Lagos must build upon the success of the 2017 edition
The success of the Access Bank Lagos City Marathon 2017 provides the government and citizens of Lagos State a priceless opportunity to enhance their long-standing megacity aspirations.
Characterised by near-flawless logistics, planning and organisation, the Lagos City Marathon was everything a full marathon should be. Over the distance of 42.5 kilometres, the ‘Centre of Excellence’ was shown to a watching world at its very best: clean streets, impressive architecture, enthusiastic crowds, and supreme feats of athleticism.
Apart from the elite athletes at the very top of their game, the marathon took into account the abilities of a wide variety of participants, including the physically-challenged, children and celebrities. Nigeria’s cultural and musical talents were on display, as well as the vibrancy and commitment of its people.
Both the Lagos State government and Access Bank Plc are deserving of commendation for establishing the Lagos City Marathon. Unlike soccer, the marathon is not especially popular sporting event in Nigeria. Given its nature as an outdoor event with the streets as its arena, the amount of planning and funding required would have posed a formidable challenge in an era of scarce resources.
Lagos has thus joined major cities of the world like London, New York, Boston, Chicago and Dubai in having an athletic event which is symbolic of its inherent dynamism, cosmopolitanism and global standing. It is essential that no effort is spared to enable the city, Lagos State and Nigeria as a whole to enjoy these benefits.
One way of doing this is to ensure that the Lagos City Marathon serves as a platform for the ongoing revival of sporting activity in Lagos State. As the state government continues with its efforts to integrate sports into economic growth, social welfare, community development and the adoption of healthy lifestyles, it should identify ways in which the marathon can help in the achievement of these objectives.
In this regard, one of the more important long-term goals should be that of improving Nigerian participation in the event. Although Kenya and Ethiopia are globally dominant in long-distance athletics, there is no reason why local athletes should not be in a position to literally give them a run for their money.
The country’s Middle Belt boasts a terrain similar to that common to East Africa, and indigenes of the area have demonstrated prowess at long-distance running. Working with the Athletics Federation of Nigeria, organisers of the Lagos City Marathon should set up a development programme which could turn potential into victory.
In addition, more can be done to tap into the tourism potentials offered by the Lagos City Marathon. As the competition becomes a fixture on the global marathon calendar, it should be possible to build comprehensive tourism packages around it, involving a series of cultural, sporting and musical events. This would require the cooperation of the state’s hotels, travel agencies and tourism destinations, and would help to make the state better-known as a tourist destination.
The multiplier effects of such a strategy would be enormous. With its miles of unspoilt beaches, its fascinating inhabitants, its vibrant cosmopolitanism, its markets and malls, as well as its status as the gateway to the rest of Nigeria, Lagos could become Africa’s tourism hub.
If these aims are to be achieved, they will require consistency, dedication and a continuing commitment to excellence. This means that future editions of the Lagos City Marathon must seek to attain ever-higher standards of quality so that it can take its rightful place among the major items on the national sporting calendar and become one of the top 10 marathons in the world.