The Africa Athletics Championships have been pushed back from April to July next year as the Kenyan organisers struggle to get their act together.
A statement on the Confederation of African Athletics (CAA) website confirmed that the continent’s top track and field competition has been rescheduled, but no reason was given for the postponement.
It is however believed a belated approval by the Kenyan government to finance the show, as well as failure by organisers to secure the extra funds needed to set up the secretariat, led to the change of date.
“The Senior African Championships 2010 previously supposed to take place from 28th April to 2nd May 2010 will actually take place from 28th July to 1st August 2010 in Nairobi, Kenya,” the statement on the CAA website read.
It is only three weeks ago that the government sanctioned the event through a special gazette notice.
However, purchase of equipment and the long tendering system that is to be undertaken in any deal involving the government remain the bottleneck in the organisation of the event.
CAA is also aware of the contestation between Athletics Kenya and the government over the country’s ability to host the event.
Sports Minister Hellen Sambili received the flag from Ethiopia while in Addis Ababa in last games in April 2008. But everything has remained literally on paper and little has been happening on the ground.
The Local Organising Committee (LOC) chief executive officer, David Okeyo, cannot even access his secretariat at Nyayo National Stadium and the government is yet to release the initial Sh30 million it pledged to help in its administration and operations.
The change of date, however, might be a welcome move for many athletes as it gives them time to recover after the gruelling cross country season which starts in November and ends on March 28 in Poland where the World Cross Country Championship will be held.
Athletes will also be able to use the event as a build-up to the 19th Commonwealth Games set for Delhi, India, from October 3–14.
“The ministry promised to get me some of the secretariat machines. At least we are moving and I hope by Monday we will be operational. At the moment, we are being forced to work from Riadha House, the AK headquarters,” said Okeyo.
Acquisition of equipment, transport system and accommodation of the teams have been given priority.
Okeyo said the two members of Confederation of African Athletics (CAA) – Aminata Gueye, the marketing manager, and Gashaw Zergaw – have already visited and shared their knowledge on the best way for LOC to sensitise and seek sponsorship.
The event will also be used to honour retired athletes who have helped raise Kenya’s flag on the global arena. During the last championship in Addis Ababa, 20 athletes were honoured as Africa’s legends.
The rivalry between Kenya and Ethiopia – the two eastern African countries that have dominated the middle- and long distance races – will be fanned as the event will also be used to select the continent’s team to the Athletics World Cup in Croatia.
Already, AK has started the process of selecting the best 180 officials and umpires to help in the judging and officiating of the championship. A pioneer group of 20 officials was selected across the country to do an IAAF Level 1 TOECS course.
The officials are to ensure the championships have highest standards of officiating, as well as root out cheating by athletes. AK chairman Isaiah Kiplagat cautioned that, with elite runners coming into the country, the job of the officials will be monitored closely.