National Stadium Swimming pool: An underutilized infrastructure in Nigeria

Posted : 06 December 2023

Perhaps it's one of the infrastructures mostly neglected. The sad tale of swimming pools all over the country is mind-boggling, with no adequate provisions for the sustainability of the multimillion-naira projects.


In Nigeria's sporting arena, swimming commands no towering figure in terms of recognition, and it remains one of the few sports Nigeria has yet to establish authority in, despite excelling in sports such as basketball (D'Tigress and D'Tigers), football (U-17, U-20, U-23, and senior national teams, Super Eagles/Falcons), handball, boxing, table tennis, and many others that have brought laurels to Nigeria. Sadly, the country has yet to make a significant foray into swimming, primarily due to the most important factor: infrastructure.


To say the least, most swimming infrastructures in Nigeria are near comatose, and the ones functioning are underutilized.


The National Stadium Swimming Pool in Surulere was an Olympic pool designed and built for the 1973 All African Games hosted by Nigeria. However, just a few years after the National Sports Festival, the pool went under and showed signs of lack of maintenance.


The swimming pool was then patched up intermittently, with fewer events showcasing its lack of proper use, especially as fewer swimming competitions are organized in Nigeria.


For posterity's sake, underutilization of sports infrastructure is a detriment to all parties, as the abandoned infrastructures could have generated revenue for the country. However, when they are neglected in terms of maintenance and funding, these infrastructures that should be monuments are wasting away.


Most swimming facilities in Nigeria, in particular, are rotting away due to inactivity and, above all, lack of maintenance, despite funds being allocated every year for their upkeep.


Before its eventual renovation through a public-private partnership (PPP), the National Stadium Swimming Pool in Surulere suffered two decades (20 years) of total abandonment. It took a brave move by the then former Minister of Youth and Sports, Solomon Dalung, to broker a PPP with an investor, O’jez Entertainment Group, which took over the swimming complex in 2015 after signing an MOU with the Sports Ministry.


Since then, there has been a silent effort to make the swimming pool functional and bring back to life the Olympic-size pool that had been unused for close to 20 years.


Arguably, the National Stadium Swimming Pool ranks among the best in Nigeria, having hosted swimming events during the 1973 All Africa Games. Unfortunately, it was abandoned and became a habitat for foreign occupants and a complete ecosystem for the food cycle, from plants to insects, rats, reptiles, and other dangerous animals.


The abandonment of the National Stadium Swimming Pool is a disgrace to all sense of reasoning and the five senses of human beings. It is an eyesore, a sour taste, unpleasant news for hearing, a bad odor, and a rough edge – a facility that stands as a constant reminder of our collective failure as a nation to properly maintain our infrastructures, while governments continue to pay lip service to sports development and facilities.


For the National Stadium Swimming Pool, it is an escape route, but not total freedom. With a new management handling the pool, subsequently approved by the Ministry of Sports, a private concern, Ojezz Nigeria, got the nod to run the rule over the expansive swimming pool. The company invested millions of naira to renovate the multi-events swimming pool.


The stands now have plastic seats, and there is also a first-class bar and eatery. It has become a delightful place for families, groups, and even some business executives. "Expect more changes," Joseph Odobeatu, Chairman and CEO of Ojezz Nigeria, said.


The renovation of the pool has brought new life to the arena and a new alternative for those who want to relax and have fun with their families and friends.


Odobeatu, emphasizing the importance of the stadium, mentioned that the pool had hosted some national and international events, and more were still in the pipeline.


Still, the National Stadium Swimming Pool is not in its full use. Maybe in the coming years, the pool will be restored to its full potential.

 

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