NAIROBI, Kenya, June 2 – The African Athletics Championships received a major financial boost on Wednesday with Safaricom unveiled as the title sponsor.
The telecommunications giant has pumped in Sh20 million into the four day event with an additional Sh3 million for technical support.
“These championships are going to be the biggest ever with about 1200 athletes taking part. It will be used to select the team for the Continental Championships that are going to be held in September in Split, Croatia,” said event chairman Isaiah Kiplagat.
Kenya will field the highest number of athletes followed by Nigeria and perennial rivals Ethiopia.
Kiplagat who is also the chairman of Athletics Kenya (AK) said that preparations for the five day event are on track.
“All the arrangements are in place. The equipment is on its way and the repairs at the stadium (Nyayo) are going on. There is nothing really that is holding us back,” said Kiplagat.
The build up to the continent’s showpiece athletics event has been dogged mostly by lack of finances and lack of publicity.
“I know everyone now is focused on the World Cup but I’m sure Kenyans will fill Nyayo Stadium when the tournament takes place,” said Kiplagat who highlighted the massive turnout at the 2007 IAAF World Cross Country Championships in Mombasa.
Kiplagat commended Safaricom for supporting the tournament slated for July 28-August 1.
“Not many Kenyan companies want to come on board and support sports in this country but you (Safaricom) have shown the way,” said Kiplagat.
Safaricom chief human resources officer Joseph Ogutu said his company will continue to support sports.
“We believe this event will create a major platform for marketing Kenya as a leading destination for sports tourism while showcasing the athletics talent that has made this country so famous,” said Ogutu.