One of the most significant challenges afflicting sports in Nigeria has been the inability to effectively replace the old guard when they have passed their prime.
The lack of institutionalised succession plans is one of the chief reasons why the National Youth Games was revived by the former Minister for Youth and Sports, Solomon Dalung.
Now in its 7th edition, the Youth Games have provided a mixed bag of the Good, Bad, and Ugly.
It is often said that pictures don’t lie (not anymore in the era of advanced technology), but some of the pictures coming from Asaba are taking the shine off what should have been a national fanfare of some sort, where future legends that would rule the world of sports are to be unearthed.
Though officials have confirmed the authenticity of the viral pictures circulating on social media platforms, they have also attempted to provide more insights.
Pictures of young athletes overcrowded and sleeping on mattresses on the floor exposed the accommodation challenges faced by the various participating states in Asaba. However, the Project Manager, of Hostels and Accommodations, Demola Aare, says there is more to the picture.
Speaking with journalists in Asaba, he explained that the postponement in the start date of the Youth Games contributed significantly to the challenges faced, though he implied that those teething problems have now been resolved.
According to Mr Aare, the master plan for the games was to ensure that all the contingents were housed within a 30km radius so that no team was far away from their competition venues.
“During the preparation, we were able to earmark Osadebe University, Infant Jesus Academy, and Technical College; these are notable schools with good facilities, bunk beds, and whatever is needed. They were expected to cater for over 5,000 athletes and officials.
“However, due to the postponement of the Games, these institutions had to resume their academic programs with their students. When we wanted to start the games, they were about to start their exams, and we could not drive them out, so we had to manage the situation.
“The Governor gave us the go-ahead to use all the public schools available; some have double bunks, some don’t have, meaning foams will be put on the floor. The Ministry was adequately informed of this situation.”
Aside from the postponement of the Games, which made some of the earmarked facilities unavailable, Mr. Aare also blamed the overblown contingents of some states for the quagmire.
He said, “The pictures being circulated are the ones taken at the earlier stage when we were still struggling to ensure we house everybody. So, some of the facts that actually necessitated some of these pictures circulating were that during the DRM, states registered a particular number; for example, a particular state registered 152 athletes and officials and came to Asaba with 194, thereby putting pressure on us because they had been paid for, though not accredited. This has really put a strain on the limited accommodation that we have.”
Mr Aare said that while he is not making excuses for the pictures being taken and circulated, he insists that he and his team are doing their very best in the situation they find themselves in.
Just as there are pictures painting gloom, there are others that are also heartwarming and give reasons for optimism that the future is bright for sports in Nigeria.
One such is that of Eight-year-old Funmilayo Beauty Oyero, who is making her dream come true as she joins the Lagos State team to participate in the National Youth Games in Asaba, Delta State. The Basic 4 pupil of Victory Children’s School, Lagos, joined other golfers from Team Lagos as the golf competition teed off on Monday at Ibori Golf Club in Asaba.
While the performance of the youngsters in Asaba is expected to dominate the headlines in the days ahead, the gloomy pictures online no doubt have taken some shine off the Games in Asaba.
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