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Lagos targets 150, 000 participants for 2019 marathon

Lagos State Governor, Mr. Akinwunmi Ambode (2nd right), with Nigeria Ex-Internationals, Mr. Samson Siasia (right); Mr. Waheed Akanni (2nd left) and Group Managing Director, Access Bank, Mr. Herbert Wigwe (left) during a press conference on the 2019 Lagos City Marathon at the Lagos House, Alausa, Ikeja

By Folasade Adeniran

No fewer than 150,000 athletes both locally and internationally are expected to participate in the 4th Access Bank Lagos City Marathon next year.

Gov. Akinwunmi Ambode of Lagos State, made the disclosure on Monday at a news conference in Alausa, to officially announce the commencement of preparations for the marathon billed to hold on Feb. 2, 2019.

Ambode said the target of the state government, was to use the forthcoming edition to take the tournament from the bronze label of International Association of Athletics Federation (IAAF) to silver in partnership with the sponsors.

He said: “The whole idea is to turn the competition from bronze to silver level. In the last three editions, we had between 100,000 and 120,000 participants.

“This time around, we want to make sure that come February 2019, we will have not less than 150,000 participants.

“The reason why we want to take it to that level is to create a new record and create a new platform to allow the 2019 edition to herald what is going to happen in the next six years.

“We believe strongly that in another six years when we are marking the 10th anniversary, we should actually become a top class marathon state and that is our vision for this competition.

“We believe that it is achievable. This is not necessarily about me; it is not even about the sponsors but about making Lagos to be on that top brand across the world and that is how cities are elevated to become global brand.”

Ambode said arrangement had equally been firmed up to encourage more local participation, as well as more physically-challenged athletes, a development, he said, necessitated the increase in prize monies for the two categories.

“We think obviously that we should pay more attention to our physically-challenged athletes this time around and also to embrace more of local participation.

“This time around, we will push more money to the local races and we will push more money to also our physically-challenged athletes to encourage more people to come in, while the main prize remains the same,” he said.

The governor said the idea of the marathon was part of his administration’s initiatives to use sports, entertainment and hospitality to grow the economy and positively engage the bourgeoning youth population in the state.

“Looking at some of Nigeria’s sport legends here, it just summarises everything that we have tried to do in the last three and half years.

“The idea is that it is possible to create a new set of jobs and services using sports, using hospitality, using entertainment to create a new level of innovation and then drive the Nigerian economy into different directions that create positive energy,” he said.

Ambode commended all the sponsors, media and all those who had contributed to the success of the marathon in the last three years, saying the development was a dream come true.

Chairman of Lagos State Sports Commission, Dr Kweku Tandor, said the Lagos City Marathon, was the third of its kind after Brighton and Bournemouth Marathons in the U.K. to earn the prestigious IAAF Bronze Label only after its second edition.

Tandor said the governor had already given approval for the setting up of a Lagos Marathon Village at the Teslim Balogun Stadium

He said this would not only sustain the culture of the marathon but also serve as a rallying point in the quest by the present administration to stage mini-marathons in the five divisions of the state.

“It is going to serve as the headquarters for marathon races in Lagos. What we have in mind is to have sectoral marathons.

“Lagos Women Run is coming up next month, we have SWAN Marathon coming up in December and we also envisage that we are going to be having Epe Marathon, Ikorodu Marathon and so on.

“So we need a coordinating office under the direction of the Lagos State Sports Commission and that is the vision that led to the construction of that facility within Teslim Balogun to serve as the Lagos Marathon Village.

“Construction work will commence anytime from now,” Tandoh said.

He added that the governor had also approved the constitution of a Marathon Council that would be responsible for the supervision of the 2019 marathon and going forward.

On his part, the Managing Director of Access Bank, Mr Herbert Wigwe, said the commitment of the state government had ensured that the Lagos Marathon became an annual event on the international athletics map.

He assured the people and athletes that Access Bank, the major sponsors of the Lagos Marathon would continue to give its full support to the event.

He added that the 2019 edition would take the event a notch higher so as to receive an IAAF Silver Label for the marathon.

President of the Athletics Federation of Nigeria (AFN), Mr Ibrahim Gusau, commended Ambode for setting the pace for others to follow in sports development.

He said that the 2018 edition of the Lagos Marathon was highly rated among top competitions on the international calendar.

Nigeria’s sports icons, including Mary Onyali, Samson Siasia, Waheed Akanni and Seye Ogunlewe among others were in attendance.