Edo State has seen it all, sportswise. Sports was and remains the mainstay of the state. From the days of old, when it was called Bendel state (Edo and Delta), Edo has remained a force to be reckoned with in Nigerian sports. In 1973 when Nigeria.won the All Africa Games gold medal in football, Bendel state contributed seven members of that squad. Even after the present Delta state was carved out of what was the old Mid Western State (later Bendel), Edo still had that winning aura. The state is hosting the ED0 2020 National Sports Festival and the mood in Benin City is that of festivity. The government and people of Edo state are ready to show the world that they are still a traditional number one destination in sports. Saturday Sports Vanguard took a trip to Benin for an on the spot assessment of the level of preparedness of the state for the festival, which is less than 2 weeks away. We spoke with key officials of the Edo 2020 organising committee. Dudu Orumen is Chairman, Edo State Sports Commission and member of the Local Organising Committee. He spoke with us.
By Jacob Ajom Edo 2020 is two weeks away, how prepared are you, as hosts? Edo state is ready. What we are doing now is clean up. We are cleaning up here and there and putting finishing touches to the work that we have been doing. The Samuel Ogbemudia stadium, which is going to host the major events is in sparkling shape. I can assure you that in terms of logistics for the games, we are ready. We have new buses; big, medium and small buses for the uninterrupted movement of athletes, officials, and tourists, because Edo 2020 is a combination of sports and tourism. There are over 300 registered, quality hotels and the Governor has said that security is in the front burner. All the mechanics for the smooth movement in town have been put in place, like involving private security agencies and Edo state transport regulatory bodies. We are ready. In terms of facilities, the University of Benin, is going to provide about 13,000-bed spaces. We have negotiated with the Vice-Chancellor and the school authority to adjust their academic programme so that the students can be on vacation and we can make use of the place as Games Village. It is one of the two or three places we have registered as Games Village. The other one is Ekewan Campus, which is also the University of Benin. In terms of food, we have invited caterers and received tons and tons of applications. Only about thirty have survived the screening exercise, which also included health checks as we don’t want people distributing contaminated and infected foods.
This is one Games where athletes are not going to be sleeping in classrooms; they are not going to have toilet challenges and other inconveniences. In the whole, organisationally, I think we are ready. Facilities wise, we are ready. The ownership of the federal government indoor hall at Etete has been transferred to Edo state and we have repackaged it. Table tennis and para-sports will take place there. Imaguero College is venue for more games and it is ready. We also have the New Era College with an ultra-modern sportshall. We have cricket facilities at Edo Boys High School, etc. I can tell you without fear of contradiction that as far as Edo 2020 is concerned, we are ready. How have you sensitized the people on the street concerning Edo 2020? There are banners and posters everywhere. We have produced and aired jingles on radio and numerous TV promos as far as Supersport and CNN. In terms of sensitisation, there was a flag off which was done by the governor himself and the message is all over the place. We are only short of using local town criers, every Edo man, woman, youth knows that we are going to play host to the National Sports Festival. And because Edo State is called the heartbeat of Nigeria – there is no part of this country that you are going to that you don’t pass through Edo state many people are aware we are going to play host. We want to make Edo 2020 memorable as even those who are doing artifacts, carvings and all that have intensified their work to ensure the popular Benin artifacts are not in short supply for those who would want to go home with memorabilia like the brass works and carvings. We want people to come back here again. You have talked about the facilities and every other thing, how about the athletes? Is Edo hosting to win? Edo is hosting to win but it has been quite a task getting them to that shape of mind. Government has been able to put them together and we are taking them to Auchi, away from distraction. They have been in open camping where they used to train at the University of Benin. On your appointment as Chairman, Edo State Sports Commission. How has it been so far? You see, I have a private sector background which falls in line with Mr Governor’s vision to make Edo state sports commercially viable. He wants to return Edo to the pinnacle of Nigerian sports. In 1973, when Nigeria won the All Africa Games gold in soccer, 6 members of that squad of 18 came from Bendel Insurance, We have always been pace setters but there has been a dip, which we recognise and we are trying to do things anew. As chairman of the Sports Commission, I have tried to put up a few things which I wanted to do when the National Sports Festival rights was won. We have had to make do with what we have, then.