Gaborone — The 22nd edition of the African Senior Athletics Championships is in limbo following withdrawal of Nigeria from hosting the competition, which was to be staged in Lagos from June 23-27.
The country had agreed to host the championships after initial hosts, Algeria pulled out as a result of the global COVID-19 pandemic.
Algeria was to host the championships last year from June 1-5 in Oran and later postponed to June 22-26 in Algiers and the country’s sport minister was said to have argued that a further postponement was necessary due to the health situation marked by a rebound in the spread of the coronavirus and the risk of circulation of new variants.
As such, Nigeria was then roped in to save Africa’s face but would later inform the Confederation of African Athletics (CAA) that the Scientific Commission would not allow them to host such a big competition.
In a letter from Nigeria’s Minister of Youth and Sports, Sunday Dare to CAA president, Kalkaba Malboum, the minister said the Presidential Steering Committee (PSC) chairperson had informed them that the country was not in a position to host a competition of such magnitude.
Again, the contention was that Nigeria was unable to host the championships in view of the increasing trend of COVID-19 cases in certain countries coupled with widespread of prevalence of mutant strains of the virus outside the country, which posed the risk of importation of such mutant strains.
In an interview, Kenya Broadcasting sport producer and anchor, Daniel Wahome said the coronavirus situation in Africa had made it difficult to hold full continental championships.
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Wahome said Algeria and Nigeria had been advised that large delegations were a threat and that meant few or no facilities existed for such an event.
He said with the Olympics qualification nearing the June 29 deadline, CAA could however, organise an event for race walking and combined events and then asked the regional groupings to hold mini championships to give athletes a chance to make the qualifying mark.
On the other hand, Botswana Athletics Association (BAA) vice president, Oabona Theetso said the uncertainty of the senior championships would certainly affect athletes’ preparations for the Olympics.
Theetso said their intension was to use the competition as Olympic qualifiers and preparation for those who had already qualified.
“It is a big blow because our athletes were going to meet top athletes who would give them competition and ultimately push them to qualify. So as it is, it means countries will have to host meets to help their athletes qualify,” he said.
Meanwhile, the biennial championships were last held in Asaba, Nigeria in 2018.
Source : BOPA