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Nairobi hoping for inclusion in new global Continental Tour

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By ELIAS MAKORI
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Kenya was Saturday night waiting to see if Nairobi would be included in the freshly-launched World Athletics Continental Tour, a second-tier series of global track and field meetings that lie a rung below the prestigious Diamond League.

World Athletics chief executive Jon Ridgeon named Tokyo (Japan), Nanjing (China), Ostrava (Czech Republic), Hengelo (Netherlands), Turku (Finland), Kingston (Jamaica), Szekesfehervar (Hungary), Silesia (Poland) and Zagreb (Croatia) as the cities to host the inaugural Continental Tour next year.

The announcement came amid concerns over the withdrawal of the 3,000 metres steeplechase and 5,000 metres as core disciplines in the Diamond League series.

World Athletics explained that, with the growing need for a “fast-paced” track and field television diet, distance races were struck off the menu.

Subsequently, these events would now be served in the new Continental Tour whose core disciplines for 2020 are 200 metres, steeplechase, triple jump, discus and hammer throws.

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The dates confirmed for the inaugural Tour are Tokyo (May 10), Nanjing (May 13), Ostrava (May 22), Hengelo (June 1), Turku (June 9), Kingston (June 13), Szekesfehervar (July 7), Silesia (September 6) and Zagreb (September 15).

Sports Principal Secretary Kirimi Kaberia, who is in Monaco along with Cabinet Secretary Amina Mohamed, said Kenya had shown interest in hosting a leg of the tour in Nairobi and that they were targeting a date in May, just before the Tokyo meet.

Ridgeon said discussions are still underway for the 10th meeting and appreciated Nairobi’s pedigree as a track and field meeting host.

But the jury is still out.

“The core of the content of the Continental Tour is for every continent to be included. Nine of the 10 events have been announced… there’s a possibility that the 10th event will be in Africa, and if not in 2020, we will make sure we get there in 2021,” Ridgeon, a former World Championships medal-winning hurdler, explained.

“With time, we want to build a tour that has critical mass of meetings in each of the continents around the world.

The World Athletics CEO noted that there may be more events in European cities for the 2020 tour, but it’s just a starting point for the new series that would eventually be circulated worldwide.

He added that the world was also looking forward to Nairobi hosting the World Under-20 Championships next July.

“We are very much looking forward to being in Nairobi next year for the world junior (under-20) championships and I think the city will stage a magnificent championships.”

The prize money pool for the Continental Tour will be $200,000 (Sh20 million) and will be eight deep with event winners at each meeting pocketing $6,000 (Sh600,000) and eighth placed athletes getting $800 (Sh80,000).

Besides the prize money, athletes will rake in world ranking points with wild cards being given out to top performers for the World Championships.

Ridgeon, who was accompanied at the press briefing at Monaco’s Le Meridien Hotel by Alfonz Juck from the Ostrava meeting and World Athletics Director of Communications Jackie Brock-Doyle, also announced that while the Continental Tour will be a “Gold” label series, there will also be other meetings in the “Silver” and “Bronze” categories.

“It (Continental Tour) is important for the future health of the sport, the athletes and meetings,” Ridgeon said.

“The idea behind the World Athletics Continental Tour is to give a home to all of the world’s top meetings that sit outside the Diamond League.”

Meanwhile, at its Council Meeting sessions, World Athletics also named Serbian capital Belgrade as hosts of the 2022 World Indoor Championships while the Chinese city of Yangzhou was picked to organise the World Half Marathon Championships in 2022.

The World Athletics Council also suspended the process of the reinstatement of the Russian Athletics Federation “pending the resolution of the recent charges brought by the Athletics Integrity Unit.”
Russia were suspended for massive flaws in anti-doping procedures.





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