By Jethro Ibileke/Benin
The much belated National Sports Festival, tagged ‘Edo 2020’, has been scheduled to hold between April 2 and 14, 2021.
The date was fixed for the festival which has suffered several postponements from March 2020, after a meeting between governor Godwin Obaseki and the Minister of Youth and Sports Development, Sunday Dare.
The meeting which was held in Benin City, the state capital, to finetune plans for the hosting of the Sports Festival.
Obaseki who led the minister on a tour of facilities for the Sports Festival, hailed the commitment of President Muhammad Buhari to support the state in hosting the National Sports Festival.
The governor while reiterating the readiness of the state to host the sports tournament, said the postponement was very challenging for the state, following the preparation and resources already committed in hosting the games.
“It is clear that the facilities at the Samuel Ogbemudia Stadium are world-class.”
“Hosting the games is the right thing to do. Despite the challenges from Covid-19, our spirit is lifted.
“The world is going to the Olympics in Tokyo and it’s important that we participate in the Olympics. We can’t be defeated by the pandemic. Data shows that we are winning the war against Covid-19.
“We will work with you to ensure that the festival holds. We will open up the camp for the games, but the financial position of the state is difficult. As a state, meeting up with all our obligations has put strains on our treasury.
“We would be hosting up to 10,000 athletes and officials within 10 days of the game; it’s going to be expensive.
“While we strain ourselves to provide the support. We don’t have all the resources to host these athletes while they are here. It’s important that the federal government comes through with its commitment before the tournament opens.
“We want to reassure you that the games will hold. I have no reason to doubt the federal government, knowing that the President is a man of his word. We will commence to prepare to host the tournament,” he added.
On his part, Dare expressed the readiness of the federal government to support Edo state government in hosting the National Sports Festival.
He noted, “The federal government is ready and willing to provide financial support to host the National Sports Festival from April 2nd to 14th, 2021. The process is ongoing and sometimes it takes time and it’s our hope and desire to monitor, follow through and hasten the process.
“We are sure of the process and have decided to work with the Deputy Governor, Comrade Philip Shaibu, who heads the local organising committee, to convey to all the 36 states governors and their sports commission that April 2nd the camp for the festival will be opened. April 6, 2021, the official opening will take place.”
The sports department minister disclosed that President Muhammad Buhari will declare the game open on the 6th of April 2021.
Dare added: “We are working with the Presidential Taskforce on Covid-19, the Nigeria Centre for Disease Control (NCDC) and other stakeholders to make sure that necessary support in terms of vaccination are provided. Our athletes have been promised that vaccination will be made available.”