Monday, July 4, 2011


Almost everything was spectacular as President Goodluck Jonathan officially declared open the 17th edition of the National Sports Festival, which held at a full Liberation Stadium, Port Harcourt on Sunday, July 3. From the fireworks, special effects and technology on display, this has to be the most colourful and impressive opening ceremony yet in the history of the Sports Festival, or even in any sports competition ever staged in Nigeria. Governor Rotimi Amaechi and the Local Organising Committee (LOC) of Rivers State lived up to their promise as they literally pulled out all the stunts and lightnings to ensure a grand opening of the biennial games; which could also be referred to as Nigeria's own Olympics.

The more reason why such a first-of-its-kind show in Nigeria as this did not deserve such a spectacular breakdown at the climax, when the festival torch failed to be ignited. This was caused by an unexpected breakdown of the crane that was stationed to lift the torch bearer to the top to ignite the flames. It was a long 25 minutes wait, as neither the Chinese contractors nor the Festival's LOC could conjure up a Plan B to lit the festival torch. MC and Veteran sports commentator Emeka Odigbo had to state that the 'torch has now been lit symbolically'. A spectacular fireworks display at the end of the ceremony seemed to be a compensation for spectators as they exited the stadium.

The ceremony was highlighted by several colourful display, fireworks and stunts. This included Flying kites, aerial and local drummers, masquerades displays. The impressive use of technology in a Nigerian stadium made it possible for a giant canoe with a human paddling to sail across the stadium. The stars, sky and river was formed by LED lights and ribbons as Timi Dakolo came on stage to deliver a soulful performance of his single 'Great Nation'. TY Bello's 'The Future is here' gave the perfect background to inflated props as a crowd of performers expressed the beautiful landscape of Rivers State dances. Students also formed a riboon to depict the formation of oil pipelines, industrial development, which heralded the entrance of popular artiste, Duncan Mighty, as he performed his hit song 'Port Harcourt boy' to the delight of the spectators. Before then, Muma Gee had given a scintillating performance, while  D'Banj was saved for the last. However, his performance was muddled up at the start as the sequence of his live performance of his hit single 'Scapegoat' didn't match the sound blaring from the tape being played by the DJ. But it was a fine performance form the 'kokomaster' nonetheless. The late start of the main show was delayed by long speeches..

Started in 1973, the National Sports Festival was conceived as a socio-psychological elixir to bond the. decimated pysche of the Nigerian Nation which was traumatized by civil war in the late 60s. Since then, the Festival has helped to foster National Unity, cohesion, peace, mutual understanding, friendship, cross-cultural affiliation as well as other positive values. In his address, Governor Amaechi had described the festival as an avenue to strengthen and build on the unity of the nation. The games ends on July 10. Over 12,000 athletes would be competing for honours in 25 different sports.

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