The Minister of Youth and Sports Development, Sunday Dare, on Friday in Benin expressed Federal Government’s readiness to support the Edo Government in hosting the 20th National Sports Festival (NSF).
Dare, during a courtesy visit on Gov. Godwin Obaseki, said the Federal Government was ready and willing to provide financial support to the Edo Government.
“In spite of the hiccups being experienced due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the Federal Government is ready and willing to provide financial support to the Edo Government in hosting the festival between April 2 and April 14.
“The process is ongoing and sometimes it takes time and it is our hope and desire to monitor, follow through and hasten the process.
“We are sure of the process and we have decided to work with the Deputy Governor, Philip Shaibu who heads the Local Organising Committee (LOC), to convey to all the 36 state governors and all their sports bodies that by April 2 camp for the festival will open,” he said.
Dare assured that the official opening of the festival would be on April 6, and commended the state government’s commitment in ensuring that the festival was hosted.
“President Muhammadu Buhari will officially declare the festival open on April 6,” he said.
The minister disclosed that there were however going to be some changes to what were earlier planned.
“Before the postponment of the festival last year, 13,000 athletes were expected to participate in the events, but that number has been reviewed and reduced to 8,000 athletes.”
He expressed happiness that Edo was ready and adequately prepared with facilities in place to host the games.
“There is no better place to host Nigerian athletes for the Tokyo Olympics than Edo State. The state already has the facilities and the national camp will be set up in Edo state,” the sports minister said.
He further disclosed that details of vaccination of athletes and officials would be made available soon.
Dare added that the ministry was working with the Presidential Task Force (PTF) on COVID 19 and other stakeholders for the necessary support in terms of vaccination.
In his remarks, Gov. Obaseki appreciated President Buhari’s financial commitment to the state government’s quest to hosting the best festival ever.
Obaseki said the postponments of the NSF had been challenging for the state following the preparation and resources committed to hosting it.
“Hosting the festival is the right thing to do in spite of the challenges from COVID-19.
“Now our spirit is lifted. The world is going to the Olympics in Tokyo and it’s important 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 festival. But, however, the financial position of the state is difficult.
“We will be hosting up to 10,000 athletes and officials within 10 days of the festival, and 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 festival begins,” he said.
Obaseki thanked the authorities of University of Benin and other critical partners for their support so far ahead of the festival.(NAN)