On October 29, 2017, the city of Douala, Cameroon’s economic capital, returns to the international marathon. She will return to this event after nearly four decades. The competition named “International City Sport-Asics Marathon” will feature the participation of 500 athletes. It will run on 42.195 Kilometers. Its organizers want to make it a benchmark race in the subregions of Central and West Africa. Angel Aimé Sama Douala, the vice-president of the organizing committee and former boss of the Cameroon Athletics Federation, unveils the contours of the event.
You have been a little discreet in recent years. You reappear during the preparations for the international marathon scheduled for October 29 in Douala. What brings you to get involved in organizing this event?
From the outset I would like to say that I have not disappeared. But I was there in a less visible way since I am president of the departmental league of Mfoundi. So in the meantime I organized competitions in Yaoundé including new concepts like “the street is my track” that will make a detection of young talents. I find myself at the international marathon Douala simply because Tara Sports and Events is a company that promotes the sport, organizes sports events and can also track, manage and promote the career of athletes, has asked for my expertise in this marathon. That’s how I find myself at the heart of the organization.
Why organize an international marathon in Douala and not elsewhere in Cameroon?
Simply because Douala is the port. Geography makes it easier to organize the marathon because these types of events are not done where there are many hills. So Yaoundé could not be a good place. Rather for semi-marathons. There is also the question of proximity? The city of Garoua also has a flat relief but is remote. The international marathon is organized because it has been almost 40 years since we did not have a marathon worthy of the name in the city of Douala and in Cameroon itself. This marathon comes back to set the record straight. It is with this in mind that the athletics federation has been looking for partners for years to organize this type of event: restoring the marathon in Cameroon. In Gabon, Senegal, Equatorial Guinea, Congo-Brazzaville there is a marathon why Cameroon, which is a country of sport, would not return to this tradition of marathon which is also a very good asset not only sporting but also economic, tourism and an instrument of communion between the people of Cameroon.
What guarantees us that this time this marathon will not run out of steam again?
The ambition of Tara Sports to prevail in the Cameroonian sports landscape, as being a company that values sports activities, sports competitions, sports federations and even sports. You have seen the “naming”, the City sport partner who is already in several sports events in Cameroon adds to his wallet this marathon which has already started to make other contenders who would like to be in the future a partner for the organization of the marathon.
What is the professional impact for Cameroonian athletes who are not used to rubbing against each other?
From a professional point of view it’s already really rubbing against others. The preparation will be more serious. We noticed that all the marathons, the semi-marathons, what is called here cross Cameroonian-Cameroon. We meet each other and we know who will win who will not win. We provide less effort. From the moment when there are foreigners who arrive on our soil, you have to win. So we’re going to work harder to win. All 300 to 400 riders we have will have to mobilize to be sure not to disappoint not only the public but also to improve their performance. From a sporting point of view and also from the point of view of the animation of the activities of the Cameroonian Federation of Athletics this is an activity in addition that we have except the Race of Hope and the national championship which one organizes or meetings.
Technically what will the next Douala marathon look like?
From an organizational point of view, we have subcommittees in each area. Public safety, health, accommodation and logistics. Must we be able to mark the roads? This competition is open. We will have the sense of the roads that will be reserved for the passage of the race, baffles that came to serve as markup so that athletes are not slaloming between motorcycle taxis,bicycles and taxis. It must be a real celebration, a true communion between professionals, amateurs and “nothing at all”, runners, Sunday athletes who will come to have fun and with the spirit of harmony and relaxation. Try to compete and say, “I was there”, “I participated”. There will be musicians, comedians who will be invited to decorate this festive atmosphere we will have all along the 42 kilometers. Tell us about the international participation. Who will come ? Will there be big names? This is only the first edition and you know that the big names come when the competition is sitting. When I started the Yaounde Elise Azar International meeting (YELAIM) I did not have the “class one of competitors”. At the end of the third edition, I saw all the residents of the Dakar International Athletics Center and the Americans arrive. Italians, Germans! In a global way. Foreigners, Italians, Germans, have registered online. We will know the exact number later. The living legend of the ascent of Mount Cameroon Sarah Liengu Etonge will be there. What will be his role? It’s an icon. She has won the Race of Hope seven times. Its age makes it possible to give credibility not only to the event, to tell everyone that one can participate at all ages. There is no age requirement, weight conditions. She is there to encourage, tell people; “I could do it, I’m here.” It remains essential in this kind of event. She signed a three-year contract with Tara sports ventures. Pierre Arnaud Ntchapda