Did you know that Ogun state was created by the Murtala/Obasanjo administration in 1976 and is known as ‘The Gateway State’? Seems like a random fact to start a post with but with the MoC’s team recent visit to Ogun state for the under 18 and under 20 national championships, my interest in the state was piqued. I still haven’t been able to find any information on why Ogun state is actually called ‘The Gateway State’ but if you do know why, please feel free to leave a note in the comment space below. I really am interested in finding out. (Thanking the provider of the answer in advance).
The under 18 and under 20 national championships took place at Gateway International Stadium in the town of Illaro and was full to the brim with talented track and field athletes from all over the country. Prior to the weekend just gone, I had never been involved in any National level athletic related meets in Nigeria, but I had heard many stories and tales of the various events that my colleagues had attended in the past. As a result, I was quite curious to discover what it would be like to be present at the Championships, in real time.
We started the first leg of our trip on Thursday morning. The coaches and the athletes had left earlier that morning at 6am, whilst I tagged along with the media team, meeting them at the office in preparation for our pick up time of 9am. (We ended up setting off at 10am, as our hired vehicle and its driver arrived late). I was really looking forward to the road trip and doing some sightseeing. I had aimed to take a number of keepsake pictures and videos of the views along the way but alas, I conked out like a rock within the first 10 minutes of the journey, (happens EVERYTIME! There’s something so soothing about being in a moving vehicle that lullabies me straight to sleep). We hit a bit of traffic along the way and the sun was not friendly with its heat but before I knew it, we were already in Ogun state (Ogun state’s just over an hours’ distance from Lagos minus crazy Lagos traffic).
On arrival, we set up base at a local hotel which was just over six kilometres away from the stadium. The team spent the rest of the day getting the lay of the land and prepping for what their jobs would entail during the competition, whilst our athletes attended the screening process and got in some last minute training, prior to settling in for an evening of rest the night before the competition.
On day one of the championships, I had gotten up bright and early, having being woken up by the excitement of getting to see our athletes in action, for the first time. We arrived at the stadium by 8.30am but the competitions didn’t get going till past 10am because the screening process which had started on the thursday had run over into the start of the competition day, (apparently, the vehicles of some of the competitors had unfortunately broken down several times the night before, resulting in late arrivals on competition day).
As the morning went on, I assisted the athletes with their warm ups and competition prep along with our coaches. I was impressed by how calm and prepared the athletes seemed at the championships. Some had never competed outside of their home states before but if they were nervous, they never showed it. They were all smiles and raring to go, (I would have been a ball of emotions and pent up nerves in that situation but the athletes held themselves well.) During the competitions, I sat in the stands with the athletes, to offer moral support and also to make myself available to them, so I could treat any pre or post event injuries sustained. By the end of day one, all of our 16 athletes present had taken part in a competition and many had achieved new personal bests.
On day two of the competition, the event schedule was interrupted by heavy rains. I have mentioned in a previous post that I grew up in Manchester, which has a ‘rainy city’ Moniker, But Mancunian rain has nothing, absolutely nothing on the downpour that occurred on Saturday afternoon in Ilaro. In Naija, when it rains, it truly pours, (not just like the two minute drizzles I had grown accustomed to), It rained heavily for a good 2 hours. It was a sight to behold, until the wind started carrying the droplets towards the shielded stands.
Believe it or not, some races still continued for a temporary period of time, until the downpour outweighed the benefits of continuation. As a result of the unexpected rain, day two rolled on well into the evening and was cut short by the eventual lack of visibility, which meant that it was necessary for the championships to run into a third day so all the events could be completed.
The unexpected 3rd day of the competition flew by quickly. It consisted of the the mens’ 200m finals, (which almost didn’t take place, but that’s another story entirely), as well as the debut of the mixed shuttle hurdles and the mixed 2x2x400metres (yay!, I got to watch history in the making!… Though I didn’t appreciate it as much then because the 3rd day of the event was hijacking what was left of my weekend lol).
As the final day rounded up, I took a moment to reflect on the events that had transpired over what became a 3 day event. It was exhilarating watching the track and field events of the championships. I was constantly surrounded by the roars of support from teammates of competitors and it made it so easy to be drawn into the energy of the event. With the levels of excitement and atmosphere, there is clearly no question that being part of a live sporting event is entertaining to be a part of.
I know I didn’t get much in, in the form of sightseeing during the 4 day stay in the gateway city, (guess what? I slept like a baby again on the journey back, hehehe), but I definitely enjoyed the process of being part of the championships and I’m looking forward to the next out of city event I’ll partake in. I just hope the Sun is friendlier because ohhhh my goodness the heat! I wasn’t even out in the sun that much but I know for sure I came back to Lagos sunburned and at least 4 shades darker than I left. For the next competition, I’m investing in sunscreen and an umbrella hat.