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Rabat to host first IAAF Diamond League in Africa



• Nigerian athletes challenge Lagos, Edo, Cross River Governors

While some major cities in Nigeria such as Lagos, Edo and Cross River are channeling huge resources in hosting marathon and road races, which are usually won by North African athletes, the city Rabat, Morocco, has been named as the first African city to host the prestigious IAAF Diamond League meeting later this year.

The Moroccan capital will host this season’s third meeting on 22 May. New York has been dropped from the calendar.

IAAF president Lord Coe said in a statement yesterday: “We are pleased to be able to take our premier athletics series into a new continental area.”

The New York organisers said they would look to produce a new event, with a “street meet” under consideration.

The United States retains one Diamond League meeting in Eugene, Oregon.

Morocco has previously hosted other IAAF events, including the 2014 Intercontinental Cup in Marrakech.

However, some athletes who spoke with The Guardian from the Athletics Federation of Nigeria (AFN) High Performance Centre in Port Harcourt yesterday expressed happiness over the choice of Rabat for the Diamond League, but challenged the governors of Lagos, Edo and Cross River to start thinking in the direction of staging ‘better’ competitions like the Diamond instead of ‘wasting resources’ on marathon and road races.

To some athletes, it is ‘unwise’ for governors in Nigeria to be ‘wasting huge amount of money’ on events like the marathon and road race, knowing full well that Nigerian athletes specialize more in short races.

“Look at the millions of naira ‘wasted by Lagos State government in a marathon race last month,” one of the athletes said. “Now, Edo state is warming up to ‘donate free dollars’ to the Kenyans and other North Africans in May at Okpekpe, near Auchi. The Obudu marathon will soon come up in Cross River State.

“Yet nobody is looking the direction of Nigeria athletes, who are specialists in short distance races. By the time Kenya sweep medals at the coming Rio Olympics Games, these governors will be blaming Team Nigeria and the athletes,” he said.

Another athlete added: “No governor in Kenya will give such free money to host events like the 100m and 200m races because it does not make any sense to them. It is time our governors should look inward towards the direction of hosting more profitable events, he stated.

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