Gov. Akinwunmi Ambode of Lagos State.

Sports Tourism as Catalyst for Economic Development: Lessons from Lagos State

By Olanrewaju Akojede

When Governor Akinwunmi Ambode assumed office on May 29, 2015, he promised to further develop the economy of the state on three principal sectors’ sports, tourism and entertainment.

For many, the question then is why sports? How can sports achieve that? What relationship does sport have with the economy?

These questions are unarguably right, but it leaves a third eye to see what impact sports can have in the development of an economy.

Sports all over the world are beautiful brides to behold and it is estimated that one out of every four persons in the world like one sport or the other, while the population is still increasing.

According to the Global Sports Market total revenue, it was estimated that in 2005, 46.5 billion dollars was expended on sports and by 2017 it would have reached 90.9 billion dollars.

It was also estimated that two of five U.S. adults are sports travellers, while in the past five years 75.3 million adults attended organised sports.

This research conducted in the U.S. clearly shows how viable sports can be in raking in higher revenue that other sectors, and this can be replicated in Nigeria if due diligence is accorded to it.

In the light of this, sports tourism remains an untapped gold mine in Nigeria, considering the population and the number of sports loving-people the country is blessed with.

Also, from the Global Sports Market research, sports tourism is a fast-growing sector of the global travel industry and equates to 7.68 billion dollars.

Sport tourism can engender exponential growth in the economy if harnessed with a right approach. For example, the boxing fight between Floyd Mayweather and Manny Pacquiao generated world revenue of over 500 million dollars.

The World Trade Organisation (1994), posted that the total receipt from
international inbound tourism in the U.S. grew from 54 million dollars in 1992 to 63.5 billion in 1993.

For the purpose of attending an organised sports event, it is estimated that 44 billion dollars was pumped into the economy of the U.S.

However, if we must consider what this type of revenue could do to the economy, then we must begin to think out of the box like Lagos State
in using sports as a launch pad to economic greatness.

The relative impact of sports tourism cannot be overemphasised because much research has been made with a conclusion that sports and tourism could be an armoury to regenerate the economy.

Maybe, realising the great leverage sports could provide to the economy, Ambode set the machinery in motion to push Lagos into the eye of sports tourism by providing the necessary platform.

Also, his administration may be eyeing to sell the Mega City status of the state to world through sports tourism; the state has organised events that attracted foreigners, thereby marketing the cultural diversity of the state.

The platform has, however, yielded positive results as Lagos is now able to host quite a number of world events within one year.

To Ambode, sports will be recognised as an integral part of the state’s
development, and not only that, youths will also be given ample opportunities to showcase their talents.

For the year under review, Lagos hosted the first full international marathon, the 2016 Access Bank Lagos City Marathon the first in 30 years.

Athletes came from all over the continent, from Ethiopia, Kenya, and other parts of the world; with over 20,000 people involved in the race. This is one of the benefits that sports attract.

The Chairman of Lagos State Sports Commission, Deji Tinubu, speaking on the epoch marathon, says the state will ensure its sustenance.

He adds that the state will build on the lapses of the last event in hosting future editions, while confirming that the race has become a yearly competition.

“First of all, Gov. Akinwunmi Ambode has confirmed the race as an annual competition, and we are delighted about hosting the 2017 edition because 2016 showed us more that we can build upon.

“There are lots of things we have already listed for next year’s competition which will involve the people of Lagos more.

“We are delighted that over 20,000 people came out to run which is amazing; also, we are delighted that people lined up the streets to cheer the marathoners.

“From this feat, we want to go to the next stage where all these people will be in one way or the other involved in the next marathon,’’ he says.

While hosting the Media Vision Price Water Cooper (PwC) sponsored Chess4Change Grand Slam, Tinubu also says that the state government is ready to partner with any organisation towards the development of
sports.

“Lagos will welcome programmes aimed at developing sports to drive the economy of the state,’’ he says.

Tinubu restates the government’s resolve to drive the economy of the state through sport, saying: “Sports is crucial to its development and economic drive.

“The governor hopes his administration will focus more on sports, tourism, entertainment and arts to create a social and economic value to engage youths.

“We want to take sports to the next level and we have planned annual calendars for sponsorships.

“We are increasingly developing human capacity in the sports industry that will eventually compete globally to boost the economy.

