By Enefiok Udo Obong
I have been getting lots of calls and comments since my article last week on the Kaduna half- Marathon. A lot of people called to criticize the idea of hosting a marathon in Nigeria when we are not good enough to win. Others question the costs of staging these events and giving out hard currency to foreigners as winners. I have considered everyone’s opinion and decided to write a follow up to educate people more on that Kaduna event.
My issues with the Kaduna half marathon was more of an educational critique on the nomenclature than a critique of the event. All I wanted is that we should call it a half marathon and not a marathon…they are entirely two different events. But the merits of staging the events in my opinion far outweighs the issues raised by naysayers.
One of the biggest advantages of holding such an international race in Kaduna at this time is to demonstrate that the people are still a secure and peaceful community. The news of killings and kidnappings are too frequent these days and there is apprehension in just visiting Kaduna. But holding a race through the city with international visitors spotlights the good and gives confidence to investors that Kaduna is still good for business and may not be as bad as some reports puts it.
Talking about business, the marathon has a rippling effect on local businesses. The economic value to the State has to be carefully calculated as there in an increased influx of people and money to the state. Economic activities picks up. Transport workers, food vendors, merchandisers, hoteliers and a host of others now see a rise in income.
Income also comes in from tourism. People have the opportunity to visit great iconic land maps around the city that otherwise would remain quiet and away from the news. The Lord Lugard Tower, The Lugard foot bridge, Leventis roundabout, Gen Katsina House, Kajuru Castle, Kidzmania playzone and even relax at the Fifth Chukka Polo and Resort. And if one has the time, they can visit the great Nigerian Defence Academy, where all Nigerian officers graduate from. Like as in most host cities of great events, people do return for further visits. This profits the city and people more.
The hosting of the Marathon also gives the population a chance to improve activity. This is healthy as it encourages everyone to come out in these hard times and exercise. The benefits for this is so well known that it would be repetitive to put down here. However, we know that individuals, corporations and even charities benefit from organized road running.
After the lockdown, people have looked for avenue to safely and securely socialize. The half marathon brought that needed relief. The competition brought people together to entertain them and help them ease pressures brought about by economic realities and Covid-19 stress.
Development of the city benefitted from the half marathon. With the international sports eyes on Kaduna, and the race even broadcast live on TV, the Government had to make sure the roads and routes were repaired, the city clean (which was not a problem as the city generally is a clean city) , basic infrastructure available and all these to the overall benefits of the citizens.
Transportation and logistics around Kaduna was improved for the event. The bus terminals were busy and improved, the airport was given a facelift and generally Kaduna became a ‘destination’ of choice once again.
On the capacity building side, hosting an international event is a great way to develop technical capacity of the organizers. The technical officials are given refresher courses on new trends in the sport, the volunteers are educated and the capability to host even bigger tournaments was tested. With over 200 officials and volunteers, the race succeeded in giving education to a lot of Kaduna residents.
Also it was the first time Nigeria had hosted an international race with the loop strategy. This brings a whole new experience and logistics. The Kaduna half marathon was run over two loops…one of a little over 11km and the other 10km. Such strategies have been used in the Olympic Games and even London marathon….and doing so in Kaduna (partly due to caution over interactions during the pandemic) was a big test in the flexibility of our technical officials to learn and practice new ideas.
The positives are numerous and the government and organizers should be applauded for taking the bold step. The furtherance of the public–private-partnership (PPP) in sports would also help our sports development. We all know that the government cannot and should not develop sports alone, while private entities need government support to make sport both profitable and successful on the field of play.
And ah…about success on the field…we would get there. Our athletes would improve by competing with and even losing to these better trained Kenyans. It would fire up the competitive spirit in them. They would be hungrier for success and their desire to win would be even bigger with every loss. So we can be patient. The loss of prize money to the Kenyans is small compared to the income generated by hosting these races. It is the price we will pay for the training of our sportsmen.
But even if they do not win, we should not be deterred by that and stop hosting these races. Mexico may never win the FIFA World Cup but has hosted twice and continue to seek to host. Qatar will not win the World Cup but are so happy to host. This is same for many countries. They all know that hosting the event is way more significant than winning. We should know that too.