A sigh of relief reigns amongst top athletes who have been decrying the closure of the Setsoto National Stadium after the country’s only multi-purpose stadium was partially opened this week.
The athletes were not happy with the government’s support as they had nowhere to train and prepare for upcoming international competitions. Athletics is one of the well-placed sporting codes to represent in the country in the Commonwealth Games and the Olympic Games set for 2024.
One of Lesotho’s top athletes Khoarahlana Seutloali, told Newsday Sport on Wednesday that since the beginning of the week, they have been granted access into the stadium.
“From Monday this week the stadium has been open for us and we could not be happier because that has been our cry for a long time since the beginning of the year.
“Although it was delayed because we thought it would have been opened much earlier considering that the AUSC Games ended in December 2021 but we are only being granted access four months later,” Seutloali said.
The athlete said that the opening of the stadium is welcomed by all athletes saying this will give them time and opportunity to prepare.
“I am happy and so are the other athletes because now we can start preparing for our respective competitions. Most of us have competitions that are near and we have to use this time that is remaining to ready ourselves.
“If we are only starting now in April, it means we only have two months to train, which is not enough, but we are determined to push hard. But it is going to be challenging because an athlete works according to a programme,” he said.
The 2022 Commonwealth Games will be hosted in Birmingham, England from 28 July to 8 August this year.
Since the 2020 African Union Sports Council (AUSC) Region 5 Games which took place in December 2021, the stadium was in the hands of the tournament Local Organising Committee (LOC) up until last month when the LOC handed it over to the Ministry of Gender and Youth, Sports and Recreation.
In a recent press briefing where Seutloali, ‘Neheng Khatala-Seutloali and Litšitso Khotlele were being handed being awarded with cheques for their impressive showing during the Tokyo Olympic Games, the LOC Chief Executive Officer (CEO), Morake Raleaka who is also the Lesotho National Olympic Committee (LNOC) CEO told media that the stadium was immediately opened after the hand-over to the ministry.
“Immediately after we handed over the stadium, we rushed to request that the stadium be opened for athletes to use especially the ones who are preparing for Commonwealth Games and that is the case as the athletes are already getting access to the stadium,” Raleaka had said then.
However, a different state of affairs came to the fore as sports minister Likeleli Tampane was quick to jump-in calling Raleaka out for the untruth, saying Seutloali had just told her that the stadium was still closed.
“I am sitting here with Mr Khoarahlana and just asked him if he has indeed started training and he said to me there is no such thing, so I am asking that we clarify that part,” Tampane said.
Federation of Lesotho Athletics (FAL) President Tšeliso Pheta had come to the rescue saying the stadium management had asked that FAL resubmit a new list of athletes to use the stadium hence the “delay” in the actual granting of permission to use the facility.
“Allow me to explain that it was only last week when I was made aware that there were a lot of people coming to the stadium and that for proper management we submit a new list,” Pheta said.