Despite the initial hiccups and mixed messages portrayed in the media last week, the constitution of members for the Local Organising Committee (LOC) of the International Association of Athletics Federations (IAAF) Grand Prix meet in Abuja has finally been sorted and the feuding parties resolved to work together.
The emergence of Lagos State government as sponsor of the event gave a definitive thrust to the event as members of the LOC yesterday at a press briefing disclosed that over 213 athletes are expected at the May 5, 2009 meet scheduled for the Nigerian capital.
Chairman of the LOC, Engr. Adeyemi Wilson, said the state government aimed to use the competition to promote the development of athletics in Nigeria.
He said that the "competition will showcase international athletes of high repute to Nigerians youths and we believe that such personalities' presence will galvanise our youths into taking to sports, apart from putting Nigeria in the world athletics map.
Secretary of the Athletics Federation of Nigeria (AFN), Maria Worphil told journalists at the Teslim Balogun media event that the LOC have been negotiating with the agents of the elite athletes expected at the meet, adding that they are still hopeful the Olympic sprint champion and World recold-holder, Usain Bolt will turn up.
The organisers are expecting about 144 male and 59 women athletes to feature in the Grand Prix meet, a new addition to the IAAF calendar, which was previously a Confederation of African Athletics (CAA) Permit meet.
Worphil said: "Athletes from about 35 countries will be in Abuja for the event, which will feature 100m, 200m, 400m, 800m, 110m hurdles, 800 and 5000m races for men.
"There will also be competition in the javelin, triple jump, and the relays for men among other events.
"The women will compete in the 100, 200, 400, 1500 metres races, and also in 100 metres hurdles, javelin, triple jump, high jump and the relays, among other events."
"We plan to use competitions in the relays to correct some of the lapses that have been working against Nigeria in international competitions. We all still remember what happened at the Olympics where we failed in the 100 metres relay men because faults with our baton exchange," she added.
Members of the LOC include former Nigerian Track and Field stars, Mary Onyali, Gabriel Okon, Henry Amike, Yusuf Alli and Falilat Ogunkoya.