After six years of absence, the much anticipated 19th National Sports Festival tagged ‘Abuja 2018’ officially began in Abuja Thursday, but this is without uncertainty as most of the designated venues for the fiesta are not ready.
The Torch of Unity is expected to be received at the Abuja City Gate by Minister of Youths and Sports Development, Barrister Solomon Dalung and his counterpart, the FCT Minister, Mallam Muhammad Musa Bello, before the official commencement.
The Festival initially awarded to Cross Rivers State has suffered series of postponement before it was later awarded to FCT.
Stakeholders were unsure if the Festival would make a comeback with Abuja as the host city due to the late release of funds by the federal government.
Precisely on Thursday March 28, 2018, Sports Minister Solomon Dalung inaugurated the Main Organising Committee (MOC) to ensure a flawless delivery of the Games”
Similarly, in a recent interview, the Director in charge of Planning and Secretary of the Main Organising Committee, MOC, Mrs Hauwa Akinyemi, said the venues for the Festival are in good shape.
Similarly, in a chat with the Group Managing Director of Greenfield Assets Dr Paul Obanua, he said his organization was doing everything possible to host a successful National Sports Festival in line with international best practices.
He acknowledged that proper branding, marketing and media hype are key to developing sports in Nigeria in comparison to the English Premier League.
During a pre-scientific congress held in Abuja on Monday, Dalung said the budgetary allocation for the Festival was released few hours to the opening ceremony.
Media aide to the Sports Minister, Nneka Anibeze, quoted the LOC chairman, Gambo Ahmad, as saying that following the release of funds by the Federal Government, renovation works on selected facilities have begun far behind the deadline of December 5, earlier set for contractors handling the projects.
Gambo, who doubles as the Director of Facilities in the Sports Ministry, said priority has been placed on the athletics tracks, Indoor Sports Halls located at Package B of the National stadium and the open courts for basketball, handball and volleyball.
Since work started on Friday, Gambo said progress has been made and the committee is hopeful that the facilities will be ready before the opening ceremony today December 6, 2018.
However, checks revealed that most of the facilities at the Abuja National Stadium, venue for the event were not ready as at the time of this report.
At the Indoor Sports Hall, Package B, one of the locker rooms was water-logged, though it was being repainted and cleaned up.
The Air Conditioner in the VIP section of the hall was yet to be repaired , while at the swimming section, work was ongoing on two of the swimming pools, while one was yet to be attended to.
The tracks at the main bowl of the stadium where the opening ceremony was held, the tracks, the long and high jump venues were yet to be fully ready.
However, the para-soccer stadium, volleyball halls and velodrome have been fixed and ready for use by the athletes.
8,259 delegates from the 35 states of the federation and the FCT will be expected in town and will be accommodated at the 5 designated games villages.
The delegates will be accommodated at the University of Abuja, NYSC Camp in Kubwa, Regina Pacis College Garki, Government Science Secondary School Maitama and Government Girls Secondary School Dutse.
Meanwhile, FCT Minister Muhammad Musa Bello has said that the FCT Administration will use the opportunity of the sports festival to put Abuja on the global map of sports tourism in order to attract investment and economic development.