With the start of competitions at the 21st African Athletics Championships in the Delta State city of Asaba just hours away, Kenya’s athletes and officials were still held up at Lagos’ Murtala Mohammed International Airport on Tuesday.
The Kenyan delegation of about 80 athletes and officials arrived in Lagos at 2pm on Monday but were unable to get a connecting flight to Asaba which is approximately 500 kilometres away from Lagos.
With no scheduled flights to Asaba Airport, organisers have to charter aircraft to ferry delegations from Lagos.
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But poor organisation has seen scores of athletes, officials and journalists stranded at the Murtala Mohammed International Airport with transfers to Asaba being handled on a first-come-first-served basis.
With the backlog going three days back, the chartered flights have been unable to meet demand with luggage either lost or misplaced in the ensuing melee.
On Tuesday morning, the Kenyan team could still not get a flight to Asaba with delegation head Abraham Mutai and Athletics Kenya officials raising concern over the confusion.
The Ethiopian delegation was also caught up in the melee and were contemplating to use an alternative route that would see them travel on scheduled flights to Enugu and then connect by road to Asaba.
But with locals describing the Enugu-Asaba road as “terrible”, it remained unclear whether the Ethiopians would make it as planned.
“Enugu is closer (to Asaba) than Benin, but with the bad road, it could take more hours to Asaba than from Benin,” Raymond Yomi, a digital journalist covering these championships said.
On paper, competition starts on Wednesday at 9am with the decathlon’s 100 metres race where Kenya is represented by policeman Gilbert Koech.
FIRST MEDAL EVENT
The evening programme’s first medal event will be the men’s 10,000 metres final from 6pm local time (8pm Kenyan time) where Kenya has entered Vincent Rono, Josephat Bett and Kipsang Temoi.
Also in the evening programme is the men’s 800m opening round where Jonathan Kitilit, Ferguson Rotich and Emmanuel Korir are entered.
But in reality, it remains to be seen if the Kenyan team will eventually make it to Asaba in time to prepare for the opening day’s programme and compete as planned.
“Everybody is tired now. We are still waiting for the flight,” said Kenya’s head coach Stephen Mwaniki.
“Let’s wait and see what next when we eventually get to Asaba,” the Kenya Prisons Service coach, a sprints specialist, added with frustration evident in his voice.
“It is total chaos here,” sports journalist Muigai Kiguru who is travelling in the Kenyan party, said.
“I hear there could be a flight for about 70. It seems like some (athletes) will travel Wednesday,” he added.
On Tuesday, Athletics Kenya vice president Paul Mutwii indicated that the pressure on transit accommodation saw some members of the delegation share beds at the airport hotels.
Credit: The BBC