Solomon Dalung, the Minister of Youths and Sports Development, on Tuesday said the 19th National Sports Festival has had a great and impressive impact on businesses in Abuja.
Dalung told newsmen at the Abuja National Stadium that the political-economic impact of the festival was part of the reason the country needed the event.
The minister said he was now feeling fulfilled and happy that the sports festival has been revived.
He however added that he was also sad that three generations of athletes had been denied the opportunity to showcase their skills.
“You can feel the joy among the athletes, you can see the joy among the young ones.
“You can see hope, that the future is here. So, I think one good thing I will be able to remember is that ability to be able to insist and have the festival revived.
“We have lost so much if you go outside here. The political-economy of the festival itself is something that the country needs for almost every turn of the season.
“People are making fortunes. There is buying and selling going on. Businesses have picked up, and sports businesses have returned. So, for me, it’s a kind of mixed feelings.
“I am happy that we have revived it. I am also in a sad mood that we have denied three generations the opportunity to test their talents,’’ he said.
Dalung revealed that with the successes being recorded at the ongoing festival, his ministry has already received four applications from prospective hosts for the next edition.
He said he was working towards institutionalising the festival, whereby the ministry provides the policy and the private sector provides the fund.
“If you must do something in life, believe in it. Once you have it done, people will join you. Nigerians are not good in fighting for something.
“But they are good at celebrating it. Now that the festival has come back, there are so many willing hosts.
“If I had requested for a host before now, nobody would have indicated interest. We have already put in place a perfect arrangement, including a private sector partnership, and creating a multipurpose vehicle, incorporating a company that will drive the process.
“I am gradually trying to institutionalise the festival, with the ministry maintaining the policy and the private sector providing the funding. That is what I will do,’’ the minister added.
On making Abuja a permanent host city for consistency, Dalung said that those clamouring for it were not wrong with their judgment due to past experience.
But he revealed that the sports ministry would be meticulous about the choice of the next host.
“We will have what we call a reserve clause in the agreement, in case of any signal of failure, so that we can quickly reclaim the right and bring the festival back to Abuja,’’ Dalung said.
The News Agency of Nigeria reports that the ongoing 19th National Sports Festival which began on Thursday will come to an end on Sunday.