The Sports Minister, Bolaji Abdullahi on Friday said the National Sports Festival (NSF), as presently run, could no longer serve the purpose of talent discovery for athletes to represent the country at the Olympic Games.
This, he noted, was because the average of talents from festivals ranges from 24 to 30 years.
The minister made the observation during Media Round Table with Lagos Chapter of the Sports Writers’ Association of Nigeria (SWAN) at its secretariat at the National Stadium, Lagos.
Abdullahi said it was only through talent hunt at the level of secondary schools that could guarantee the young talents that could be prepared for the Elite level Games.
He noted that the age of a swimmer who broke a world Record from China was 15. “It is only at that age that we can harvest talents that can be presented at the Rio de Janeiro Games in 2016.
“Schools have to be the hub for exposing children to play sports as early as possible.
“And that is why we said the National Sports Festival can no longer serve the possible of Nigeria as a means for discovering talents.
“The National Sports Festival could be the Nigeria’s equivalent of the Olympics; it should be the highest sporting event for Nigerians but if we want to continue to discover talents, we have to go back to children.''
The minister stressed that as part of the NSC role in developing school sports, it decided to initiate the National U-17 Youth Games.
“One of the immediate actions we took coming out of the London Olympics was the dissolution of the board of the Nigeria Academicals Sports Committee and the reconstitution of that board.
“And the reason we did that was also to achieve the kind of synergy you talked about now within the board of the Nigeria Academicals Sports Committee.
“You have the school sports federation strongly represented, you have YSFON strongly represented, you have federal ministry of education strongly represented then you have the National Sports Commission strongly represented as well as one or two individuals we brought in from the private sector.
“And the high point of what they are planning is the National U-17 Youth Games, which we are confident will happen by the middle of this year.
“The National U-17 Games is an acknowledgement that the Olympic Champion is in the child and not the woman or man.’’