Emmanuel Motombi, President of the Cameroon Athletics Federation.
What are the measures taken by the Cameroon Athletics Federation to ensure safety during this year’s race of Hope?
This year is a bit very special because it comes barely three days after Ash Wednesday which coincidentally was Valentine’s Day. So it is a festive period till Saturday that we are going to host the race. And 2018 is a special year and we as a federation have taken all necessary measures to ensure the security of the athletes, officials and to make sure that there is calm and security in the city of Buea. Since December 9, 2017 we started our caravan with test races. We started with the Mount Manegouba Race. We had to touch eight of the ten regions with test races. The very important ones were Mount Oku, Mount Mbankolo and the Buea test races where we discovered talents and people are hoping to see the former champions emerge again. I want to differ with them because the strange faces we saw during the test races might give us a very big surprise. But what is encouraging is that this year we came up with some few innovations. The race is going to be controlled by an electronic chronometer. Also, the first athlete to any of the huts both male and female gets a consolatory prize.
Formerly, there were many athletes from abroad. Recently it has been noticed that many foreign athletes do not participate in the race. What strategies have you put in place to ensure that the race continues to attract visitors?
Well I want to be very frank with you. Since 2014 the race had taken a different dimension with the elevation of the first prize from FCFA 3 million to FCFA 10 million. For the foreign athletes it is like when we organise our event it coincides with other major events in their countries. At this moment there are so many marathons going on. For now we have eight countries that are going to be represented and an eye should be put on the Kenyans. They came this time to do it. Some might be scared of the socio-political situation in the country but I want to assure them that Buea is free and fair to host this event.
Mount Cameroon Race of Hope before had attracted sponsors for instance Guinness Cameroon. How do you intend to bring in more sponsors in future?
This is an event that is patronised by the H.E. President Paul Biya and it is not a race that can be sold to a company. We had a contract with Guinness for three years and when the contract got to an end we could not renew because at one point we realised that the contract was not a fair one between Guinness and the federation. But the State of Cameroon has always made it possible that they make available funds to run the event. And we cannot run the event just as a federation. That is why we get some companies which can come and impact their presence in Buea like Brasseries du Cameroun that is going to give us water and other small companies with games for children. For now the federation already has a very big contract with Zenith Insurance that is sponsoring our inter-club meetings. That is a stepping stone to greater achievements in future.