BY KUNLE SOLAJA
The National Sports Festival in Nigeria will be held in Benin in two phases owing to the observance of the Covid-19 prevention protocols. Symbolically, the beginning of the second phase inadvertently coincide with the 29th anniversary of Federal Government’s moving of the seat of power from Lagos to Abuja.
The then President Ibrahim Babangida formally moved the seas of power from Dodan Barracks in Lagos to Aso Rock Villa on 12 December 1991. The second phase of the National Sports Festival is due to run from 12 to 16 December.
That was part of the outcome of the two-day National Council on Sports just concluded in Asaba, Delta State in South South Nigeria.
It will be the first time ever that the 47-year old sports fiesta will hold in phases. Originally meant to hold every other year, it has been holding at irregular interval. This will be the second time Benin, capital of Edo State will host the festival after an earlier one in 2002.
The 2020 festival was to have held in March but the global outbreak of Coronavirus forced its postponement. The first phase will now begin with the arrival of athletes on 4 December, the 48th anniversary of the official opening of the National Stadium, Lagos.
According to a press release by Mrs Blessing Lere-Adams the Sports Ministry’s Director of Press, the festival’s Games Village will be opened on 3 December. Arrival of competitors is slated for December 3 and 4 ahead of the next day’s Opening Ceremony of the festival.
Competition begins on Saturday 5 December to run till 10 December. Arrival for the second phase is slated for Friday 11 December and competition begins on 12 December and runs till 16 December.
The closing ceremony will hold on Thursday 17 Dec 17 December while the Games Village officially closes the next day.
According to Mrs Lere Adams, the sports minister, Sunday Dare who is the Chairman of National Council on Sports, assured that all the guiding protocols of the Presidential Taskforce on Covid – 19 shall be fully implemented.
In a reassuring voice, the Deputy Gov of Edo state, Philip Shaibu who was also present at the meeting, re-echoed the state’s readiness of daily testing of Covid-19 rules for all athlete and officials who will attend the competition.