Edo State Governor, Godwin Obaseki, says the state government’s sustained support for the Okpekpe Road Race is integral to its commitment to driving sports development and boosting tourism receipts in the state.
Governor Obaseki said this while participating in the event which took place on Saturday in Benin City, the state capital.
He noted that government would continue to provide the needed support to ensure that the organisers maintain the set standards and continue to improve the race.
The governor promised to continue to maintain infrastructure, security and other structures to ensure the success of the event in the future.
According to him, this will help the organisers to improve the status of the event while government leverages the opportunity in hosting the race to promote the local culture of the people.
“The state’s tourism sector will benefit from this event, which will also open rural areas to tourists from across the globe,” Obaseki added.
He was joined in the VIP runners by his predecessor, Mr Adams Oshiomhole and the Minister of Youths and Sports, Mr Solomon Dalung, while his deputy, Mr Philip Shaibu, competed in the race as an elite runner.
The event recorded decent participation despite the heavy downpour, as Kenyan and Ethiopian athletes dominated the 10km road race.
Mr Dalung, on his part, urged sports enthusiasts and stakeholders to support the government’s drive to promote sports development.
He noted that through the support of stakeholders, Nigeria can be repositioned for long distance races which can only be achieved through the support of private investors.
The minister who commended the outcome of the 6th edition of the Okpekpe Road Race as tremendous, however, said, “More sponsorship is needed to take the race to the next level.”
“If we continue in this direction, future editions and more events will translate to more job opportunities for youths,” he added.
Mr Oshiomhole was also delighted that the race has brought development to the people of Okpekpe town as well as improved their economic well-being.
He stated further that the improvement recorded in hosting the event would assist the state government open the rural area for more development.
A representative of the International Association of Athletics Federations (IAAF), Norrie Williamson, said the race, which is the only Silver Label Road Race in sub-Saharan Africa, was well-organised.
He was delighted that despite the weather, the enthusiasm displayed by participants goes to show that the event is a huge success.
For the male elite category, Kibet Alex of Kenyan came first with a time of 29.46.
Another Kenyan, Simon Cheprot with 30.29, came second while the third position went to his fellow compatriot, Ronoh Timothy, who finished at 30.39.
In the female category, Ethiopian Yami Dera won the star price with a time of 33.01 while Kenyan Tuei Sandra came second at 33.33 and another Kenyan, Kipyokei Diara, ran a time of 34.24 to clinch the third position.
In the local male category, Emmanuel Gyang took the first position, Gideon Goyet took the second position, and Ismail Sodie came third.
In the female category, Debora Pam won the star price, Rose Aknstro came second and Hudung Giang came third.