The Edo State Deputy Governor, Rt. Hon. Comr. Philip Shaibu, has said plans are ongoing for the successful hosting of the eight edition of the 10km Okpekpe International Race, hosted annually by the state government.
The race, which is the first road race in Nigeria and West Africa to be granted a label by World Athletics and designated as one of the leading road races around the world, was last held in 2019 due to the outbreak of coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic.
Shaibu, during a press conference ahead of the eight edition of the road race, said the government is concluding modalities to institutionalize the competition.
“The Okpekpe Race is something that has come to stay. We have had a discussion with the organizers and agreed that we have to institutionalize the race; the process is on to enable the game live after us.
“The Edo State Government will continue to support the race. We have agreed that the prize money and other logistics that will be used in supporting the race will still be given; there are other areas that we have assured to partner with the organizers of the race.
“I also want to apologize to our athletes; it is not our fault as the race was put on hold since the outbreak of COVID-19 pandemic. We had to follow international best practices because the game is not a local game, but an international race.”
He continued, “We are struggling to put everything in place to make sure that we quickly get our gold label and after that, our target is to be a platinum race. The potential of this race cannot be over emphasized; Okpekpe has a great tourism and economic value. The race will enable us to showcase our infrastructural developments.
“We are ready to host the Okpekpe 10km road race. We are going to take the issue of doping very seriously in this race. We have always maintained integrity and insisted that any athlete that wants to participate should come clean.”
“We are putting all the medical facilities in place to make sure we deal with it. We will be doing a rapid test for all the officials and athletes that will be participating,” he added.
Earlier, the organiser of the Okpekpe 10 kilometre Road Race, Mike Itemuagbor noted, “The pandemic is the reason we have not been able to host this race for the past two years. The pandemic has no respect for anybody; as much as we want to promote good health, it’s not our intention to compromise the health of runners and the good people of Edo.”