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ON LAGOS’ FRESH SPORTS DEVELOPMENT INITIATIVES

Kehinde Akinfenwa

Sport is a globally recognized and increasingly utilized vehicle to achieve development. It’s potential as a tool to reach personal, community, national and international development objective is today being appreciated through series of sporting activities where individuals and group of varying identities interact. Aside the passion accruing from sporting activities, the unifying force and sense of belonging offered by the system promotes global affection, the more reason why it is regarded as a universal language.

To ensure sport enjoy a pride of place in Lagos, the focus of the State Sports Commission has been on the intentional use of sport as a tool in advancing inclusive and sustainable development. The current administration of Mr. Akinwunmi Ambode has in fact remodeled the anatomy of sport in the state by building network of opportunities around the industry.

Early this year, the state government illuminated its path to sport development in the state with the inauguration of Boards of Lagos Sport Trust Fund whose significant role as an interface between the private and public sectors in raising funds for sports is presently expanding opportunities for the growth of the sector in the state. The concept which grew from the conviction that well-designed sport-based initiatives can be powerful, practical and cost effective in achieving development goals.

To this end, the State Government has already commenced the development and rehabilitation of sports facilities across the State as well as promotion of sporting activities in the five administrative divisions. This is evident from the facelift given to Agege township stadium to meet the standard of Confederation of African Football where the CAF Champions league matches were staged early this year as well as furnishing of the Mobolaji Johnson Sports Complex Rowe Park Centre, Yaba with world-class facilities.

Governor Akinwunmi Ambode’s persistence on the bequeathal of the historical National Stadium at Onikan to the Lagos State government acquiesce his promise to resuscitate and make all desolated monuments across the state relevant for social and economic prosperity. Interestingly, the Federal Government is on the verge of entrusting the management of the memorial edifice to the state government after years of persuasion.

The iconic stadium which used to be the citadel of African football holds overwhelming inspiration and memories of African football legends, coaches and football enthusiasts. From the enchanting atmosphere induced by the colorful spectators, to the golden moments of players’ dexterity, sprawling the warble of supporters. The sigh of expectation that holds the stadium spellbound, the delightful duration that propels the triumphant lyrics provides the stadium a distinct appeal.

With the Governor’s assurance of its remodeling, Africans should start counting down to series of football rhapsody where spectacular national and international competitions will be hosted. This undoubtedly will reignite the passion and enthusiasm of football lovers in Nigeria thereby promoting aggressive investment in the state’s sport industry.

Recently, the Lagos State Sports Commission has been organizing and supporting a spectrum of domestic and international sporting events geared towards expanding the horizons of the sector and providing platforms for aspiring sportsmen and women in the country to come alive with their dreams. The 2018 Lagos International Squash Classics staged at the Molade Okoya-Thomas Indoor Sports Hall of the Teslim Balogun Stadium epitomized the distance the state government has covered for the tranquility of sports in the state and the country at large.

With the return of the Championship to the Professional Squash Association (PSA) listing as a reward for the impressive staging of the last two editions by the State Government, this year’s edition witnessed classical display from international players from fifteen highly ranked squash playing countries. Players from France, Egypt, England, Germany, Switzerland, Portugal, Ireland, South Africa, U.S., Pakistan, India, Czech Republic among others thronged the state for the six-day tournament to amass points for their global ranking.

One major event that has find reference in global sporting calendar is the Lagos Open Tennis Challenge. Since the tournament joined the ITTF World Tour in 2014, it has remained a model of carrier transition for tennis player, advancing the project of the sport in Africa. The event co-sponsored by the State government and the International Table Tennis Federation remains the highest prize-money tournament among the ITTF Challenge Series as the last edition set a new record of having the largest turnout of over 22 countries where 180 world class and amateur tennis players participated to amass points for their world ranking.

Significant improvement has also been recorded at the Access Bank Lagos City Marathon, the 2018 edition of the race was certified as a Bronze label marathon by Association of International Marathons and Distance Races (AIMS), with its routes officially measured. Athletes who qualified at this year’s edition were offered automatic slot to the 2018 Commonwealth Games which was held in Gold Coast, Australia in April this year. Governor Akinwunmi Ambode has assured that his government will amplify its commitment towards the event as the goal to achieve the Gold label within the next two editions is paramount.

More so, the staging of the 2nd edition of Lagos State Secondary Schools Hockey Championship is a testament that the government is according significant reference to other sports by decentralizing its resources for overall sports development and extending its search for budding talents in the sport industry. The three day event which featured fourteen secondary schools offered stakeholders the avenue to identify abundant talents that can be groomed to become the sport ambassador.

Similarly, more than 200 students from public secondary schools across the state were trained in gymnastic during the Lagos State Gymnastics Open Day at the Mobolaji Johnson Sports Complex. In order to improve its participation at the grassroots level, the avenue was used to expose students to the rudiments of the sport as well as discover latent talents where participants were taught gymnastics basics such as floor exercise, vaulting nut, balance bim and pummel horse among others.

The U-12 and U-15 National Handball Championships competition was reawakened this year in Lagos when the state played host to 15 other States in the country. The impressive hosting of the ten day event at Mobolaji Johnson Sports Complex after years of inactivity allured the strategic effort of the state government in providing enduring structure and harnessing sport potentials towards the advancement of the sector in Nigeria. The event showcased the intrinsic talent of the young ones where theU-15 Volleyball team of Lagos emerged the overall best team in the competition after a sterling display.

The journey of sports under this administration has been an epitaph considering the enduring mechanism that is making sport enterprising and propelling significant breakthroughin the state eternal development.

Kehinde Akinfenwa of the Lagos State Ministry of Information and Strategy, Alausa, Ikeja

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