African champs to go ahead despite South Africa hosting ban

JOHANNESBURG (AP) The African track and field championships will go ahead in South Africa in June because they were awarded before a government ban on hosting major events came into force, the national athletics federation said on Friday.

Athletics South Africa President Aleck Skhosana met with sports ministry officials this week and the government gave its ''full backing'' to the championships, ASA said.

The African championships will be held in the east coast city of Durban from June 22-26. They come two months before the Rio de Janeiro Olympics.

South African Sports Minister Fikile Mbalula announced on Monday he was revoking the privileges of four of the country's top sports federations to bid for or host major events, because they hadn't kept agreements they made to create more opportunities for black athletes.

Athletics, rugby, cricket, and netball were all sanctioned by Mbalula in a move that took them by surprise. The bans are likely to be in place until at least the end of this year, complicating South Africa's intention to bid for the 2023 Rugby World Cup.

However, ASA said the African athletics championships had already been awarded to South Africa, planning for the event was well-advanced, and it won't be affected by Mbalula's decision.

ASA also said it acknowledged its ''shortfalls'' with regard to the agreement it signed with the government in 2015 to make athletics more accessible to all races.

Some of South Africa's most popular sports - especially rugby and cricket - still struggle with the legacy left by apartheid, where whites were favored and blacks weren't allowed to compete at the top level.

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