private organisations also adopted. So, at the end, we had almost 21 or 22 athletes adopted. For us, our expectations were met.
We thought the 42 athletes we wanted to present would benefit, but then, the COVID- 19 pandemic came, and people lost their fitness and revenue. We are rethinking that rather than just did it for the Olympics Games, perhaps, we should keep it as a model for three of our major international sporting events (Olympics, Commonwealth Games and the African Games). I think that is what we are going to do because we have seen how it has improved the performance of our athletes.
“What is this money meant for? To help the athletes pay their coaches, medical expenses, and to attend competitions. We have seen the impacts. If it is a policy that is helping the athletes, we will now try to use it and extend it to the Commonwealth Games and the All African Games,” he0 stated.