A High Altitude Athletics Training Center is to be established in Jos Plateau State, by the international Association of Athletics Federation (IAAF) and the Creative Artists Agency (CAA).
This is contained in an agreement signed in Lagos at the weekend by the Nigerian government, represented by the Minister for Youth and Sports, Solomon Dalung and the President of the Confederation of African Athletics, Hamad Kalkaba Malboum as well as the Athletics Federation of Nigeria’s President, Dr Solomon Ogba.
A delegation from the IAAF and the CAA is expected to come for an initial inspection of the site in Jos for further recommendations and provision of facilities. The High Altitude Athletics Training center when completed, will serve athletes from West Africa. Similar training centers are already located in South Africa, Kenya, Ethiopia, Dakar and Zambia.
The trio also signed an agreement for Nigeria to host the 22nd edition of the Africa Senior Championships in Athletics to be held in Lagos in 2018.
The President of CAA, Hamad Kalkaba Malboum stressed the need for Africans to develop their own athletes by setting up structures and facilities that will enhance and develop athletes on their own continent.
“We have already set up a High Performance Training Center in the University of Port Harcourt. We intend to set up another one in Jos for the middle and long distance runners because we have seen that we need to prepare our athletes in Africa. When you send them to UK, in few months they change nationality and easily become British citizens. Even their coaches don’t support our athletes because they want their own to win. So, this is why we need to set up our own facility for long and middle distance runners in Africa to develop our own athletes” Malboum explained.
The Minister of Youth and Sports Solomon Dalung however enumerated the role of sports in national development.
“Sport is one of the strongest weapons of promoting development in Africa. The only thing that can provide gainful employment for youths and engage them is sports. With the support of the government, I have discussed with officials in South Africa that there is a need for us to strengthen the Council of Ministers meeting and begin to identify the relevant issues that will move African sports forward and also give Africa a comparative advantage to compete with other countries of the world. It is the absence of facilities that makes African athletes travel for training outside Africa and end up becoming citizens of countries where they trained and camped. If we must also domesticate our own talents and skills for the benefit of young Africans, then we must invest in the provision of modern sporting facilities in Africa. This will take us to the development of a functional high performance system with all the necessary equipment for the training, camping and development of African athletes.
Without a high performance system, African sports will depend on talents and determination. Sports in the world have moved from talents and determination to science. So, if Africa must make its impact within global sports, it must build a capacity to be able to favourably challenge and compete. We are not lacking in talents and determination but we are lacking in the institutional framework to harness these particular potentials for our comparative advantage. This is where the idea of building certain infrastructure is contemplated. We will be very grateful if the idea of building a High Altitude Athletics Training Center is nurtured to maturity” Dalung said.