THE decision was long expected. Given the Nigerian penchant for reckless adventurism, some Nigerians had begun to display nervous worry over whether the Federal Government would go ahead with the National Sports Festival.
Coronavirus looms all over the world. Social distancing has intruded on our vocabulary like rite of passage. So, if we continued with the sports fiesta, it meant we were as a people out of sync with the world.
It seemed so until the announcement that we would no longer go ahead with the activity. It marked the triumph of wise counsel over what would have been official bravado.
The fiesta, tagged “Edo 2020” was scheduled to hold between March 22 and April 1. Sports minister Sunday Dare made this heartening disclosure after meeting with President Muhammadu Buhari.
The rhetoric until then within Edo State Government and the Federal Government reflected an unwavering commitment to the event. About 11,000 athletes were expected to exercise limbs and minds and they were expected from the 36 states of the nation.
The sports minister had given a press conference to update Nigerians on the Federal Government’s response to the coronavirus pandemic. When asked if the sports conference would hold, he affirmed it would because Nigeria was not a hot spot of affliction like China, Italy and the United States.
That was more than a little smug. But the pirouette is cheering. To gather 11,000 athletes from all over the country to one cramped space would have been too much of a risk. This number does not include the officials, referees and umpires and special guests. The stadium, of course, would not be expected to be empty.
We know that some of the sports contingents would come from out of the country, including Europe and the United States. We already know that some persons have been quarantined. A 30-year-old woman has been the latest in this engagement with the virus in the country. She flew in on British Airways and that shows how vulnerable we are as a nation.
Imagine if only one athlete was a carrier and was a swimmer and dropped the virus in the water that would host over a dozen other athletes who picked it up.
That would mean a runaway emergency where thousands of people would turn Benin into a trigger of contagion. They would go to their different parts of the country and become sort of vectors of tragedies. Before long, Nigeria would become like the Wuhan Province in China and northern Italy.
That explains why sports activities all over the world have been put on ice.
In Europe, the first impulse was to go the novel way of soccer games without spectators. But it became worthless because even players were not immune. A Nigerian footballer also has tested positive to the virus, the first episode to torpedo the complacent myth among Nigerians that the black African was immune.
Now all football leagues have been postponed in Europe, including the English Premier League, the La Liga, the Spanish League and the continental UEFA league. This implies a paralysis for sports in all of Europe.
Ditto in the United States. The National Basketball Association league had kicked off when a player tested positive and the officials put off the games indefinitely. The same fate happened to the elite game of golf as The Players’ Championships was broken off and the prestigious Master’s in which Tiger Woods is defending champion has been postponed till October. The Major League Baseball has been delayed. This is the month that tumbles and crumbles in the United States with university basketball called March Madness.
Let us continue to urge Nigerians to be cautious. This is a global world and we cannot pretend we do not share in its collective grief even if they are weeping more than we weep here.