World XC Champs is here, so is campaign against the IAAF and Africans

Submitted by Yomi Omogbeja on 27 March 2010 - 2:38pm

Here we go again, it's the time of the year isn't it. The World Cross Country Championships is here again, and as usual the campaign of calumny against the IAAF and African successes at these championships is at full flow.

The first salvo this week was from one Neil Wilson from Sports Features Communications headlined "IAAF athletics bosses hear wake-up call over looming financial crisis" and reprinted by some western news outlets.

Mr Wilson went ahead to inform us how "Jean Poczobut, the IAAF honorary treasurer, warned its council that unless it stops spending tens of millions of dollars more than its income it is facing financial ruin within four years."

Mr Wilson is of the opinion that the IAAF income earnings at $45m cannot sustain the current expenditure at $30m more.

So therefore "prize money and record bonuses at IAAF events which is at its maximum of $7.336m at its biennial world championships may be threatened but at most risk is the IAAF development programme for Africa and Asia."

Not satisfied, Mr Wilson pretended to be a journalist and went to the Daily Mail to also release an "EXCLUSIVE: 'Shock and horror' as IAAF heads for financial apocalypse" to further paint a more gloomy picture of the IAAF finances.

Now earlier this year, the same Mr Wilson canvassed for Briton Sebastian Coe to take over from Mr Lamine Diack as IAAF President when the Senegalese tenure runs out next year.

Mr Wilson wrote then that: "Coe's supporters say that their canvassing of likely support shows a majority of European countries, as well as several in Asia and Oceania, would welcome his bid...Whoever takes over the presidency after Diack will have a daunting task.

"The organisation's financial reserves are almost exhausted, the contracts of its largely Asian sponsors run out after the world championships in Korea in 2011 and its television revenue has dropped now its lucrative 10-year contract with the European Broadcasting Union has just ended."

Moot point Mr Wilson, The IAAF and it's programmes will not collapsed simply because the EBU and the BBC refused to broadcast its events. No, the IAAF marketers simply need to find new markets.

An organisation spending about 80% of its income definitely need to be financially prudent, but that does not qualify to gloom or 'financial Apocalypse' like Mr Wilson pointed out. The rest of the world and the athletics family are not as gullible as his Daily Mail readers.

If Mr Wilson reads the news, he would realise that major corporations and even nations have had to put in various austere measures at this time in the view of the world economic situation. Britain owes money, Greece is in debts, America owes the Chinese trillions of dollars.

But we can see where Mr Wilson and his backers are headed. In order to promote Sebastian Coe or any other Briton, you do not have to pull down the IAAF or rubbish the achievements of the present IAAF Board under Mr Diack.

Before, Mr Diack took over I'm sure athletes never had it this good. Infact, athletes received no financial reward at the World Championships then. Now, that athletics seems to be finding its feet again, don't be an enemy of progress.

World XC hassles

For those who do not understand the history of the World Cross Country championships, the annual cross country event has been dominated by Africans, especially Kenyans - who have won 21 of the 22 senior men's team titles since 1986.

Last year, due to pressure on the IAAF by European sponsors, who were dismayed by the dominance of the East Africans, and the so-called First World audience, the organisation announced the event will become biennial from 2011.

Infact, Tim Hutchings, an Eurosport commentator and a World Cross silver medal-winner in 1984, said "the World Cross is doomed".

According to British Athletics Writer Steven Downes, "African domination of the World Cross and a waning of interest in Europe, among spectators, TV companies, federations and sponsors, are blamed for the event's decline."

Mr Downes quoted Hutchings as saying "The world at large - not athletics fans of course - is bored stiff with seeing this ‘fast running' with none of their own guys anywhere in sight,"

He then went on to write:"But above all, critics blame the IAAF for failing to enforce stricter rules on transfers of nationality...Cross-country purists also point to the flat, track-like courses accepted by the IAAF as venues for the event - Hutchings called last year's course in Amman "a sandpit" - suggesting that the lack of more traditional courses, featuring grueling hills and mud, have helped turn the World Cross into a virtual benefit event for the Kenyans and Ethiopians."

So in essence, the IAAF is being accused by the British media of favouring African to win these events.

However, a swift reply in the Kenyan Daily Nation answered the critics and urged Kenyan athletes to take Bydgoszcz by storm.

At AthleticsAfrica, our message for the critics is this: The IAAF belongs to the whole world and it's events are universal. Instead of the Britons moaning about not winning, they should learn from the Spanish who have dug in and through hard work now compete for medals with the Africans in the Long distance and cross country races.

And Mr Wilson can campaign all he want, but the world knows the truth. And the best candidate for the IAAF Presidency after Mr Diack is the 46-year-old pole vaulter Sergey Bubka from Ukraine - a true great and a true gentleman of the sport. or don't you think the sport deserves the best?

 The 38th IAAF World Cross Country Championships holds in Bydgoszcz, Poland tommorrow.