The first ever youth sports festival for schools in Akwa Ibom State has been declared open with a charge on students to see the competitions as a common spring board to fame and a brighter future.
Governor Udom Emmanuel who declared the competitions open at the Godswill Akpabio International Stadium, said by exposing the students to the best sporting facilities at an early age, his administration was giving them wings to soar to greater heights.
This, Mr. Emmanuel, said gave rise to his establishment of sporting centres in each of the ten Federal constituencies of the State, of which one has been completed in Itu and another nearing completion in Eket federal constituency.
He said his “administration sees sports development as a valuable gift to our children and youths,” and urged “participants to endeavour to make maximum use of this opportunity, and make it a visa to the land of stardom.”
Emmanuel who called for more attention to the business side of sports, said sports in the today’s world was a goldmine and not mere entertainment.
“Beyond the story of this festival, our youths should be launched to the glory of the money-spinning venture of sports,” he asserted.
Governor Emmanuel who was accompanied by the State’s first lady, Mrs Martha Udom Emmanuel and the Minister of Youth and Sports, Mr Solomon Dalung posited that, the secret of world sports stars, “is hidden, first and foremost, in early exposure to world-class facilities particularly at an early age.”
He lamented the poor run of the country in the last Olympics and the non-participation of the national soccer team in the recent African Cup of Nations, and promised to raise stars to lead Nigeria back to glory ways in global sports.
Emmanuel thanked the Minister of Sports for his readiness to support the state in grassroot sport development, praying that “this( efforts) be a feeder to our national teams in the future and make us retake our rightful place in different sports”
Earlier in his goodwill message, the Minister of Youths and Sport Development, Mr. Solomon Dalung, reiterated the interest of the federal government in grassroot sports development in the country.
He congratulated Governor Emmanuel on the successful re-invention of schools sports competitions and challenged other state governors to key into the vision witnessed in Akwa Ibom.
The Minister expressed the hope that the event will produced more great athletes for the country, expressing the belief that Akwa Ibom will soon take the lead in the sports scene in the country.
He urged the students to be focused and hardworking as the future of the country lies with them and pledged his continuous support to Governor Emmanuel in his task of developing grassroots sports development.
Highlight of the opening ceremony was the lighting of the festival torch by a former CommonWealth Gold medalist Aniekeme Alphonsus, and march past by all the participating local government contingents.
The competitions which feature track and field events will come to an end on Sunday, with the closing ceremony at the Godswill Akpabio International stadium.