UniPort Agog With WAUG 2018 By Otikor Samuel and Williams Wodi

Finally, the 14th edition of the West African University Games (WAUG) officially kicked off with an impressive opening ceremony last Saturday at the main bowl of the University's Sports Centre. The ceremony featured colourful march past, dance and spectacular firework displays which signalled the official commencement of the eagerly-awaited students' sporting fiesta on the West African coast.

President of WAUG, Professor Kingsley Akpabio, made a brief speech at the opening of a two-day WAUG Forum which held between Wednesday, October 31 and Thursday, November 1, 2018 at the new ICAN Lecture Hall, University Park. The President was hopeful of a successful hosting by the University of Port Harcourt. The WAUG Forum brought academics and others in sports education and human kinetics, including sports enthusiasts together to exchange ideas.

In his presentation at the Forum entitled: Sport in West African Universities and West African Universities in Sport: Issues and Challenges, Provost of the Federal College of Education, Kontagora, Niger State, Professor Farouk Haruna, stressed the need to professionalise sports management in the universities to overcome the challenges associated with sports development in West Africa.

“To regulate the management of sports, the formulation and enforcement of university policies on sports is mandatory. Although some universities have sports policies in place, they are yet to be fully implemented because there still exists many areas of governance that need to be addressed. The policy should also highlight various sports development plans and strategies,” Professor Haruna stated.

Other scholars who made presentations included Professors Oluwaseun Omotayo who spoke on Developing West African Universities through the Prism of Football, Chuks Ezedum spoke on Promoting the Health and Economic Development of West African Countries through Sports, while Oby Okonkwor focused on Gender Issues in Women Participation in Sport for Empowerment. At the end of the two-day event, the Forum recorded  presentation of over 35 papers, including a presentation by the proprietor of South African-based sportscom and ace sports analyst, Emeka Anyadike.

The Vice-Chancellor, Professor Ndowa Lale, had last Friday undertaken an on-the-spot assessment of facilities on ground ahead of the opening ceremony to ensure that everything was in place. Speaking after the inspection tour, Professor Lale expressed gratitude to the Local Organising Committee for working assiduously to ensure the success of the games. Some of the places he visited included the cricket pitch, the gymnasium, shopping mall, swimming pool, stadium and the registration and accreditation stands.

Meanwhile, food vendors, make-shift shops and souvenir hawkers have flooded the University to seek customer patronage from athletes, officials and spectators around the Games Village. Similarly, security personnel including the Nigeria Police, Department of State Services, the Nigeria Security and Civil Defence Corps (NSCDC) and other paramilitary services and the University's internal security outlets are on red alert to abort security threats to the event.

So far, over 60 universities across West African countries had been fully accredited as at the time of going to press last Friday. About 5,000 student-athletes, 400 coaches and technical crew members are already on ground to compete for medals in the 14th edition of the games tagged: WAUG-UniPort 2018.

Participants started arriving last Wednesday, October 31, 2018. The Ghana delegation under the auspices of UG Sports Directorate was sighted at the Games Village among other foreign contingents from ECOWAS countries. The hosting right for the 14th WAUG-UniPort competition was originally awarded to the University of Port Harcourt in 2016, following the successful hosting of the 13th edition by the University of Ilorin in 2012 which recorded 56 universities in attendance, but the event was aborted by unforeseen circumstances.

Information sourced from the Local Organising Committee revealed that everything was going according to plan so far to pull off a memorable WAUG games. Events to be competed for include athletics, swimming, judo, tennis, badminton, table tennis, squash, chess, football, javelin and volleyball. Others are handball, basketball and cricket. Hockey is the only event that would hold at the Adokie Amiesimaka Stadium, Igwuruta, about seven kilometres from the University.

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