Seventeen years ago, Ogun State hosted the National Sports Festival, which was declared as one of the best in the fiesta’s history. The Gateway 2006 Games was staged during the Gbenga Daniel’s administration, with Bukola Olopade as Sports Commissioner.
Now, Ogun State is gearing up to host the 22nd edition of the National Sports Festival in 2024, and Olopade, who is Chairman of the Local Organising Committee (LOC), said it would be ‘different.’
On Tuesday, Sports Minister, John Enoh, inaugurated the Main Organising Committee (MOC) for the Games, with a charge to the committee to work hard to deliver a seamless and successful event next year.
Olopade, who is also the vice chairman of the MOC, told The Guardian, yesterday, that the Gateway 2024 National Sports Festival would break many records, both in the area of organisation, attendance and glamour.
Three states in the southwest region have hosted the National Sports Festival since it began in 1973. While Lagos has hosted it several times, Ibadan, Oyo State capital, hosted it ones, ‘Oluyole 79’. But Ogun State is aspiring to join the list of states to have staged the fiesta twice, having hosted it in 2006.
Apart from Lagos and Edo states, only three states and the Federal Capital Territory (FCT) have hosted the fiesta twice. They are Kaduna (1977 and 2009), Bauchi (1991 and 2000) and Rivers (1988 and 2011). The FCT hosted it in 2004 and 2018. Kwara hosted it once in 1985, Benue in 1986, Imo in 1988 and Delta in 2022.
According to Olopade, one major area that will make Gateway 2024 Games different from other National Sports Festival is the involvement of corporate organisations and the display of true traditional heritage by the people.
“In 2006, we hosted a festival that was celebrated as one of the best in the country. Next year, we are bringing to Nigerians an entirely different National Sports Festival,” he said.
To pave way for a successful festival in 2024, Ogun State Governor, Dapo Abiodun, a sports lover, has given members of the LOC the free hand to operate.
“We are very grateful to our Governor for me and other members of the LOC the free hand to go about our duties. Governor Abiodun is a sports lover, and it matters a lot in staging event of this magnitude. I assure him and people of Ogun State that the LOC won’t disappoint,” he stated.
Olopade, who is the Chief Executive Officer of Nilayo Sports Management, revealed, yesterday, that the date for the 2024 National Sports Festival would be made known to Nigerians soon by the MOC.
He, however, noted that the Games would hold in Abeokuta and Ikenne, home of the late frontline politician, Chief Obafemi Awolowo.
“Some preliminary games may hold in other venues, but Abeokuta and Ikenne are the two main venues for the 2024 National Sports Festival,” Olopade stated.