The 2019 Nigeria Taekwondo International Open Championship kicked off amidst delays and technical hitches at the velodrome of the Abuja National Stadium on Friday.
The tournament started on a forgettable note, as organisational delays and technical failure characterised the better part of early proceedings on Day 1.
The News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) reports that early signs of snags came when the replay specialist from Egypt penciled down for the event missed his flight.
Organisers had to source an improvised replay specialist.
NAN also reports that the Opening Ceremony of the event could not hold as invited guests, led by the Minister of Youths and Sports Development, Solomon Dalung, did not show up.
The tournament then had to continue without an opening ceremony.
And just after two fights, the electronic system malfunctioned midway into the third fight, forcing organisers to temporarily halt the event.
Orgernisers were still trying to figure out how to put the electronic system back to work when the entire velodrome was plunged into power failure.
To the dismay of some foreign delegates, power supply to the venue kept on fluctuating even as the fights went on.
Myriam Baverel, a World Taekwondo Technical Delegate to the event, however downplayed the hurdles while speaking with NAN, stating that they were not peculiar to Nigeria.
“It is normal to face certain difficulties when staging this kind of tournament. Today is the first day of the tournament and as with every tournament it is always more difficult and complicated to start.
“We started late and are now facing some technical problems. But all these challenges will be overcome and, at the end, we hope to conclude that it was a successful tournament.
“I am confident things will get better as we progress. The most important thing is for the tournament to conform to international rules and the athletes compete fairly,” she said.
President of the Nigeria Taekwondo Federation (NTF), Margaret Binga, also tried to put up a spirited demeanour, promising an interesting tournament and exciting closing ceremony.
“This is taekwondo and the athletes are eager to fight. Whatever excitement was missed by not staging an opening ceremony will be packaged into the closing ceremony,” she said.
According to the organisers, 121 athletes from 15 countries are participating in the tournament, which is slated to run between Friday and Sunday.
2019 Nigeria Taekwondo International Open Championship is a World Taekwondo-recognised G-1 tournament being hosted by Nigeria for the first time.
Binga said the tournament would help prepare Nigerian athletes for the upcoming African Games.
“We expect to see our athletes compete with the rest of the world. This tournament is an opportunity for our athletes to gain exposure and points because this tournament is recognised by the international body.
“You all know that the African Games is just months away and this is an ample opportunity for us to prepare our athletes ahead of the games.
“It will offer us improvement on our strength and provide an avenue for us to work on areas we have challenges in,” she said.
Also speaking about what the tournament offers, Baverel said it would propel the development of taekwondo in the West African sub-region.
“It’s the first time that a G-1 tournament is organised in Nigeria. So, it’s a big event for the future and development of taekwondo in this part of Africa.
“It is important for athletes because they can gain points and qualify for the Olympics. It is a great achievement to be able to successfully organise a competition of this magnitude,” she added.
In the opening fights of the tournament, Issoufou Mariama of Niger Republic defeated Khadidjat Adeyanju of the Nigerian Army 26-20 in the -49kg female category.
Lawan Sulaiman of Nigeria however revenged the loss by beating Mariama’s countryman Ibrahim Ousmane 16-14 in the -58kg male category.