IAAF Africa Championships: Athletes, officials stranded at Lagos Airport
Hundreds of athletes, officials and journalists have been left stranded at the Murtala Mohammed Airport in Lagos, with less than 24 hours to the start of the Africa Senior Athletics championship in Asaba, Nigeria.
The Local Organizing Committee of the continent’s biggest athletics showpiece has struggled to connect flights from Lagos to Asaba, with the airline contracted for this purpose, Overland Airlines, overwhelmed by the huge numbers.
Team Ghana led by General Secretary of the Ghana Athletics Association, Bawa Fuseini, arrived in Lagos on Monday but were unable to secure a connecting flight to Asaba.
Sprinters Hor Halutie, Janet Amponsah and Emmanuel Yeboah, are scheduled to compete on Wednesday afternoon but are still stranded in Lagos.
Some teams have experienced worse. Team Morocco arrived in Lagos on Saturday and have now spent 3 days waiting at the local airport for a connecting flight to Asaba. Uganda, Ethiopia, Eritrea, Congo and Kenya have all spent at least 42 hours stranded in Lagos.
Belaid Abderrahman, Member of Jury of the Confederation of African Athletics (CAA), who has been starved for 2 days threatened to return to Algeria.
“If I don’t get a flight to Asaba today, I’m going back home. This is a nightmare,” he said.
Team Cote d’Ivoire spent to days at the airport before eventually getting a flight to Asaba but not without collateral damage as sprinter and IAAF World Championship silver medalist over 200m, Marie Joseé Ta Lou, arrived without her luggage.
She later posted on her Instagram; “I think this is the last time I’ll ever come to Nigeria to compete.”
President of the Cote d’Ivoire Athletics Association threatened to withdraw his athletes before his athletes were eventually transported.
On Tuesday morning, while Overland Airlines was preparing the boarding passes of some athletes, the power at the airport went out, leaving frustrated athletes and officials exasperated, while athletes from Senegal and Zambia almost got into a fight over whose boarding passes had to be processed first on Monday.
Team Ghana and other teams are now exploring the option of flying to Benin City before taking a 2 hour bus ride to Asaba.