Ministry dismisses report presidency approved N4 billion for Edo 2020
• Dare confident Nigeria will track/field medals in Tokyo
The Sports Ministry yesterday refuted the report that the Presidency approved N4 billion for the organisation of the ongoing 20th National Sports Festival tagged Edo 2020.
The Sports Festival, which was earlier scheduled for March 2020, suffered series of postponements due to the outbreak of COVID-19 pandemics. It finally commenced on April 2 and will end this week.
Midway into the Games, the Local Organising Committee (LOC) threatened to discontinue the fiesta, alleging that it did not get a concrete financial commitment from the Federal Government as promised. The body later shelved the idea following a quick intervention by the Presidency.
The Senior Adviser on Media to the Sports Minister, John Joshua Akanji, said in a message to The Guardian yesterday that the Presidency didn’t approve N4 billion for the sports festival as reported.
The minister’s aide, Akanji refused to disclose the amount approved by the Federal Government for the festival. But he insisted, “The report of N4 billion approved by the Presidency for Edo 2020 National sports festival is not correct.”
Meanwhile, Youth and Sports Development Minister, Sunday Dare, is confident Nigeria’s 13-year wait for a track and field medal at the Olympics will end this year at the Tokyo Games.
Nigeria last won a track and field medal at the Beijing Olympics in 2008 when the women’s 4x100m relay team and Blessing Okagbare (long jump) won silver medals. Now, the Sports Minister is confident track and field will start delivering the medals like it did in 1996 in Atlanta.
Track and Field has accounted for 13 of the 25 medals Team Nigeria have won at the Games. The sport has also delivered two of the three gold medals won with a first ever individual gold by Chioma Ajunwa in the women’s long jump.
“Our athletes’ performance so far this year have given us renewed hopes that Nigeria’s track and field athletes can better their performance at the 1996 Olympics in Atlanta where they won four medals (three individual and one team medal) at the Tokyo Games this summer,” said the Sports Minister, who believes his adopt-an-athlete initiative has started yielding the desired results.
The fastest girl in Nigeria today, Grace Nwokocha Nzubechi, is one of the athletes on the programme and we can see the progress she has made since she was adopted, running a world class 11.09 seconds to secure qualification for the Olympics right here in Nigeria.
“Others on the programme are also delivering new personal bests and I am sure one or two more can secure the qualification time or mark for the Games at the ongoing 20th National Sports Festival,” he added.
Dare is also thrilled with the performance of Ruth Usoro, who only on Saturday broke Nigeria’s triple jump record (14.50m) in the U.S.
“Ruth is also an athlete we are monitoring. She has proved to be a real talent that can shake the world very soon,” he said.
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