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19.10.2003 Sports News

Abuja 2003: Heavy Rains Mar Games’ Ending

By Rosalind Amoh (Graphic)
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Severe rains and thunderstorm that came without warning last Saturday disrupted the closing ceremony of the Eighth All Africa Games hosted by Abuja, the capital city of Nigeria.

The rains did not only disrupt an elaborate programme, but also destroyed property and facilities with the velodrome of the newly-built stadium being the worst hit.

The velodrome, built just months before the Games, was part of the Abuja National Stadium Complex and it hosted the handball and judo competitions.

Its destruction was therefore seen as an ironic end to the Games as the covering over the 8,000 seating capacity bowl, initially planned for cycling, was shredded into pieces of rags by the heavy winds that accompanied the thunderstorm.

Apart from this unfortunate dent on the beautiful edifice considered the pride of Nigeria in terms of providing ultra modern sports facilities, the incessant jeers and boos hurled at the President of the Federal Republic, H.E. Chief Olusegn Obasanjo by spectators were an eyesore.

After the rains, which lasted for more than three hours, the programme, though delayed, took off with cultural, musical and gymnastic performances and each of these received thunderous applauses from the spectators who had braved the weather to witness the closing ceremony.

The warm reception accorded performers and invited guests including former world heavyweight champion, Evander Holyfield, did not extend to President Obasanjo.

Every word he spoke to address the gathering was greeted with boos, forcing him to limit himself to just thanking the 53 participating countries and all those who won medals.

After the ceremony atheles and officials alike bade each other farewell until 2007 when they hope to meet for the ninth edition in Tunisia.

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