Athletics stars set for Durban conference

2014-10-02 00:00

SOME of the world’s best athletes will descend on Durban next month for the inaugural Global Athletics Conference.

At the launch held at the Oyster Box Hotel in Umhlanga yesterday, interested parties and officials from the South African sporting world gained some insight into why the conference is being held. “South Africa was once a sporting mecca, where rugby, soccer, athletics and boxing were world class. If that is the case, where did we go wrong and how can we turn it around?” said KZN Athletics president Sello Mokoena.

That is, in essence, what the conference aims to address. Some of the most prominent sportsmen are being developed in Africa, despite having incomparable facilities to Europe and America, and the question is what needs to be done to further this development.

There are a number of high-profile athletes who will be providing insight during the two-day conference. Most prominent of these will be marathon runner Dennis Kimetto, who broke the world record last weekend in Berlin.

None other than Ato Boldon, a four-time Olympic medallist and famous American sprinter, will be the master of ceremonies. He spoke to the press conference via Skype about the importance of such an event.

“After seeing South Africa host the World Cup, I think it won’t be long before it hosts the Olympics. I think it is vital to have a programme in South Africa to develop and help the sport grow,” he said.

KZN Athletics vice-president Lee-Roy Newton said the conference will focus on three key aspects; commercialisation, innovation and performance in the sport. Of the three, the first is of vital importance to help athletics grow in Africa.

“We saw over 40 000 spectators at the Berlin Marathon this weekend paying R500 a ticket. It is an exciting prospect for sponsors to use such a platform,” he said.

Newton wants athletics to become a viable avenue for youngsters, as rugby, cricket and soccer are in the country. “The type of message we want to send out at this conference is that people can be successful through athletics. More than that, we want to develop corporate confidence,” he said. The Global Athletics Conference is on October 14 and October 15.

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