16th National Sports Festival (NSF) starts in Kaduna

The 16th National Sports Festival tagged "Kada 2009" began in Kaduna, the Kaduna State capital yesterday. It will end on February 25.

The event was originally scheduled for last year, but facilities for the fiesta were not completed, and this situation forced sports authorities to call for the postponement.

However, the host city came under severe harmattan attack a day prior to onset of the event as athletes from all over the federation put finishing touches to their preparations.

Contingents from different states of the federation started arriving the northern city penultimate week to acclimatize with the weather condition. But the dry dusty wind that blew across the city really took its toll on the athletes forcing some of them to resort to thick clothing to stay in top form.

The athletes were not the only group of people affected by the adverse weather condition as airlines flying into the Kaduna Airport and other northern cities were cancelled because of the very poor visibility condition.

Other than the weather problem, the state capital is witnessing shortage of hotel accommodation owing to the unprecedented influx of people, even as food vendors have capitalized on the crowd to make brisk business.

Though the host state government made provisions for respective states athletes and their officials, those worst hit by the accommodation shortage are support staff working with the state delegations.

Ahead of the opening ceremony yesterday, the festival organizers had concluded plans to stage a concert for athletes and their officials.

Deputy Governor of Kaduna State, Ibrahim Yakowa, said that welcome party was a regular feature of the games. And "Since this one falls on Valentine's Day, we want to make it special so that all participants will feel at home in Kaduna.

"We are aware that valentine means so much to youths and that is why we are also identifying with them to relax a little before the beginning of the competition.

"Kaduna is the safest place to be in Nigeria and with security assured I urge the athletes to go all out and do well for themselves and their respective states.

"The state has everything to make this competition memorable for all participants."

In the area of facilities, standard ones have been put in place for the event. They include the new Mondo tracks at the Ahmadu Bello Stadium, the Olympic-size swimming pool at the Murtala Muhammed centre amongst others.

The National Sports Commission has also chosen the festival to start its database for Nigerian athletes as it prepares to completely computerise its operations.

Hauwa Kulu-Akinyemi, an assistant director in the NSC, explained that the data base process was the best for Nigeria stressing: "That is what obtains all over the world and we just have to start from somewhere. We have worked on all the data of athletes carefully and we are going to use this document to monitor them as they go on from here," she said.

However, it was a sore note for some team officials, athletes and journalists covering the event as inadequate manpower made the accreditation process very difficult for journalists covering the festival, as well as the athletes and team officials.

Athletes and officials from the various states openly expressed disappointment, while a majority of them saw the development as a grand plan by the host, Kaduna State, to manipulate the event to its advantage.

At the time of this monitoring reports on this event, many of the journalists had not got their accreditation for the festival. While the state officials were complaining, journalists could not do their job effectively due to restriction of movement by security agents at the venues.