For two weeks, the influx of people into Lagos State increased, traffic gridlocks went up, traders increased prices of their wares; traffic fare also went north, reason was because of the just concluded 18th National Sports Festival, NSF tagged “Eko 2012”.
The festival might have come and gone but the memories would linger in the minds of people for a very long time to come.
People had and still hold divergent views about the event, which commenced with a glamorous opening ceremony and a fantastic closing event, which were held at the Teslim Balogun Stadium, Surulere.
Some of the good sides of the multi-sports event were the opening and closing ceremony, presence of security personnel at different venues of events and even the camp village.
Some national records were smashed with news set; some states even presented athletes from secondary schools, something away from the norm, where states go all out to make they win.
Agreed, the NSF is Nigeria’s Olympic but the competitiveness is far from what is obtainable at the world stage.
In the track and field events, the timing and jumps of the athletes can’t earn Nigeria in any international athletics meet.
The time returned by both the winner in the male and female 100m event is very far from the timing of athletes that are ambitious to win medals at either the All African Games or the Olympics.
Alphonsus Peace Uko from Ondo State and Nicholas Imhoaperamhe from Rivers State won the 100m women and men titles respectively inside the Teslim Balogun Stadium in Lagos.
Uko crossed the finish line ahead of the other competitors after returning a time of 11.57 seconds a far cry from the meets record of 11.36secs set in Kada 2009. Margaret Benson from Delta came second in a time of 11.61 seconds while Mirian Edet Bassey settled for bronze in 11.71 seconds.
In the men’s race, Imhoaperamhe came tops in a time of 10.51 seconds ahead of compatriot and defending champion Chukuama Onyeaku (10.65 seconds). Edo state’s Victor Ikahazobor settled for the bronze medal in a time of 10.72 seconds.
The question on the lips of spectators at the Teslim Balogun Stadium, when Aminat Olowora ran a time of 4:28:69secs to clinch her third gold medal in the Men’s 1,500m after he had earlier claimed that of 5,000 and 10,000 respectively was if she can do well in long distances races?
Olowora said she has what it takes to do well in long distance races but advocates for proper funding for her to be able to attend long distance events around the world.
Commendations must also go to the medical team for their prompt response to emergency to avert death in some instances, even at the traditional sports events venue, where past hosts hardly provide medical team to treat injured athletes, that of Lagos was different as a standby ambulance and medical team are always on ground.
The journalists that covered the event may have some harsh words for the Local Organising Committee, LOC for reasons best known to them but the state of facilities at the media centres provided is something they applauded.
As the saying goes that good and bad goes together that is the lot of some athletes who graced the event, some of them decried the facilities in their camp villages and even the quality of food they were being served.
They alleged that the opening was a sharp irony of the level of their welfare, those camped at the University of Lagos said they were made to sleep in darkness, whenever there was power outage.
It was actually a tale of sorrows, tears and blood, because some athletes who had hope that they were going to return to their states failed to, they described their inability to clinch medals because they never got enough rest before their event.
The power outage issue didn’t only stop at the respective camps of the team because some events had to be delayed due to failure of the LOC to provide diesel to power the generating sets at some venues.
Proximity between camp and events venues was not taken into consideration when the games was being planned which made some athletes and officials carpeted the Main Organising Committee, MOC for approving of such arrangements, where camp and events venues were at pole.
The early timing of some events either made athletes sacrifice their rest to hit their events venue in good time or risk losing it because of the distance between their camps and their events venue.
Shuttle buses were provided for athletes and officials but the LOC didn’t take into consideration the traffic situation that is synonymous to the Centre of Excellence.
It was also lamentations galore for athletes with physical challenges, the grouse range from the use of outdated facilities and failure of the LOC to provide them with special vehicles as they have to struggle with the able bodied athletes.
If you call it a festival marred with series of controversies then you are stating the obvious, some games had to be decided by the board.
States even went to the extent of fielding athletes from other countries at the detriment of the event, which was conceived to foster unity and produce budding talents.
Anambra was stripped of three gold medals it won in the weightlifting event.
The state was said to have smuggled into the country a Camerounian, John Baptiste, to compete in the weightlifting event. The lifter, who competed in the 77kg male category, defeated all contestants to win the three gold medals at state. He won in the snatch, clean and jerk and the total event.
But while Anambra officials were celebrating, some officials from other states became suspicious since the winner had no history in Nigerian weightlifting.
Some events were also not decided as a result of protests filed by states, which the MOC failed to arrive at a decision in some cases until the games came to an end.
The Festival also recorded one death, as Head of Osun State delegates, Alhaji Alade Omotayo Yesufu, died during a football match.
The deceased was said to be watching a langa game involving the state when he felt uncomfortable and was rushed to the hospital where he died.
The state football association chairman, Taiwo Ogunjobi, confirmed Yesufu’s death. He said they were together at the Yabatech venue of a football match that involved the state and Enugu State earlier before his death.
Kudos should however be given to the organizers for providing HIV test for athletes, officials and visitors and also giving out condoms to them.
It is also pertinent to note that since River State would be hosting the next edition, she should guard against making the mistakes made by Lagos so as to give visitors a taste of their hospitality.
Meanwhile, State Commissioner for Sports and Youth Development, of River State Patrick Ugbe said they would host a hitch free event.
He said that the games of the 19th National Sports Festival Calabar 2014 will be world class. Ugbe said he had gone round Lagos with some prominent sports professionals from Cross River to observe and understudy the general organisation of the “Eko 2012”.
He said the professionals had gathered the necessary logistics, ideas and information that would aid his state in her preparation for the 2014 festival “The spectacular show put up by Lagos as host of the 18th National Sports Festival has put us under pressure, but I can assure you that Calabar would be a place to be in come 2014. “The ceremonial aspect of Calabar 2014 won’t be an issue, considering our pedigree in entertainment.
Our annual Calabar Christmas carnival will stand us in good stead to give Nigerians the best opening and closing ceremonies of the games. “Just as Port Harcourt and Lagos made use of higher institutions in the state as Games Village respectively, we shall emulate that too for Calabar 2014”. , Ugbe assured Meanwhile, Cross River with 12 gold, 14 silver and 23 bronze medals placed 8th on the EKO 2012 overall medal table. As the host for the next National Sports Festival, Cross River realized her set target of being among the top 10 states in medal placement.