NAIROBI, Kenya, May 5 – This year’s Senior African Athletics Championships is expected to be the biggest ever in terms numbers with over 1000 athletes and officials expected to be involved in the event.Forty five countries have so far confirmed their participation for the biennial event slated for between July 28 and August 1 at the Nyayo National Stadium.
“The figure of 1334 individuals is only a tentative figure. That number may come down depending on the qualification standards which athletes must meet,” said Local Organizing Committee CEO David Okeyo.
The build up to the championships has been punctuated by concerns over Kenya’s preparedness to host the event but Okeyo is confident the tournament will go on without a hitch.
“We started preparations in January this year. To prepare a tournament of this magnitude takes two year but I think what we have achieved so far is commendable. We are also going to use our national championships as a test event and also select our national team,” said Okeyo.
“The various committees are working very hard to meet the deadlines set. Work on the warm up track has begun and the equipment is expected by the end of this month,” he added.
Kenya had been awarded the rights to hold the championships in 2008 but struggled to get preparations up and running due to the unavailability of funds from the government.
The championships had initially been scheduled to be held at the Moi International Sports Center, Kasarani but was shifted to Nyayo since Kasarani is currently undergoing renovations.
Legendary Namibian athlete Frankie Fredericks who has been mandated by the Confederation of African Athletics to oversee the preparations gave a Kenya a clean bill of health when he inspected the facilities earlier this year.
Dr. Paul Tergat who is an official ambassador for the tournament said that a successful tournament will hold Kenya in good stead in terms of hosting similar tournaments in future.
“I just came back from Ethiopia where they held their national championships over the weekend, and I can assure they will present a strong challenge to us (Kenya) whe they come for the senior championships,” said Tergat.