'Can you turn on the runway lights, please?' The pilot is approaching this densely forested tropical island off-shore capital with about five minutes of fading daylight remaining and cloud visibility down to 1,000 feet vertical. The pencil-thin strip of tarmac is barely visible in the gloom; a mountain lies to the left, and there is no radar aid. 'I'm sorry,' Malibo control says, 'we don't have lights.' Malibo has little of anything. The touchdown is a minor triumph.
The very walls of Malibo are rotting. The port crumbles. The rain and overbearing humidity produce external mould on most buildings. There is an aura of decay, a poverty right up to governmental level I have seen nowhere other than in central America. Broken French windows in one of the main hotels remain unrepaired, the curtains flapping in the rain. The corrugated iron roof of one gymnasium leaks.
After three centuries of former Portuguese and Spanish rule, despair now reigns. A national road race in the early morning cool is due to end in the main square at 7.30. At 7.20 the only spectators there are a handful of wives of a Soviet delegation huddled under umbrellas. The two-handed wave of acclaim by the winner, Diosdado Lozano - who ran in the 1,500 metres in Los Angeles two months after Equatorial Guinea's Olympic Committee was registered, funded by an IOC subsidy - was witnessed by a crowd of 15, including officials. It earned him a docket from the NOC for new shoes and a tracksuit. Sad, stoic Fernando Po needs more than new shoes. Copyright (C) The Times, 1985