“This is an initiative to trigger a paradigm shift to a business-like approach to sports in Lagos,’’ he said.

Not done with world sports events, Lagos once again scored high point by partnering with a private initiative, Bestman Games, to host “World Record of Most People Playing Monopoly’’.

Tinubu says the aim of the competition is to set a new vista in sports.

However, the monopoly competition, tagged “City of Lagos Monopoly Game’’ lived up to its billing as 1,300 students drawn across the state gathered to play at the Teslim Balogun Indoor Sports Hall, Surulere, Lagos.

The competition was able to beat the initial record set at the Universal Studio in Singapore where 605 people were gathered on March 19, 2016 under the same roof.

The event, hopefully, will take Lagos State into the Guinness Book of World Records.

Lagos also hosted the first ever school Olympics, tagged “Heritage Bank Schoolimpics’’ where more than 5,000 students participated in five sports.

These are great moments in the state which has put it on the world map and the subsequent competitions could provide the needed economic development the state needs.

On Lagos Model of economic drive through sports, an enthusiast, Samuel Fadele, said that the state is on the right track in its diversification into sport.

“Lagos has done well with this initiative, `sport tourism’, it is a model being developed not only for sports renaissance, but economic resurgence.

“This initiative is for other regions to emulate, it tells the world that Lagos is the centre and a hub for sports in Africa,’’ he said.

It wrapped-up the year with the hosting of the 2016 Beach Soccer Africa Cup of Nations (AFCON)

The efforts to take the state to the world map did not begin today as Lagos had in 2013 recorded an exciting moment when it hosted no fewer than 250 cyclists from 16 states of the federation and internationally acclaimed cyclists in the inaugural edition of its “CycleFest Race’’ at the National Stadium, Surulere, Lagos on Sunday, June 16, 2013.

It then used race to expose Lagos’ world-class tourism potential with the participants riding into the rural areas of the state.

“The state is set to use sports tourism to showcase its potential in that sector and we are on the right track.

“Lagos is revamping its tourist sites through sporting activities. Marathon was the first we used to showcase what Lagos can produce and it has increased our tourism potential.

“The psychological effects of it still lingers in the memory of those present at the Access Bank Lagos City Marathon on Feb. 6, where more than 24,000 people lined up the streets.”

He restates that from available statistics there was huge number of people are streaming into Lagos daily on the account of the sports tourism which will remain a goldmine for the state.

“Lagos CycleFest’’, a private initiative is a huge success story of sports tourism.

“Government will continue to support such initiatives to promote the
state and its people.

“The government will always partner with what will make the state to look good. We had the Lagos Cyclefest where we hosted cyclists from all over the world.

“This is also a private initiative and we are amazed by its outcome,’’ Tinubu says.

He notes that the CycleFest is already generating instant rewards as foreigners from outside Nigeria rode their bicycles into Epe.

“I was excited and I spoke with them. The foreigners go on raft on the sea to ride their bicycles into the Epe forests. We will partner with such to raise our sports tourism portfolio’’.

“Also, recently the best team in the world, Barcelona, came to establish its Academy in Lagos and this makes us look good; it is a sign of good things happening in the state.

“The recent Beach football competition at the Eko Atlantic is a wonderful experience and effort to ensure a blending of tourism and sports.

“We have created an event and got it on the world map. Lagos is a fantastic place and in some couple of years, many will see a new Lagos — the home of tourism.

“Also hosting the Nations Cup for Beach Soccer is a fantastic launch into tourism. We cannot have a better deal between sports and tourism than this.

“Badagry will be opened up. It a fantastic place where we have a beach in a serene place to host competitions,’’ he says.

Tinubu says that entertainment and sports are now key drivers of tourism and it is one of the ways to get our youths out of crime if Nigerians must be honest to themselves.

“What is it that is socially acceptable to take the attention of the youths away from crime? It is sports and entertainment.

However, sports and entertainment must be properly regulated for the youths to get the best of them.’’

Although as at the time of this report, it was not certain what the state has raked in as revenue from sports tourism, it is known the since it was promoting tourism it is equally generating revenue.

From the foregoing, the Lagos State Government is striving not only to make the state a Sports Hub in Africa but to sell its Mega City status to the world and drive economic prosperity.

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