Abuja is set to come alive on Monday as a “high powered delegation” led by President Muhammadu Buhari will converge on the capital city of Nigeria for the opening ceremony of the 2016 Nigerian Army Sports Festival holding at the mainbowl of the National Stadium, Abuja.
Chairman of the Central Organizing Committee of the 16th edition of the games, Major-General John S. Malu confirmed this to newsmen at the weekend in Abuja immediately after the final rehearsal for the colourful event expected to start at 11am.
According to him, “The President and Commander in Chief of the Armed Forces will be the Special Guest of Honour at the opening ceremony.
“We have invited the 36 state Governors and all the ministers. It is going to be a very high profile ceremony”.
He explained that the weeklong event which in the words of Chief of Army Staff, Lt. General Tukur Buratai is ‘marking the beginning of victory celebration in the war against terror in Nigeria’ will have about 1,760 athletes across 6 Divisions of the Army competing in 19 sports.
“The war on terror is almost over. If soldiers that are engaged in the fight against terror can have time to come and do sports, then every other person is free to come to Nigeria to invest and go about their businesses peacefully. That is one of the main reasons for this event. To reassure the international community that Nigeria is very safe.”
On the events for the sports festival, Malu said, “In total, there are 19 events cutting across football, table tennis, tennis, chess, scrabble, taekwondo, judo, wrestling, half marathon, Tug of War and boxing amongst others.
Though athletics is grouped as one event, there are a lot of events in athletics.
There are 3 events that are purely military i.e. obstacle crossing and combat relay.”
He concluded that the sports festival is in line with the Federal Government’s decision to take sports back to the grassroots and ensure early preparation for Team Nigeria contingents in future sporting events.
“After the event, we expect that the Nigerian Army would have produced athletes that will represent the nation at the next All Africa Games and the Olympics.”