The ongoing coronavirus pandemic has forced the Organisers of the Gaborone International Meet (GIM) to indefinitely postpone the event.
Speaking in an interview, GIM head of publicity Calistus Kolantsho said uncertainty caused by the pandemic forced the organisers into a rethink.
“The event was scheduled for the 24th of April. However, due to the ongoing pandemic, we could not be sure whether it was now feasible,” he said.
Kolantsho said with a surge in infections and uncertainty as to when they would subside, the organisers felt it would be folly to stick to the date.
Another major consideration which forced organisers into a rethink was the issue surrounding closure of international borders.
“If you remember well, the GIM has now been designated a Bronze Continental Tour by World Athletics. It is now in the World Athletics calendar,” he says.
“To go with this status, our intention therefore is to bring the best athletes from across the world to compete in our meet. Hosting it when the borders are not open will only mean local athletes would compete,” said Kolantsho.
With the country still seeking to qualify athletes for the upcoming Tokyo Olympics, the GIM Head of Publicity says having the best international athletes will also help local athletes in qualification and preparation for the world sporting showpiece.
“As this is now a World Athletics sanctioned event, we also need to have international officials to come and officiate as well as run courses for our local officials before the event starts,” he said.
“This means making travel and accommodation arrangements for all these officials. If we make the arrangements right now, we stand to incur expenses and loses if the situation has not normalised or international travel not opened by the time the event is scheduled to start,” he explained.
The GIM spokesperson said they have already engaged with all stakeholders, including World Athletics, the Confederation of African Athletics (CAA), the Ministry of Sports (MYSC), Botswana National Sports Commission (BNSC) and sponsors on the decision to postpone.
“Fortunately, all our stakeholders understand and agree with our decision. World Athletics, as one of our sponsors for the event were very understanding, more especially as we had informed them of the postponement three months before the event as per their guidelines,” he explained.
On when they will host the event, Kolantsho says once coronavirus subsides and international travel is opened, the event will be hosted.
“We are hopeful that this will happen before winter sets in as it is not a great idea to host the event in cold conditions as they are not ideal for athletes’ muscles,” the GIM spokesperson said.
He added that once the situation normalises, they will contact World Athletics and other stakeholders with a new date to consider.