Distraught, pathetic and hopeless. The three words best describe the atmosphere at the domestic airport here in Nigeria’s most populated city Lagos for the last three days.
Teams arriving for the 21st Africa Senior Athletics Championships have been stranded here for days, with no flight connection to Asaba, where the five-day event will happen.
Uganda’s 22-man contingent that departed Entebbe Airport aboard RwandAir at 6am on Monday via Kigali arrived at the Muhammed Murtala International Airport in Lagos at midday (local time).
But upon a 10-minute transfer to the domestic airport punctuated by apples, biscuits, water and fruit juice from welcoming officials, the athletes ended up on the floor at the departure terminal before it was communicated that there was no flight to Asaba.
Even after four hours of wandering, the team was transferred to a full Hotel Ibis (taken up by Kenya, Egypt and Zimbabwe) but later relocated to Golden Tulip for the night.
“We haven’t been helped much,” stated National Council of Sports General Secretary David Katende at dusk.
The team was back at it at the domestic airport yesterday morning.
Scrambling for space
They had to scramble for space on the floor with other teams Kenya, Namibia, Burkina Faso and Botswana as they waited for any aviation relief. More teams had arrived.
“We have nothing to do,” said middle-distance runner Ronald Musagala as his colleagues sought warmth on the floor.
At last, at about 10am here, Katende found his way with the Local Organizing Committee and secured the team boarding passes for the 439km flight to Asaba in Delta State. Uganda can afford a smile as the delay in Lagos only lasted 22 hours. Other teams like Zambia and Morocco spent two days at this airport. The tournament opening ceremony in Asaba is due this morning it is very likely all will not go as planned.
This is the first time a West African nation is hosting this biennial event since Benin’s city Porto-Novo hosted the 2012 edition.
But call it a case of Siamese twins. Then, disorganisation was as well witnessed and during the event, one of the riders for the lead police bikes was knocked dead by a following bus of athletes.
Nigeria last hosted the Africa Seniors in Lagos 1989.
TEAM UGANDA FOR ASABA
Men: Timothy Toroitich (10000m), Ronald Musagala (1500m), Geoffrey Ruto (800m), Rashid Atiau (800m), Pius Adome (100m/200m), Leonard Opiny (400m), Stephen Kissa (5,000m), Kevin Kibet (5,000m)
Women: Stella Chesang (10,000m), Mercyline Chelangat (10,000m), Winnie Nanyondo (800m), Halima Nakaayi (800m), Peruth Chemutai (3000mSC), Leni Shida (200m/400m), Scovia Ayikoru (100m/200m), Lucy Aber (Javelin) and Josephine Lalam (Javelin)