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Coronavirus may stop foreign-based athletes from Edo 2020 Sports Festival

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The hope of some states parading foreign-based athletes at the Edo 2020 National Sports Festival may be dashed, no thanks to the dreaded coronavirus, which is spreading across the globe.

The 20th edition of the National Sports Festival will begin in Benin City on March 20 with about 11,000 athletes and officials expected to participate. Some states are hoping to sweep medals through the efforts of foreign-based athletes, particularly in athletes, weightlifting and volleyball.

A source hinted yesterday that one of the states had included names of 27 foreign-based athletes on its list for the Edo 2020 Sports Festival.

According to the source, a former sports commissioner in the state, who is the ‘coordinator’ of foreign-based athletes, recently returned from an oversea trip where he met with the athletes. “The state government is paying heavily for the services of foreign-based athletes. Our coordinator just returned from his trip to the United States,” the source said.

However, such plan may hit the rocks, as indications emerged yesterday that the host, Edo State and officials of the Federal Ministry of Health were considering barring states from fielding foreign-based athletes at the festival.

A member of the Local Organising Committee (LOC) for Edo 2020 NSF told The Guardian that there was the need to do away with foreign-based athletes ‘for the safety of everybody’.

Contacted yesterday, Secretary of Publicity and Communication Sub-Committee, Mr. Ebomhiana Musa confirmed that the LOC was concerned over the health implication of allowing foreign-based athletes to participate in the festival.

He said: “The LOC is still holding talks with officials of the Federal Ministry of Health on the possibility of stopping states from parading foreign-based athletes. But Edo State is fully prepared because at every entry point into Benin City, we have put in place the machinery to check all visitors. Even at hotels and the Games Village, our health officials are on ground,” Musa stated.

Another thing that might work against the states hoping to parade foreign-based athletes is the sweeping travel restrictions by various countries, including U.S., as a way of stopping the spread of coronavirus.

Meanwhile, Edo State athletes and their counterparts in Imo State allegedly took to the streets in Auchi and Owerri yesterday in protest over what they described as ‘poor’ daily allowances. While Edo athletes, who are camped in Auchi, protested against daily payment of N2,000, those in Owerri allegedly turned down the N500 daily allowance given to them by Imo State government ahead of the festival.


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