Eyo Okon, Calabar
After a long period of anxiety, the long awaited 20th National Sports Festival will get underway in Benin City, the Edo State capital from Friday April 2nd through 14th, 2021 with the opening ceremony scheduled for Tuesday April 6th at the Sam Ogbemudia Stadium.
Initially, the biennial sports event was scheduled to hold in Benin City on March 2020 but due to the unexpected global health crises, the COVID-19 pandemic, it was shifted to December that same year.
There were two other postponements, the first being in December but was rescheduled due to the second wave of pandemic while the second was fixed for February but was put forward again, this time due to paucity of funds by the Edo State Government before the intervention of the Federal Government, hence the new date.
Unlike the last edition that was held in December 2018 in Abuja, this year’s edition will commence with only 8,000 athletes across the 36 states of the federation including Abuja.
However, the athletes will battle each other in the various sporting discipline ranging from track and field events to wrestling, table tennis, swimming, taekwondo, ludo, weightlifting and karate.
Others include tennis, canoeing, basketball, boxing, chess, football, golf, traditional sports, crickets etc.
The festival came into existence in the country in 1973 during the military era. The aim was to enhance national unity as well as promoting mass participation in amateur sports from the grassroots with a view to discovering hidden talents.
Already, a good number of states like Edo, Delta, Akwa Ibom, Lagos and a few in the north whose governors are sports loving have spent millions to prepare their athletes for the big task ahead.