Minister of Youth and Sports, Solomon Dalung has described the 6th Okpekpe 10km Road race held in Edo State at the weekend as a competition capable of improving the economy of the state.
The Minister made the remark at the event while praising the efforts of the Edo state government for making available an enabling environment for the state’s economy to boom through sports.
“You can measure the success of this Race by the level of participation and number of young people engaged here. There is a huge sports economy hidden in Edo state and there is also huge employment of labour put into the organization of this Road Race. You can also see the improved facilities and infrastructure in this community so you will agree with me that there are a lot of benefits from hosting such competitions.”
Dalung said that more of such long distance race can be hosted in Nigeria with the advantage of the topographic nature of some states.
He called on more private sector initiatives to build long distance races in the country.
“If we can host similar long distance races in the Mambila Plateau, Obudu and Gembu mountains, we will produce athletes like those in Kenya and Ethiopia because we have the potentials and we have a better environment for training long distance runners. The only thing we lack is the investment culture in sports.
“This task cannot be left for government alone. It is unbelievable when you look at the stress and challenges these athletes go through to excel in this sport and the meagre resources they train with to survive.
“I think we need to invest more in sports because government alone cannot bear the responsibility. If we must reposition ourselves and take the rightful place in long distance races like the Okpekpe Road Race, then definitely, more investment and more commitment from the private sector is needed.”
On the occasion, Governor Godwin Obaseki promised more standard facilities in hosting of the race in future having upgraded the race from Bronze to Silver label.
“The game keeps improving in every edition and this administration will build around the infrastructure here to improve the lives of the people. We commend the organisers of the event as there has been great improvement and the race is helping us connect with the rural community,” the governor stated.
Kenya produced the top three winners. Stephen Gyang was the first Nigerian male to cross the finish line while Deborah Pam emerged the first Nigerian female.