By Isaack Omulo
NAIROBI (Reuters) – Kenyan athletics chiefs said on Thursday they would oppose the decision by world governing body to drop the 5,000m and 10,000m from the lucrative Diamond League circuit.
Athletics Kenya (AK) president Jackson Tuwei said it was “totally unfair” to drop the two events in which African athletes have been doing very well.
Ethiopia’s long distance great Haile Gebrselassie said the decision to limit the longest event in the circuit to 3,000m will disproportionately affect Kenya and Ethiopia, two powerhouses of middle and long distance running.
The IAAF said on Monday the circuit will have a trimmer look and fewer meetings as the one-day competitions aim for a more consistent and fast moving format.
Meetings will be reduced from 14 to 12 competitions, while the number of disciplines will be cut from 32 to 24 with 12 each for men and women.
“I will raise the issue at an African Athletics Confederation (AAC) Congress in Abidjan (Ivory Coast) next month because this is totally unfair to our athletes,” Tuwei told reporters.
Barnaba Korir, chairman of AK Nairobi region and a powerful voice in the east Africa nation’s athletics administration, said track and field would lose its historical significance and financial incentives if the longer distances were dropped from the circuit.
“Historically, the longer distances were the pillar of track and field. Marathon was the pride of Olympics, and 5,000m and 10,000m races were what made track and field interesting,” the former 10,000m and road runner told Reuters.
“All the legends of track and field – from Paavo Nurmi, Haile Gebreselassie and Kenenisa Bekele, Mo Farah and Paula Radcliffe, Kip Keino, Henry Rono and Paul Tergat, Said Aouita and Hicham El Guerrouj – were 5,000m and 10,000m athletes,” he said.
“Besides, our athletes would lose significant income from the circuit if the two races are dropped. This would have a trickling effect and demoralise young athletes who admire their successful compatriots in their flashy cars and high-end property, thanks to prize money from winning longdistance races,” he said.
“They can limit the races that are broadcast live and still have the 5,000m and 10,000m on the programme,” he said.
Ethiopia Athletics federation (EAF) termed the IAAF decision “very illegitimate”.
“We Africans should shout loud to IAAF to stop the silent killing of our long distance running,” Sileshi Bisrat of EAF communications department said in a statement.
“The way forward showed that IAAF is going to remove these two events from the World Championships.”
(Editing by Amlan Chakraborty)