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By NBF News
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Vice President Namadi Sambo yesterday received the 'Torch of Unity', signalling the official countdown to the 18th National Sports Festival tagged 'Eko 2012' which is billed to commence from November 27 to December 9 in Lagos.

The festival torch presented to the Vice President by the Minister of Sports, Mr. Bolaji Abdullahi symbolises the unity and friendship engendered by the spirit of the sports festival.

Sambo who, in turn, passed it on to the host governor of the 18th edition, Babatunde Raji Fashola congratulated the Rivers State Governor, Rotimi Amaechi whose state hosted the last edition of the biennial games- the Nigerian Olympics for a successful hosting.

Handing over the torch to the Lagos state governor, Sambo noted that the success of the 17th National; Sports Festival had left a very big shoe for Lagos State, praying that 'we will have a successful festival in Lagos'.

Governor Fashola in his remarks also commended the people and government of Rivers State 'for a wonderful show', saying the successful hosting of the 17th edition posed a challenge to Lagos to put up a good show at Eko 2012.

He said, 'We will host a championship befitting of the very proud heritage and history of the National Sports Festival and perhaps more importantly to say that as I receive this torch of unity and it begins its journey round this country, it will serve the purpose for which it was inaugurated in the very first place to unify and bring closer our people through sports.

'We are prepared to meet the timeline set by the organising committee and all hands are on deck. We intend to host a championship that will meet all of the objectives of the national sports festival not only in terms of bringing Nigerians closer, unifying Nigerians but also in terms of achieving talent development in sports and bringing harmony into sports'.

The Main Organising Committee (MOC) for 'Eko 2012' is chaired by the Director General of the National Sports Commission, Dr Patrick Ekeji. Also on the delegation to the State House were the Director, Elite Athlete Department, Hon Bolaji Ojo-Oba, Mallam Alhassan Yakmut and the Secretary of the MOC, Mallam Abba Yola.

The National Sports Festival started in 1973, as a veritable instrument for National Unity, cohesion, peace, mutual understanding, friendship and cross-cultural affiliation. The twin objectives of the Festival are: Promotion of mass participation in amateur sports from the grassroots level as well as enhancing and strengthening unity through healthy competition amongst the competing states.