Tana Aiyejina and Idris Adesina
Over 300 athletes from Kenya and some other African countries have been left stranded in Lagos due to flight unavailability, as the 2018 African Senior Athletics Championships begin on Wednesday at the Stephen Keshi Stadium, Asaba, Delta State.
Some of the participating countries have arrived in the Delta State capital with organisers saying over 1,500 athletes from 52 countries will compete in the five-day event. The competition ends on August 5.
But the transportation of foreign athletes from Lagos to Asaba has put a blemish on the organisation of the biennial competition.
Athletes have reportedly spent days at the local wing of the Murtala Muhammed International Airport, Lagos, while waiting to be transported to Asaba.
It was learnt that the Kenyan delegation of about 80 athletes and officials arrived in Lagos on Monday but were unable to get a flight to Asaba, with reports saying the East African country has pulled out of the championships.
“Kenya will not take part at this year’s African Senior Athletics Champs. The event is meant to start tomorrow (Wednesday) in #Asaba2018 but scores of athletes are still stuck in Lagos with no flights available,” South African radio, Kaya FM, tweeted on Tuesday.
Kenyan sports journalist Michelle Katama also tweeted, “Team Kenya wants return home from Lagos and abandon Africa Senior Athletics Championships. Team has been held at Lagos airport for no flights to Asaba #Asaba2018.”
Ivory Coast track star Marie Josee Ta Lou was angry with the organisation of the competition on Monday when she took to social media to express her frustration.
South African stars Caster Semenya, men’s 400m world record holder Waydeva Niekerk, Akani Simbine and Carina Horn are among the top stars who made the trip to Asaba.
The event’s Local Organising Committee however assured fans that the issue would be sorted before the competition begins, saying there would be 7am flights to transport the athletes from Lagos to Asaba.
But apart from the Kenyans, there are over 200 other athletes from about 12 countries stuck in Lagos as of the time of filing this report, some of them sprinters, who would compete at 9am.
Our correspondents learnt that construction was ongoing at the venue for the competition while floodlights meant for the event were in Lagos as of the time of filing this report.
Also, reports claimed that the tartan tracks and several other facilities are not in the best shape for the continent’s athletics showpiece event. Sydney 2000 Olympic Games gold medallist Enefiok Udo-Obong lamented the development.
“There are problems, probably Asaba is not yet ready by my assessment; they are four months behind but it must go on. The track is bumpy in a lot of places, heard the foundation wasn’t done well but aesthetically for TV, it may look good, ” the ex-athlete wrote on WhatsApp platform, Family United By Sports.
“A lot of things are embarrassing, protocol is a disgrace; the technical (department) is doing well within their capacity. For medical, I can’t assess yet but construction is ongoing. There are no floodlights, I heard they are still in Lagos, while painting is going on in darkness. Every contractor is rushing to finish (because) tomorrow’s (today) events start by 9am. Security will be massive and a challenge (too) because the stadium is very small with only one entrance.
“In general, I see a lot of efforts, a lot of endeavours but the enormity of the occasion seems to have overwhelmed the LOC.”
Meanwhile, the opening ceremony of the event would feature IAAF president Sebastian Coe, who arrived in Asaba on Tuesday. Other dignitaries expected at the opening ceremony include former CAF president Issa Hayatou and CAA president Hamad Kalkaba Malboum.
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