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Mixed emotions in Asaba as chaos reigns at the African Athletics Championship

The Stephen Keshi Stadium hosted the opening ceremony of the African Athletics Championship in Asaba, Nigeria on Wednesday, August 1, 2018. (Photo by Haileegziabher Adhanom)
by Haileegziabher Adhanom, Secretary General, ESJA

ASABA, August 02, 2018 - The Confederation of African Athletics’ biennial continental championship began on Wednesday in Asaba, Nigeria with a colourful opening ceremony, but poor event organisation cast a shadow over the championship.

Last-minute preparations and below-par logistics marred the build-up to the championship: poor flight connections from Lagos to Asaba and a lack of adequate information related to travel arrangement and championship logistics left many athletes, officials and members of the media stranded for days without any information, food, water and proper resting place at Lagos’ Murtala Mohamed Airport. Chaos ensued and 14 events out of the 17 were postponed for the coming days while the remaining events had to readjust their timings.

Team Kenya were left stranded at Lagos' Murtala Mohamed Airport as travel arrangements and championship logistics proved to be a nightmare. (Photo by Haileegziabher Adhanom)

However, the story was different inside the renovated Stephen Keshi Stadium in Asaba, which welcomed thousands of passionate fans in a sportive atmosphere. The Ethiopians won the first gold and silver medals of the championship, a result that already equals their return form the previous championships.

Jemal Yimer is the man who brought Ethiopia the maiden gold of the championship in the Men’s 10,000m event, clocking 29:08.01. His compatriot Anduamlak Belihu finished second and Uganda’s Timothy Toroitich took the bronze with a time of 29:11.09 and 29:11.87 respectively.

The opening ceremony wrapped up the opening day, with performance acts by local youth and the customary opening speeches of high level dignitaries, including Sebastian Coe, president of the International Associations of Athletics Federations (IAAF) and CAA president Hamad kalkaba Malboum.

Day two of the championship promises some enticing races, including the 5000m women’s final.

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