December 9, 2023

Lagos stadium: From West Africa’s best to national shame.

Once the pride of the nation and the best in West Africa, the 51-year-old National Stadium, Lagos has been left to rot away by successive administrations, writes ‘TANA AIYEJINA’
On Friday, sports minister Sunday Dare ordered the temporary closure of the dilapidated National Stadium, Lagos after the collapse of one of the giant floodlights at the arena two days before.
The floodlights pillar caved in from the middle, following a windstorm, bringing down the ramshackle floodlights.
The stadium, built in 1972, has been a disaster waiting to happen, no thanks to its abandonment by successive administrations for close to two decades.
While on an inspection of the facility following the collapsed floodlights Friday — his third inspection in one month — the outgoing minister sounded a warning that the remaining three floodlights had also been affected by “age and weather elements.”
Dare, on his penultimate inspection, had hinted that the floodlights were in bad shape, adding that the Federal Government would need at least N10bn to fix them.
However, the worst may not have been heard of the edifice, as Dare also stated that a large percentage of the stands were in a precarious state and could crumble as well.
Built in 1972, the then 55,000-capacity National Stadium, Lagos was the best in West Africa at the time and immediately hosted the African Games the following year. It also hosted major sporting events like the 1980 and 2000 Africa Cup of Nations, the 1999 U-20 World Cup, and top continental competitions, amongst others.
The stadium took its pride of place amongst Africa’s best of the time — the 75,000-capacity Cairo International Stadium, built in 1960, the 65,000-capacity Tripoli stadium (opened 1970), the 85,000-capacity 5 July 1962 Stadium in Algiers, built in 1970, Ellis Park Stadium, Johannesburg (opened 1928), the 45,000-capacity Mohammed V Stadium in Casablanca (opened 1955), 43,000-capacity Al-Merrikh Stadium in Omdurman (opened 1964) and the 40,000-capacity Stade Ahmadou Ahidjo, Yaounde, opened in 1972.
The biggest stadiums in the West African region at the time — the 25,000-capacity Obafemi Awolowo Stadium, Ibadan, opened in 1960; the 50,000-capacity Stade Felix-Houphouet-Boigny in Abidjan, built in 1952; the 40,000-capacity Baba Yara Stadium, Kumasi, opened in 1959; and the 40,000-capacity Accra Sports Stadium, opened in 1961, were nowhere near Sports City, as the Lagos stadium is nicknamed, in terms of size and facilities, as well as the majestic and magical atmosphere around the arena.

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