On your marks, get set, stop!
KwaZulu-Natal Athletics has threatened to take legal action against Msunduzi if the City goes ahead with the celebrity-studded opening of its controversial athletics stadium without engaging them.
The Witness recently reported that Msunduzi was planning to spend R3,9 million on hosting the Africa Athletics League (AAL) event for the launch of the stadium this Saturday.
More than R2,9 million of the budget was for the appearance fees, accommodation and security for international celebrities as invited guests, including American athletes Inika McPherson, Christian Coleman and Justin Gatlin.
Last weekend KZN Athletics, the provincial governing body, was supposed to conduct a trial run on the stadium to assess its readiness for the opening but this did not happen.
On Monday the president for the athletics governing body in the province, Sello Mokoena, said the municipality had not informed them of its plans for opening the stadium and for the trial run.
“This is news to me but I’m telling you now that there will be no launch of anything on that stadium this month,” he said.
Mokoena explained that KZN Athletics is supposed to conduct an inspection of a newly built athletics stadium ahead of an opening or hosting of a major event as is expected with the AAL competition.
“We have to meet with the contractor and the municipality because we cannot take a risk of inviting athletes and members of the public to a venue that could put their lives in danger or bring the event being hosted to disrepute,” he said.
Once the provincial structure assesses the stadium, they would have to then engage with Athletics South Africa (ASA) on the plans for a major event.
He said he does not understand how Msunduzi thought they could go over the athletics bodies’ heads and invite international athletes on the advice of private companies.
“They are contravening the laws that govern sports in this country, so if they force this event to go ahead on Saturday then we will be left with no choice but to take legal action against those involved,” said Mokoena.
Africa Athletics League Management’s Munya Maraire said the competition that was scheduled for the opening of the stadium has been moved to September 15.
“We wanted to get the top athletes in the world to participate and most of them are preparing for the Diamond League and the Continental Cup so we will now have the event a week after the Continental Cup,” he said.
Maraire denied that the event organisers had snubbed KZN Athletics, saying they were working with the ASA.
He said for the event of the AAL’s magnitude, protocol dictates that they must engage with the federation (ASA) which would then work with its regional structures.
“We are a sports organisation and prefer not to get involved in the political squabbles but since this is an international event we are working with the federation,” he said.
Commenting on the trial run, he said it does not have to be conducted by KZN Athletics and he is aware that Maritzburg College would be hosting its inter-house track events at the stadium this month.
Msunduzi spokesperson Thobeka Mafumbatha confirmed that the stadium would be opened next month.
She said the Confederation of Africa Athletics Southern region and ASA have given their endorsement for the event.
On the engagement of KZN Athletics, Msunduzi was not in the forefront of co-ordinating stakeholders.
“Athletics South Africa have stated they will engage KZN Athletics as a matter of courtesy and protocol to set up an event LOC [local organising committee]. If combatted they will set up their own LOC in their absence as mandated by the presidents because this is an international event and does not need local buy-in,” she said.
Mafumbatha said the Msunduzi Athletics Stadium is the only one in the country with the International Association of Athletics Federation accreditation.
“Our stadium is one of its kind as it will put the city on the international map. We will be getting more African leagues, international events and local events.”