Delta athletes celebrating Sunday night photo James Agori
By Duro Ikhazuagbe
Delta State was Sunday officially declared the winner of the 18th National Sports Festival in Lagos, amassing a total of 288 medals to bag the General Yakubu Gowon trophy for the fifth time. Delta also won in 2000, 2004, 2006 and 2009.
The Niger Delta state was just four gold medals short of its projected 120 gold medals, winning 116 gold, 97 silver and 75 bronze medals. Winner of the Garden City Games 2011, Rivers State, placed second with 76 gold, 71 silver and 71 bronze medals to win the Jerry Enyeazu Cup.
Lagos State that gave indication from Day One of competition that it was not hosting to win at all cost, placed a decent third position with 64 gold, 47 silver and 71 bronze medals to win the trophy named after Nigeria’s first bronze medallist at the 1964 Tokyo Olympic, Nojeem Maiyegun.
The just ended Eko 2012 was adjudged the fairest in terms of officiating. The facilities put in place by Lagos were also considered far above what any other hosting states have done in recent time.
Sports Minister, Mallam Bolaji Abdullahi admitted in his closing remarks that Lagos indeed provided excellent facilities that raised the bar for the competition.
While enjoining states that did not live up to their expectation to redouble their efforts before the next festival in Calabar in 2014, he urged corporate bodies to partner with the Federal Government and the states in sports development.
Lagos State Governor, Babatunde Raji Fashola urged the National Sports Commission not to allow the many talents that flourish at Eko 2012 to drift to other countries.
He insisted that the legacy of hosting the festival was the many sports facilities provided that will be put to better use after Eko 2012.
Cross River State that received the flag as the next host of the festival in 2014, pledged to give Nigerians an edition that will live long in their memories.
The state’s Commissioner for Sports, Patrick Ugbe, said that it was very appropriate that Calabar was going to host the next edition that coincided with the 100 years of the amalgamation of the northern and southern Nigeria.
He promised that the Calabar edition will be world-class event. Ugbe admitted that he has gone round Lagos with some prominent sports professionals from Cross River to observe and understudy the general organization of the EKO2012 Games.
“The spectacular show put up by Lagos as host of the 18th National Sports Festival has put us under pressure but I can assure you that Calabar would be the place to be in come 2014.
“The ceremonial aspect of Calabar 2014 won’t be an issue considering our pedigree in entertainment. Our annual Calabar Christmas carnival will put us in the stead to give Nigerians the best opening and closing ceremonies of the games.
“Just as Port Harcourt and Lagos made use of higher institutions in the states as Games Villages respectively, we shall emulate that too for Calabar 2014. Ugbe promised.
Chairman of Delta State Sports Commission, Pinnick Amaju, was full of commendations for the Lagos State Government for successfully hosting the just concluded edition and also living to its promise not to strive to win by all means.
He attributed the success achieved by Delta State to hard work, discipline and prayers, which he said, propelled the state to the top of the table.
Amaju revealed that the recent formation of the Delta Sports Commission and the selection of well grounded technocrats, helped to chart a new course for sports development in the state.
“We have a landslide victory in this sports festival because of hard work, discipline and prayers. We also formed the sports commission which was a departure from the ministry set up to drive our aim of sports excellence.
“Aside of these, we also gave our athletes employment for them to have life after sports. Athletes who won medals for us here will also be given automatic employment,’’ observed the DSSC boss who led his athletes and officials to a thanksgiving service at TREM headquarters in Gbagada, Lagos.
YEAR HOSTS WINNERS
1973 Lagos Mid West
1975 Lagos Bendel
1979 Oyo Lagos
1981 Bendel Bendel
1985 Kwara Oyo
1988 Rivers Bendel
1991 Bauchi Zone 2 (Bendel, Ondo and Rivers)
1996 Benue Lagos
1998 Imo Lagos
2000 Bauchi Delta
2002 Edo Edo
2004 FCT Delta
2006 Ogun Delta
2009 Kaduna Delta
2011 Rivers Rivers
2012 Lagos Delta