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Lessons from Asaba 2018 championships

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Lessons from Asaba 2018 championships

The Senior Africa Athletics Championships took place between August 1 and 5 in Asaba, Delta State. Over 50 African countries were in Asaba for the big event, which also attracted bigwigs like the President of the International Amateur Athletics Federation, Sebastin Coe; President of Africa Athletics Federation, Ahmed Malboum Kalkaba, and former president of the Confederation of Africa Football (CAF), Issa Hayatou, together with the host governor, Ifeanyi Okowa and some government functionaries in Delta State.

 

The tournament started on a rather shaky note. Some hiccups were experienced on logistics due to late planning and the ‘over the board’ promises given to the visiting team. It was sad that some athletes were stranded in Lagos, but that could have been avoided if the arrangements for chattered flights were better for the participating countries.

 

Some countries had over 100 athletes and Asaba is not a city that attracts regular or international flights. It is nice that the organisers swiftly attended to the challenge early to save the situation, while Head of Media, Olukayode Thomas, apologised to the public over the hiccups. We have to state clearly that ordinarily, it is not the duty of a host city to take athletes and officials to the venue of a competition. Participants are expected to get to the venue before the Local Organising Committee takes over.

 

The mistake of Asaba 2018 organisers was that they promised to convey participants from their arrival point (Lagos) to Asaba, venue of the competition. At the 2018 FIFA World Cup in Russia, the LOC took charge of participants after accreditation or arrival at the designated city they will stay for the opening period of the mundial. That is the international standard. We also learnt that some of those stranded were lodged at some hotels in Lagos before they were moved to Asaba.

 

Perhaps, the organisers did not expect the level of response from African countries. The logistics of hosting a tournament is huge and it was crucial to prepare better for a big event of this magnitude. For example, the chattered aircraft should have been more effective when it was about three days to the event. The promise of taking participants to Asaba was unnecessary. The LOC boss, Solomon Ogba, did very well and was commended by Governor Okowa for putting the state on  the spotlight on the continent.

 

We, however, make bold to state that the LOC chairman had too much task to handle during the championship. In future, Ogba should have focused more on general supervision while other officials face the various logistics of the competition.

 

The event proper lived up to expectations with Nigerian female athletes making the nation proud by winning eight of the nine gold medals. Hurdler, Tobi Amusan, was fantastic with two gold medals and she is one of the young athletes the Athletic Federation of Nigeria should help to get better for the next Olympic Games and the World Championships.

 

We, however, frown at the fact that Nigeria is no longer making impact in sprints. Ivorians, Ghanaians and South Africans are now doing better than Nigeria in 100m and 200m events, which used to be Nigeria’s area of strength. Efforts should be made to expose some of the promising athletes abroad and prepare them for future challenges and, more importantly, to rekindle the past glory of Nigeria in sprints.

 

It was a taboo that the best Nigeria could make out of the 100m event in an African competition was 5th position, courtesy of Seye Ogunlewe. The ladies did well winning the 4x100m relay, but the fastest man and woman on the continent are not Nigerians.

 

Generally, the event was a huge success with the record attendance and presence of top rated athletes. Asaba 2018 also recorded the highest number of world-class athletes in Africa in recent times. Caster Semenya of South Africa ran a sub-50 to win the women 400m, Tobi Amusan ran a sub-13 to win the 100m hurdles. It was impressive that athletes set new records in Asaba.

 

The championship was the firstever championships where the athletes got prize money for performances, while countries received transport allowances. It is also important to applaud the efforts of Delta State government to complete the Stephen Keshi Stadium for the event. We, however, charge Governor Okowa to ensure construction work is completed at the stadium and there should be plans to have a good maintenance team for the new stadium.

 

There should be proper evaluation on the cause of the initial logistics problems so that other administrators will learn for it in future. The marketing drive for the event was also great, but the LOC must be transparent enough to render accounts to the public. Sports administrations nationwide should learn from the mistakes of the AAC 2018 and also take positives from the continental event.

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