Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Nyayo it is for continental athletics fete

David Okeyo, the AK secretary general (left) and Chairman Isaiah Kiplagat (right) at a past event. PHOTO/ FILE

David Okeyo, the AK secretary general (left) and Chairman Isaiah Kiplagat (right) at a past event. PHOTO/ FILE 

By CHRIS MUSUMBA

Confederation of African Athletics (CAA) has given Nyayo National Stadium the green light to host next year’s Senior Africa Athletics Championship.

Nyayo replaces Moi International Sports Centre, Kasarani, as the venue of the July 28 to August 1 games, and it needs only a little sprucing up to have it ready for the event, the Local Organising Committee says.

LOC chairman Isaiah Kiplagat said only a warm-up track will be added on the stadium with minor renovation work on the VIP, doping, massage and changing rooms. There will also be a media tribune set up to ease quick access to the mixed zone area.

“After a long tussle with the government, I can confirm to you that all the hurdles have been cleared and we are now set on hosting the championship,” said Kiplagat.

On Friday, the government allowed LOC to open and operate an independent bank account where it wired Sh100 million.

Stage a dry run

“We have opened the account with National Bank of Kenya and the government has already wired in half of the sponsorship fund. The other half will come as we proceed or might be used to purchase equipment and other logistics,” said Kiplagat.

LOC has set April 24 as the day to stage a dry run to test the equipment that will be purchased. However, Kiplagat noted that it was crucial they acquire them as early as possible to enable local athletes get used to them.

Kenya intends to enter athletes in all the events – both track to the field – and David Okeyo, the LOC chief executive officer and Athletics Kenya secretary-general said they want to leave a lasting mark on the championship.

Kiplagat said all orders for the equipment will be done before tomorrow and called upon all the directors of respective committees to prepare an action plan that will be presented on January 6 when LOC meets for the first time in the new year.

LOC is faced with a mountain of work – including training of officials and umpires to oversee the officiating at the five-day championship. The final batch of technical officials that will help in the championship will be trained in February.

The event will attract all top athletes from the 54 countries of Africa.

“The championship will be used to select Africa’s team to the World Cup in Croatia. It’s every athlete’s dream to run in such a competition and certainly top athletes will come to seek qualification,” said Okeyo.

Fans will turn up

Okeyo sought to assure sponsors that fans will troop to the stadiums to watch the championship, unlike the poor attendance reported during the recent Orange Cecafa Senior Challenge Cup.

Then, fans stayed away and the few who turned up at the stadiums wanted to access the venue without buying tickets. But Okeyo said athletics was different from football and should be treated as such.

“We have organised track athletics meetings and scores of fans have always turned up. I believe we will see them again in July,” he said.

LOC plans to have shuttle buses to ferry spectators to and from the venue during the championship.

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