Adibe Emenyonu in Benin City
Edo State government is to set up a technical committee to plan a three-year development programme for the Okpekpe 10km Road Race even as May 12 has already been picked for next yearâ€™s edition.
The Edo State Deputy Governor, Rt. Hon. Philip Shaibu, disclosed this on Tuesday, when he played host to the promoter of the race, Mike Itemuagbor, who was at the Government House in Benin on appreciation visit to government for the successful hosting of this yearâ€™s event which held last Saturday.
The deputy governor who received Itemuagbor and his entourage on behalf of Governor Godwin Obaseki said the technical committee was to ensure sustainability of the programme and also map out ways of bringing in more investors into the race to boost the economy of the host community and encourage more participation of local athletes.
Shaibu also praised the introduction of technology in this yearâ€™s race, stressing that the innovation has brought credibility to the race.
“I congratulate you on the successful hosting of this year’s event. The most important aspect of this year’s event is the integrity that was emphasised. Playing by the rules of the game made it real. This has also brought integrity to the race,” he said.
The deputy governor expressed joy that the race has brought Okpekpe into the eyes and hearts of sports lovers around the world, indeed, the map of the world. This, he said, will in turn attract potential investors to the community.
On his part, Itemuagbor who announced May 12 as date for next yearâ€™s race, revealed that revenue from private sector this year had an increase of about 20 per cent.
On improvements in the upcoming editions of the race, the Okpekpe race promoter said beyond the use of transponders and split mast, the organisers are working on an upgrade to raise the standard of the event, in order to bring it to the same standard with the Boston and London marathons.
He explained that with the improved revenue generation, there would be more commercialisation of the competition in successive editions.
On how to encourage more participation of local athletes, Itemuagbor said the bulk of the work lies on the table of the sports councils and ministries to train and encourage athletes while the local people must imbibe the culture of participation and should be hungry to challenge the foreign athletes, as the organisers have created a level playing field for all athletes.
Itemuagbor and his team also presented some souvenirs including the Okpekpe race goodies pack, towels, and customised tables to the governor in appreciation of his commitment to the sustainability of the IAAF bronze labelled international race.