IOL sports athletics writer, Ockert de Villiers.
The African Athletics Championships in Asaba, Nigeria have been a monumental flop.

Leaving hundreds of your visitors stranded at an airport for days is nothing short of a disgrace.

This affected most of the people who made the trip from across the continent and from different corners of the world to attend the championships.

Up to 300 stranded athletes camped on the Lagos airport floor, resting on their luggage as they waited for connecting flights to Asaba, the venue for the championships.

World-leading female sprinter Marie-Josée Ta Lou said it was the worst organised African Championships she has attended.

Once the athletes did finally make it to the host city, some were forced to share a bed while in one of the cases an ottoman served as a makeshift bed.

I don’t care whether the Local Organising Committee (LOC) eventually got their act together. It is too easy to forget about their atrocious behaviour towards fellow Africans once the results started rolling in.

Organising a world-class athletics meeting is not merely providing a stadium, technical equipment and officials.

And let’s not confuse things. This has nothing to do with the false notion that Africa is unable to put on quality events.

With the exception of a few glitches (as with any event) the last few championships did not jeopardise the integrity of the event.

Nairobi hosted an exceptional IAAF World Under-18 Championships last year and as a result the nation has been awarded the U20 showpiece in 2020 and are the frontrunners to become the first African nation to host the senior event in 2025.

The programme in Nigeria this year had to be quickly adjusted due to the botched travel arrangements with some of the athletes due to to participate in one of three events on the first day, only arriving in Asaba that same morning.

This left many of them unable to at least do a flush out to prepare for their events.

Tanzania eventually threw in the towel, citing poor travel arrangements and security threats. I’ve said it before and I will say it again: The world will not take us seriously if we don’t take ourselves seriously.

Two years ago many of the superstars from other parts of the continent snubbed the championships held in South Africa.

It was held in an Olympic year with the Kenyans’ trials scheduled shortly after the championships which provided a reprieve.

This year a lot more is on the line as the African champions earn a place at the Continental Cup in Ostrava in September where they would compete for a winner’s cheque of approximately R400 000.

The continent boasts three of the powerhouses of international track and field with South Africa, Ethiopia and Kenya finishing among the top eight nations at last year’s IAAF World Championships in London. Kenya finished at the top of the medals table at the 2015 Beijing edition while South Africa was the third best nation at last year’s showpiece.

It is easy to lay the blame on Nigeria for the issues at these championships but the harshest criticism should be directed at the Confederation of African Athletics (CAA).

They failed dismally in their oversight role and also need to rethink how they award these championships in future.

To finish off this moan session, there is the chronic lack of access to quick and reliable results  enough to make the athletes pull out their hair in frustration. Results aren’t there only for journalists’ pleasure, but are a vitally important aspect of track and field. When organisers fail to provide reliable results almost instantly, they disrespect the athletes and track and field fans.


Saturday Star

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