Not until the end of the Nigerian Civil War in 1970, concious effort had never been made to have an all inclusive National Multi-Sports competition by way of a festival. Rather, what we have had since the days of the Empire Day Celebrations in Niger, were selected athletics in Nigeria, were selected athletics and other games organized as one-sport or sartorial competitions by Schools and/or organizations. Principal among these were the Grier cup, Manuwa I. Adebayo Cups, Principal Cup, All Nigerian Open Athlete Champions LAWNA Games, etc.
To arrest the drift towards inter-tribal morass occasioned by the 1967-70 Civil War and most essentially, to checkmate the declining standards of Nigerian sports, the Federal Government introduced a biennia multi-sports competition involving all the then 12 States of the Federation, niw commonly referred to as the National Sports Festival. Perharps, it could be arguably insinuated that the Sports Festival was one of the bye products of the 3Rs of (Reconstruction, Rehabilitation and Resettlement) enunciated as a way of reuniting the country; emphazised and amongst youths. The founding fathers had the twin objectives of:
a. Promoting mass participation in amateur sports from the grassroots level throughout the country with a view to dicovering hidden talents.
b. Promoting healthy and keen competition amongst the competitors and states under a climate of sportsmanship and friendly interaction, thereby enhancing and strengthening unity.
With these objectives in mind, the body saddled with the responsibiliy of actualizing this national policy under Dr. Jerry Enyeazu (who was then the National Director of Sports) got working and came up with the framework of organizing the first National Sports Festival. Case studies of similar programmes in some countries like East Germany and others were undertaken with a view to adapting relevant modalities to the Nigerian situation for nation-wide acceptance. Indeed, the festival is said to have been modeled after the German "Spatakiad Games" where youths gathered every 2 years to compete against themselves.
The Games Festival actually started in 1973 till date, excepts in 1983, 1987, 1993 and 1995, the festival has been religiously held biennially as a multi-sports festival. in other words, the National Sports Festival has become a veritable instrument for National Unity, cohesion, peace, mutual understanding, friendship, cross-cultural affiliation as well as other positive values.
So far, 16 editions of the National Sports Festival have come and gone, each contributing to the promotion of the spirit of the Games toward National Development.
The 17th National Sports Festival tagged "GARDEN CITY GAMES" is billed for November, 2010 in the city of Port Harcourt. October 1st, 2010 Nigeria shall be 50 years and the Nation will celebrate its Golden Anniversary.
For the Government and people of Rivers State, hosting the 17th National Sports Festival at the attainment of the Golden Age by Nigeria is very significant. For us, it signifies a waking dream as well as a wake up call.
Indeed, it marks the beginning of a new dawn - a new Golden Age for Rivers State.
The unveiling of the LAUCHING DOLPHIN is not just the beginning, but a Golden Era in Rivers State where Rivers people will smile for the dividends of democracy and goodness of life.
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