‘Delta will host a befitting National Sports Festival in 2020’

With 75 gold medals already in their kitty at the on-going 19th National Sports Festival in Abuja, athletes, coaches and officials of Delta Sports Commission are sure of retaining their top position at the end of the fiesta on Saturday.

Perhaps, what seems to be of concern to them at the moment is the state’s bid to host the 2020 edition of the sports festival. Four other states, including Edo, Kaduna and Cross River are also in the race for the hosting right.

Delta State Sports Commission boss, Tony Okowa, has submitted his state’s bid to the Sports ministry, hoping that Delta will be considered going by the determination of Governor Ifeanyi Okowa to stage a befitting National Sports Festival in 2020.

Since the return to democracy in 1999, Delta has won the National Sports Festival five times in seven appearances. Delta won at Bauchi 2000, Abuja 2004 and Gateway 2006 under Chief James Ibori’s tenure, as well as Kada 2009 and Eko 2012 under Dr. Emmanuel Uduaghan’s regime. The on-going Abuja 2018 is the first sports festival under Governor Okowa, though his regime has produced three consecutive victories at the National Youth Games in Ilorin, Kwara State.

Some athletes who spoke with The Guardian yesterday believe that the 2020 edition of the fiesta will be better staged in Asaba, a city where people pay to watch sporting activities.

“Since Okowa’s government completed the Stephen Keshi’s Stadium, the people of Asaba have shown to the rest of the world that they are the best in sports spectatorship. They did it during the Africa Athletics championship and the Federations Cup. We have won virtually all editions of the sports festival, and it will be nice for Delta to host the 2020 edition for our people to see Nigerian athletes in action,” one of the athletes said.

To some of the athletes, it will be unwise to give the hosting right to Cross River State, which failed to stage the 19th edition after series of postponements. They also pointed out that Benin City has hosted the festival twice, Bendel ’81 and Edo 2002, while Kaduna also staged it twice, in 1977 and 2009.

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