By Clarkson Ogo
All is now set for the official opening ceremony of much talked-about 19th National Sports Festival (NSF) slated for Abuja between December 6 and 16, 2018 with last minute rushes and preparations for organisers, Athletes and team Officials.
As at last check, no fewer than 35 states and the Federal Capital Territory (FCT) have confirmed participation at the competition which held last – six years ago.
And so, the Nation’s capital witnessed influx of Athletes and Officials – numbering in thousands between Tuesday and Wednesday, ahead of the foremost National sporting fiesta.
The increased presence of security officials, mainly Police and some Military men were seen at strategic points, to maintain law and order.
Around the National Stadium, the situation wasn’t different. Blueprint further observed that unlike few days ago, both package A and B of the 60, 000 capacity sporting complex is now wearing new looks with light fighting and other vital facilities either installed or being put in place.
Various groups including musical and acrobatic teams were equally seen perfecting their display strategy when the opening day comes calling.
Permanent Secretary, Ministry of Youth and Sports Development, Adesola Olusola earlier told our Correspondent that all heads of the country’s security agencies have been fully briefed concerning the 10-day sporting outing expected to expose over 10, 000 Athletes.
He said, “We thank God for gradually making this event to come to pass. Initially, they were doubts in various quarters on whether it will hold or not, but finally, activities are unfolding. Don’t forget, the Sports Festival hasn’t held since 2012.
“So, we are trying all we can to ensure we give teaming Athletes opportunity to show case their talents at the elite level like this. And we only pray and believe everything will go well.”
While briefing the media ahead of Thursday in a joint Press conference, Minister of Youth and Sports Development, Solomon Dalung hinted, “Having missed three editions, this is a huge achievement considering the time the federal government decided to take up the organisation of this all important sports fiesta.
“Events of this nature usually required at least 2 years to prepare for. The expected Athletes are 11, 638; coaches are 1,242, team officials 865, state delegates 845, total participants are 14, 580.
“We also held technical meetings and venue inspection on July 4 and August 13 respectively. The torch of unity fashioned out of Olympic torch and commonwealth Queens baton relay started with a flag off ceremony by Vice president, Yemi Osinbajo GCON on October 1st 2018 as part of the programs for the National Independence Day dinner.
“So far the torch has travelled to all the capitals of states in the federation and it will make its way into the Main Bowl of the National Stadium for the opening ceremony on December 6, 2018. This will signal the commencement of the Games.
“Zonal elimination of the 19 sports that will feature at the Games took place simulteanously in the six political zones from 8-13 October, 2018. The sports included basketball, beach volleyball, cricket, football, handball, hockey and para-soccer with only one team qualifying from each zone in each sport.
“After the Delegate Registration Meeting (DRM), a total of 8861 persons were accredited from 35 states and FCT. Ebonyi didn t participate in the DRM.
Athletes 7227, coaches 710, other team officials 322, state delegates 602.
“Analysis of the delegation registration meeting indicated that in accordance with the provisions of rule 11:4 for of the National Sports Festival general rules and regulations as amended, the underlisted sports/events will not score at the 19th National Sports Festival. The spores are Abula, male and female, cricket (female), football (female).
“We have produced medals for the games, produced doping control information and education material for athletes, coaches, Technical and accompanying officers have distributed the festival general rules and regulations 2018 to all stakeholders.”