The International Association of Athletics Federation (IAAF) president Sebastian Coe is expected in Botswana this December. The Botswana Athletics Association (BAA) is reportedly hard at work in preparation for hosting one of the most important figures in world athletics. Among other things, Coe will beexpected to make amends after having promised to visit Botswana.
Coe made the commitment after the IAAF irked the international community when local track star Isaac Makwala(400M) was denied the opportunity to compete in the men’s 400 and 200m following suspicion that the local star might have contracted the contagious nuro virus during the 2017 IAAF World championships held in London.
The eyes of the world frowned upon the IAAF’s unfair treatment of Makwala. However, the local runner went on to run solo under wet weather conditions before millions of television viewers in order to qualify for the next stage of the event. It was under such circumstances that Coe promised both Makwala and the Botswana delegation that he will visit the country to make amends.
This week, the Botswana Athletics Association (BAA) spokesperson Ipolokeng Ramatshaba confirmed the planned high-profile visit. Ramatshaba said they expect Coe to arrive in Botswana around December 2018. “We do not have the actual dates for his arrival but we anticipate that he will be here during the African Union Sports Council (AUSC) Region 5 Games scheduled for late this year,” he said.
Ramatshaba revealed that they are busy preparing for the IAAF president's arrival; actually a strong local committee has already hit the ground running ahead of Coe’s much anticipated visit. Ramatshaba said the team was recently assembled and tasked with ensuring that they prepare nothing but the best for Coe.
When asked for further details surrounding the committee, Ramatshaba said the team will be unveiled to the public soon. He said that the BAA team will be working closely with the Region 5 games Local Organising Committee(LOC) which is led by Labbeaus Peloewetse.
The BAA spokesperson went on to say that it will be the first time in history that the IAAF president visits Botswana and they have to ensure that they are well prepared for the occasion. “Athletics is one of the best performing sport codes locally and we have to use this opportunity to plead for assistance and support from the IAAF president,” Ramatshaba said.
He noted that among other things, Coe is expected to tour most track and field facilities around the country. Ramatshaba revealed that the intention is to familiarize the president with all the BAA structures and the long-term vision of the association.
One of the biggest challenges facing BAA currently is the lack of finance with the BAA depending heavily on the assistance from government.
There are no full-time coaches in Botswana and this impacts negatively on the athletes. Centres of excellence are also unable to produce the required talent because athletes train alone in schools.
Botswana has proven over the years that there is potential talent mainly in the sprint race categories, having seen the rise of local stars such Karabo Sibanda, Baboloki Thebe and Christene Botlogetswe among others.
Coe is a former star athlete with a rich portfolio boasting of eleven world records.
The BAA’s hope is that he is better placed to understand the struggles and needs of the association. During his time as a runner, he is reported to have been ranked number one in the middle-distance arena during the 1980 Olympics.
Long distance runner Rapula Diphoko recently told this publication during the Orange Phikwe Marathon that they are struggling to develop young runners because more emphasis is on sprints than them.
Diphoko argued that they are sponsored by private entities and not under the care of Botswana National Sports Commission(BNSC) like other athletes. “We have young runners but you will never see them competing because they are not even on camp like us. During marathons it is always the likes of me and Onneile Dintwe competing,” he said.
Ramatshaba explained that they are forced to prioritise at times to fit the budget and with more funding they will be able to unearth hidden talent locally. He noted that they rely heavily on the national stadium for BAA activities; however it is not always available for them to use.
Moreover, Coe will be expected to touch base on the doping scandals that have rocked up the local athletics body. Botswana’s golden girl Amantle Montsho returned to the track last year after serving a two-year ban by IAAF.
Currently the future of Lydia Jele hangs on the balance as she awaits response from the IAAF following allegations of doping case implicating the athlete. She has since been suspended from all BAA activities.
Ramatshaba said Coe is most likely to stay in Botswana for four to five days.