…Increases Prize Money For Local, Physically-Challenged Athletes
…To Set Up Marathon Village, Eyes IAAF Silver Label
No fewer than 150,000 athletes both locally and internationally are expected to participate in the 4th edition of Access Bank Lagos City Marathon, Lagos State Governor, Mr Akinwunmi Ambode said on Monday.
Addressing a press conference at Lagos House in Alausa, Ikeja to officially announce commencement of preparations for the marathon which is billed to hold on February 2, 2019, Governor Ambode said the target of the State Government, was to use the forthcoming edition to take the tournament from the bronze label of International Association of Athletics Federation (IAAF) to silver, in partnership with the sponsors.
According to him, “The whole idea is to turn the competition from bronze to silver level. In the last three editions, we had between 100,000 and 120,000 participants. This time around, we want to make sure that come February 2019, we would have not less than 150,000 participants.
“The reason why we want to take it to that level is to create a new record and create a new platform to allow the 2019 edition to herald what is going to happen in the next six years. We believe strongly that in another six years when we are marking the 10th anniversary, we should actually become a top class marathon, and that is our vision for this competition.
“We believe that it is achievable. This is not necessarily about me; it is not even about the sponsors but about making Lagos to be on that top brand across the world and that is how cities are elevated to become global brand,” Governor Ambode said.
He said arrangement had equally been firmed up to encourage more local participation, as well as more physically-challenged athletes, a development he said necessitated the increase in prize monies for the two categories.
“We think obviously that we should pay more attention to our physically-challenged athletes this time around and also to embrace more of local participation. This time around, we would push more money to the local races and we would push more money to also our physically-challenged athletes to encourage more people to come in, while the main prize remain the same,” he said.
Speaking further at the media briefing which was attended by Nigeria’s sports icons including Mary Onyali, Samson Siasia, Waheed Akanni, Seye Ogunlewe, among others, the Governor said the idea of the marathon was part of his administration’s initiatives to use sports, entertainment and hospitality to grow the economy and positively engage the bourgeoning youth population in the State.
“Looking at some of Nigeria’s sport legends here, it just summarizes everything that we have tried to do in the last three and half years. The idea is that it is possible to create a new set of jobs and services using sports, using hospitality, using entertainment to create a new level of creativity and innovation and then drive the Nigerian economy into different direction that creates positive energy, and when you come to this kind of gathering and you are able to now see the private sector, sports people, it means that there is still hope in this country,” Governor Ambode said.
Besides, the Governor commended all the sponsors, media and all those who have contributed to the success of the marathon in the last three years, saying the development was a dream come true.
Earlier in his welcome address, Chairman of Lagos State Sports Commission, Dr. Kweku Tandor said the Lagos City Marathon, was the third of its kind after Brighton and Bournemouth Marathon in the United Kindgom to earn the prestigious IAAF Bronze Label only after its second edition, which held on February 10, 2018.
He said the Governor had already given approval for the setting up of a Lagos Marathon Village at the Teslim Balogun Stadium that would not only sustain the culture of the marathon but also serve as a rallying point in the quest by the present administration to stage mini-marathons in the five divisions of the State.
“It is going to serve as the headquarters for marathon races in Lagos. What we have in mind is to have sectoral marathons, Lagos Women Run is coming up next month, we have SWAN Marathon coming up in December and we also envisage that we are going to be having Epe Marathon, Ikorodu Marathon and so on.
“So we need a coordinating office under the direction of the Lagos State Sports Commission and that is the vision that led to the construction of that facility within Teslim Balogun to serve as the Lagos Marathon Village. Construction work will commence anytime from now,” Tandoh said.
He said the Governor had also approved the constitution of a Marathon Council that would be responsible for the supervision of the 2019 Marathon and going forward.
On his part, Managing Director of Access Bank, Mr. Herbert Wigwe said the commitment of the State Government under the leadership of Governor Ambode has ensured that the Lagos Marathon had become an annual event on the international athletics map.
He assured that Access Bank, the major sponsors of the Lagos Marathon would continue to give its full support to the event, adding that the 2019 edition will take the event a notch higher so as to receive an IAAF Silver Label for the marathon.
In his brief remarks, President of the Athletics federation of Nigeria (AFN), Engr. Ibrahim Gusau commended Governor Ambode for setting the pace for others to follow for others to follow in sports development, saying that the 2018 edition of the Lagos Marathon was highly rated amongst top competitions on the international calendar.