By Adebayo Olodan
Away from the strain of chasing stories, unmitigated interviews and all night production, it was interesting to see men of the fourth estate converge on the Kwara State Stadium, Ilorin for the 2017 Sports Writers Association of Nigeria (SWAN) Games.
For about 72 hours, from Wednesday to Friday, last week, newsmen from no fewer than seven organisations competed for honours in various sporting events under a chivalrous atmosphere.
Now that the 2017 SWAN Games is over, it is important for the organisers to appraise the event with a view to improving the subsequent editions.
The organisers of the competition under the leadership of Abdulwaheeb Bibire, Jimoh Bashir and Olayinka Owolewa have been able to improve on the previous editions.
But despite the step up, it is imperative to take the SWAN Games to another level from the registration of athletes to the closing ceremony.
One snag that must be urgently addressed is the issue of use of mercenaries which has plagued the tourney in the past. Rather than seeing the SWAN Games as a friendly competition, some media outfits, in their desperate attempt to win laurels consistently engage the services of mercenaries to the detriment of other competitors. Predominantly noticed in previous editions was the participation of students on industrial attachment.
To checkmate the use of mercenaries and avoid use of employees from ‘Diesel Department’ in succeeding SWAN Games, participating media houses must be compelled to submit names of their athletes at least a month to the event proper while a verification committee must be set-up to authenticate whether those athletes are employees of such organisation.
Information of athletes to participate in the competition must be well captured and those cleared must be issued tags which they must present before the kick off of any event.
With better registration of athletes, issues of fielding mercenaries and protest will be drastically reduced if not curbed.
Another area the organisers must address is the issue of athletes turning out in attires not suitable for the games. In the future, athletes must be well kitted with the name of the medium they represent inscribed on their jerseys. Also, before the kick off of any football match or other team events, names and jersey numbers of athletes must be presented to the referee or umpire before the kick off for proper identification and clearance.
Unlike the recent edition where schedules of events were drawn on the opening day of the games, schedule of the SWAN Games in terms of the teams that will be competing and the date and time various events will be coming up should be made known at least one or two weeks to the kick off of subsequent tourneys.
Also, the short notice and congestion of events have consistently denied many of us the opportunity to participate in multiple games. Except the timetable is reviewed in succeeding editions, it will be difficult if not impossible for someone with talent in football, table tennis, draught, dart, chess, scrabble among others to participate in more than one of the listed events.
To avoid congestion of fixtures and denying those that may want to participate in multiple events the opportunity, the organisers may have to consider extending the event from three days to probably a week or two weeks competition.
To create a balance and to advance the SWAN Games, the organisers should consider adding 100m and 4x100m to the events being competed.
In addition, another area the organisers must work on is making the event more appealing to all participants especially potential sponsors. I am particularly enchanted that we already have an individual in former Permanent Secretary, Alabi Amuda sponsoring the dart event. However more efforts must be geared towards getting other well meaning individuals, corporate organisations and agencies taking over the sponsorship of other events and the competition as a whole.
The same media that has promoted many politicians, successive administrations, captains of industries and countless business organisations within and beyond Kwara State should have little problem in convincing potential title sponsors to be part of the games.
With title and individual sponsors, athletes will be better encouraged to participate in future SWAN Games. Athletes are known to perform optimally in competitions if there is financial gratification for the winners. Remember some of those athletes sacrificed a lot to partake in the games while a number of them ended up sustaining injuries through the events they participated in.
More importantly, there is the need to scale up the closing ceremony of the SWAN Games in terms of publicity and roll call of dignitaries. It is cheerless that the same state government that the media has consistently promoted was not well represented at the closing ceremony of the games. At least, one would have expected the Kwara State Commissioner for Sports and Youths Development, Alhaji Kale Ayo to make himself available for the two-hour event but surprisingly, he decided to send a representative.