When His Excellency, Governor Akinwunmi Ambode assumed office in May 2015, he assured Lagosians of re-energised road map for sports development during his tenure in office.
He emphasised on a vision to use sports as a catalyst for the growth and development of the economy. “Sport is a catalyst for tourism and it is my strong belief that we must continue to support sports as a means of allowing us to develop the mental capabilities of younger ones and Lagos State is ready to do that,” the governor said recently.
Looking back from 2015 till now, there is no doubt that Governor Ambode has not been paying lip service to what he promised. The governor has indeed matched his words with action. Stakeholders in Nigerian Sports will also testify that Lagos State, under Governor Ambode, has been using sports to keep the youth busy with a different set of competitions, both on the local and International levels.
While the state has been hosting and organising sporting competitions and tournaments on a regular basis, the Government of Akinwunmi Ambode has also made sure that series of international Sports Classics take place in Lagos, the Centre of Excellence.
International Classics such as ITTF Seamaster Nigeria Open (table tennis), PSA Squash Classics, International Badminton Classics and other events such as the Governor’s Cup Lagos Tennis Championships now known as ‘Lagos Open Tennis Championship’ are regular annual competitions that Lagos State organises. Governor Ambode has personally attended the finals of some of these events.
The Access Bank Lagos City Marathon is another sporting event that has put Lagos on the world sports map. The tournament has in three years of existence, attained International Amateur Athletics Federation (IAAF) Bronze Label status and has become one of the major African marathon races on the IAAF calendar.
On the Local scene, the Government of Akinwunmi Ambode has been using School Sports as the foundation to unearth and groom young athletes to boost the pool of athletes in the state. Many school sports championships have been staged in sports such as Gymnastics, Hockey, Swimming, Handball, Deaf School Sports and Traditional Sports under the able watch of the Lagos State Sports Commission headed by Dr. Kweku Adedayo Tandoh.
In the area of sports facilities development, Governor Akinwunmi Ambode has also scored himself remarkable high marks. The focus includes the provision of sports facilities in districts, communities andneighbourhoods, increased attention to schools sports for the discovery and development of athletes etc. It came as no surprise that the governor approved the remodelling of Agege Stadium, nicknamed ‘The Soccer Temple’. Onikan Stadium is now undergoing massive reconstruction to expand the facility and turn it into world-class sports and entertainment edifice. The sports-loving governor is about fulfilling his campaign promise of giving the people of Ajegunle a new Maracana Stadium.
Still fresh in the memory of Lagosians was #mylagosmyfootball# World Cup Viewing Centres at designated centres across the state. The vision the governor had was to bring the Russia 2018 FIFA World Cup Finals to Lagos for the people to be part of it. All matches of the Mundial were shown live at centres at Campos Mini Stadium Lagos Island, Teslim Balogun Stadium Surulere, Abesan Playground Alimosho, Naval Barracks Ajegunle, Bishop Aggrey Youth Center Mushin, Epe Recreation Center, Ikorodu Town Hall Ikorodu andBadagry Grammar School Badagry.
In the area of administration, sports in Lagos State is in capable hands as Governor Akinwunmi Ambode has chosen technocrats to oversee that sector. The appointment of Dr. Kweku Adedayo Tandoh as the Executive Chairman of the Lagos State Sports Commission is clearly a “round peg in a round hole”, so are those of Mr. Babatunde Bank-Anthony as Director-General and other competent men and women as members of the Sports Commission Governing Board. The governor has also carefully chosen men and women of proven integrity to the Board of the newly created Lagos State Sports Trust Fund, where former Deputy Governor of Lagos State, His Excellency Otunba Femi Pedro is the Chairman.
Within a short period of time, Governor Akinwunmi Ambode has made his presence felt in the area of sports and he continues to invest heavily in sports development for the future of the youths of Lagos State.