*Some participants of the First National Youth Games organised by the National Sports Commission at the Abuja National Stadium Abuja on Sunday, 8 December, 2013. –
Well over 4000 U-17 athletes are participating in the first National Youth Games organised by the National Sports Commission (NSC), which was flagged off on Sunday, at a colourful ceremony at the Abuja National Stadium.
Declaring the Games open, Vice President, Namadi Sambo who was represented by the Honourable Minister of Sports and Chairman of the NSC, Mallam Bolaji Abdullahi, said he was impressed with the large turnout of participants to the games.
This, according to him, was “a demonstration of our commitment as a people to create a solid and sustainable platform for all round youth development through Sports”.
He noted that the Goodluck Jonathan administration recognizes the pivotal role of sports in nation building, hence the resolve to develop this sector to a world-class level.
The Vice President, who commended the NSC for its foresight in initiating the Youth Games, stated that the recent victory of Nigeria in the U-17 FIFA World Cup is a confirmation of the great potentials that exist in our country.
“Our grassroots Sports developmental efforts must therefore be geared to continuously put Nigeria in the prime of global Sports”.
The National Youth Games is an initiative of the NSC to serve as a platform for the early identification and discovery of talents.
Athletes from the ages of 13-17 are participating in 14 sports at the inaugural event which starts Sunday, 8 December, 2013 in Abuja and will hold through 15 December, 2013.
The young athletes would compete in the following sports: boxing, badminton, handball, squash, taekwondo, track and field, weightlifting, basketball, football, para-powerlifting, table tennis, tennis, volleyball and wrestling.
Earlier, the Minister of Sports and Chairman of the NSC, Mallam Abdullahi had declared that no medals would be given to participating athletes and teams.
He explained that the reason for this was to discourage cheating. “Every athlete will get a certificate of participation. This is to ensure that there will be no incentive for cheating and that contingents do not have room to bring overage children into the competition”, Abdullahi said.
He explained that, “the moment we start giving medals, everyone leading athletes to this competition will worry about their position on the medals table. Therefore, they will do all they can to win and this will defeat the objective of the competition which is developmental”.
Following the Minister’s directive on strict compliance with the age requirement, many would-be athletes presented by some states were screened out on Saturday, 7 December 2013 for being over the age of 17. Benue state was particularly affected as many of the athletes they presented for the team sports were screened out for being over the minimum age.
Abdullahi said he was happy with the screening exercise, especially as the officials were very thorough.
“If we allow athletes over the minimum age, that would defeat the purpose of the games”, he stated.