Saturday, May 28, 2022

Preparations for Africa Junior Athletics well underway

The Local Organising Committee (LOC) for the upcoming Junior African athletics championships says preparations are going well.

The LOC, however, will have to be on a go slow to accommodate the stakeholders, more especially the government and the Botswana Athletics Association to catch up with their pace.

The LOC, which was ready to launch the games brand this past Friday, had to postpone the event due to delays from the government, which is the games’ biggest stakeholder.

The launch, which was to be attended by the president of the Confederation of African Athletics (CAA), Hamad Kalaba Malboum, has now been postponed indefinitely pending the government’s readiness to fully approve it.

Commenting on the latest development, BAA president, Moses Bantsi, said during the visit that the CAA president would have signed the agreement to make Botswana’s host status of the continental junior athletics event official.

The BAA president, however, said while they still await the government’s decision, they are optimistic everything will go accordingly as the government has in principle agreed with the association to host the event. Bantsi says it is fair to give the government time to get everything in order.

This delay is, however, no good news for the Solly Reikeletseng chaired LOC as they know that time is not on their side.

With only eight months to go before the actual games begin, the LOC will be hoping the government’s decision is known as soon as possible. Speaking in an interview with Standard Sport, Reikeletseng said, while a lot of groundwork has been done, there is still a lot that needs to be done and every minute is important if the country is to host successful games. The LOC chairman says they have already come up with an implementation plan and strategy as well as the logo and the brand for the games.

He, however, says until the government and the BAA catches up, there is little they can do to prepare for the games. He went on to say the postponement of the games’ brand launch and the delay to approve the budgets tie their hands more, especially where finding partners for the games, getting the necessary resources, budgets and implementation of plans are concerned.

Reikeletseng’s view concurred with that of Bantsi who is of the opinion that the delay will impede the progress of the LOC who he said have done a sterling job in their assigned responsibilities. Bantsi informed Standard Sport that all the requirements and tasks the BAA had asked from the LOC have been met.

On other matters concerning the championships, Reikeletseng says the LOC has recently gone to Kenya to benchmark on successful hosting of major games.

He says the trip was an eye opener for his committee as they got to see firsthand what hosting successful events can do for the country.

The chairman of the LOC says one of the greatest lessons from their Kenya trip was the importance of the media to successfully host the games.

Citing the just ended Africa senior athletics championships held by Kenya, Reikeletseng said many television stations from around the world covered the event, giving the host country mileage.

The LOC chief is of the view that they still have to see to it that they have good media facilities to ensure smooth coverage of the games for all the press to give Botswana exposure.

He says hosting the games will boost the local economy, including small businesses, as people can cash in on the event by selling food, drinks and curios during the games.

He also says hosting calls for improved infrastructure, which, if achieved, puts the country in better stead to host even bigger games.

Reikeletseng further informed Standard Sport that the reason why even countries without resources fight to host games is because event tourism is the key to improving tourism and boosting the economy. He says Botswana is not lagging behind with respect to infrastructure, capacity and quality to host any games and the time is now for the country to test itself.

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