Jeers and very few cheers for Nigeria’s athletics showpiece
Organisation was a shambles, the only redeeming feature being Caster Semenya’s double win
Nigeria managed to turn the African championships into an oxymoron over the past week or so.
There are few sports that have the firepower to produce world-class competition on this continent, but athletics is one of them; the African championships should be a beacon.
Instead the local organising committee for the Asaba showpiece failed dismally, as did the Confederation of African Athletics, which apparently overlooked its oversight role.
The reports of disastrous organisation were widespread. Athletes slept in the airport at Lagos because of insufficient flights to Asaba, and when they got there some slept three to a room, two sharing a bed and a third having to sleep on a large ottoman.Wesley Botton of The Citizen newspaper landed on the morning the competition started to find there was no room or accreditation for him. And when those were sorted out, he was told he needed to bring his own chair to the stadium.
And when he finally arrived at the Stephen Keshi stadium the flow of official results was slow to non-existent.
But perhaps the worst aspect of this competition was the state of the track – it seemed visibly warped in some photos.
Kudos to those who performed well on that surface, like Caster Semenya who took the 400m and 800m double. In Durban two years ago she won the 800m and 1500m double. Semenya was timed at 49.96sec in the one-lap race, a time that breaks the 50.05 South African record Heide Seyerling set in the final at the Sydney Olympics in 2000.
The only question is whether the record will be ratified amid the poor track surface and a timing system that was considered suspect at times. But even if it is confirmed, this is not how a continental championship should be staged.
The athletics federation of Nigeria should have been embarrassed by their organisation, but instead they announced that they would bid for the 2025 world championships. With some top international stars warning they had no intention of returning to Nigeria ever again, perhaps the world governing body, the IAAF, had better take heed.
For the record, SA lost their status as the best in Africa, finishing second behind Kenya. From 16 golds in 2016, SA ended with nine golds this time. Kenya, second two years ago, improved from eight golds to 11.