WHY THE NATIONAL SPORTS FESTIVAL MUST BE PUT ON HOLD

WHY THE NATIONAL SPORTS FESTIVAL MUST BE PUT ON HOLD
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BY SMARTS EBHODAGHE

It is no longer news that the 20th National Sports Festival tagged Edo 2020 was postponed just a few days to the commencement due to the outbreak of the Covid-19 pandemic. The postponement was in line with the efforts of the government to check the spread of the virus that is still ravaging parts of the world in alarming proportions.

Though the number of daily infections seems to be on the downward trend in Nigeria, the relevant health authorities have continued to advise that precautions have to be taken to avoid a second wave of infections. This is the reason full-scale sporting activists have not resumed across country.

Having removed the lid a few weeks ago for contact sports to resume in Nigeria, the national sports governing body is now considering the idea of staging the postponed sports festival anytime soon. However, my concern with the laudable idea is the speed with which it wants it done as if the end is here.

More disturbing is the suggestion that the games would be staggered over weeks, into months, without the usual spectatorship. What this will imply is that the authorities just want to fulfill all righteousness that the games held, whether there were gains or not.

Naturally, the national sports festival is about the people – athletes, officials, spectators, the micro/medium business community and the government. As the name implies, it is a festival that is celebrated to have various positive impacts on the people.

The urgent desire to just have it done for the fun of it is not in the best interest of the people, and especially the host state that has sunk billions of taxpayers’ money into preparations for the games.

The intension and belief of doing so was, and still, that hosting the festival will bring about improvement in the socio-economic fortunes of the people of the state.

Before the postponement of the games was announced, vendors of diverse wares had paid for spaces within the games venues to display and market their products and services to the teeming spectators expected atthe games. What then becomes of such vendors when the games are staggered and no spectators allowed into the venues?

On the parts of the athletes who have not been training since the postponement of the games due to the lockdown that followed, how well will they compete with the short notice to come for the games?

Are they mentally, psychologically and physically prepared for the games in the immediate?

This is not the first time the National Sports Festival would be postponed in its history, especially as this latest postponement is on force majeure.

After the 18th edition hosted by Lagos State in 2012, the festival suffered multiple postponements until it eventually held in 2018 with its accompanying fanfare.

If the biggest global sporting gathering, the Olympics, earlier billed for 2020 in Tokyo, Japan could be postponed till 2021 on the account of the same Covid-19 pandemic, why the rush by Nigeria to host its national games?

The postponement is in the best interest of everyone that has one thing or the other to do with the games actively or passively.

The Edo 2020 festival can hold in the first quarter of 2021, giving the Local Organising Committee and the various sub-committees adequate opportunity to put post Covid-19 measures in place to make the games even more exciting to behold. It will also allow room to focus on the tiny details that still needed some attention even at the time of the postponement.

As it is said, anything worth doing at all is worth doing well. Let’s use this opportunity to showcase Nigeria as a country that does things properly and professionally, instead of the other way round.