- ATHLETICS. It was no surprise that the visitors smiled as the packed stadium booed Delta State Governor Dr. Arthur Ifeanyi upon mentioning President Muhammad Buhari’s name during the opening ceremony.
- Confederation of Africa Athletics apologised for the messes later that night.
At the start of the week, there was anxiety that gripped visiting teams on what to expect at the 21st Africa Senior Athletics Championships in Asaba.
The longer they waited for flights at the Muhammed Murtala Airport domestic terminal in Lagos, the more they yearned for better upon arrival in Asaba. However, it appeared little would divert from the script. Morocco was stuck in Lagos for two days and they opted to return home.
Powerhouse Kenya threatened to boycott the event and it helped as they put an end to a 40-hour wait to fly 439km east to Asaba.
Visas not ready, delayed flights
Each athlete, official or journalist has their own story tell of Asaba. Few good yet many bad tales.
Even by closure of business on the opening day on Wednesday, Asaba’s letter to Africa kept reading: ‘We were not ready to host you.’
Surely, the anticipated good hospitality by Nigeria has been measured in the least of proportions here. When a big chunk of teams arrived on Monday, nearly 300 passports were held at the immigration offices as visa fees had not been cleared by tournament organisers.
Upon arrival in the oil-rich Delta State, there was some sort of semblance as teams were taken to their respective hotels but the disorganisation bug returned stronger at the newly-completed Stephen Keshi Stadium.
Not all that glitters…
Dominant in blue colours across the terraces and the tartan, the facility named after the late Super Eagles’ coach Keshi is beautiful but down to the details, trauma.
There is enough evidence of hurried work to completion such the poor drainage at the toilets near the media centre, piercing smell of drying paint up to the terraces and the cement dust and bricks in between the seats. With the competition program now distorted after teams arrived late, there was no video wall or screen to give fans and journalists instant digital results or replays of races.
Ladies on men’s start list
Yet, it was even worse for the technical aspects. There were mistakes in the entry lists such as the men’s 10,000m final where Timothy Toroitich scooped bronze on Wednesday.
There were two names for female Ugandan runners of Commonwealth medallists Mercyline Chelangat and Stella Chesang that had been entered on that start-list, much to the shock of the East African nation.
“It is surprising but this is shameful,” Uganda’s coach Moses Asonya said. He was already shocked when calls were abruptly made for the 100m and Scovia Ayikoru was lucky not to miss.
“Since everything here happens by surprise, I was lucky to have stayed nearby otherwise Ayikoru would have missed the sprint,”
Ayikoru ran the first race of the championship, finishing fourth in the Heat 1 of first round in 11.88 seconds.
Kenyans could hardly perform on Day One as the event began four hours after their arrival in Asaba.
No accreditation for journalists
For the journalists, foreigners did not have accreditation with information sent earlier reportedly lost.
Also, it was about wandering over in wait for start lists or results before and after the races. The Championships wrap up tomorrow with little hope of the forgettable ride in Asaba getting better.