Business at the Jomo Kenyatta International Airport (JKIA) came to a standstill yesterday morning as a section of Team Kenya touched down from the just concluded IAAF World Championships in Beijing, China, where Kenya ranked first ahead of giants USA, Jamaica, Russia and hosts China.
Deputy President William Ruto led governors Alex Logos (Elgeyo Marakwet), Cleophas Langat (Nandi), Simon Kachapin (West Pokot) and Jackson Mandago of Uasin Gishu alongside Nairobi senator Mike Sonko and his Elgeyo Marakwet counterpart Kipchumba Murkomen and more than 50 MPs in welcoming the world conquerors.
The 16 athletes who jetted in were joined by captain Ezekiel Kemboi who had returned earlier to a hero’s welcome that left Kenya’s main airport in a lockdown for more than one hour as staff, patriots and visitors clamoured to catch a glimpse of the returning icons.
Only four medalists: Kemboi (3,000m steeplechase, gold), Julius Yego (Javelin, gold), Nicholas Bett (400m hurdles, gold) and Helah Kiprop (marathon, silver) were among the 16 athletes present as the rest flew to Zurich for the upcoming IAAF Diamond League.
Awaiting Team Kenya were five limousines to ferry them to Ruto’s official residence for breakfast then to KICC where more breakfast was organised by Brand Kenya. At the airport, chaos reigned as security clashed with scores of cameramen from local and international media who jostled for a photo opportunity in the cold morning.
The convoy of more than 200 vehicles made its way to Ruto’s Karen residence leaving a huge traffic snarl-up on the busy Mombasa road. “Kenya is not only the cradle for humanity but a place where humanity gets better.
It is the only country where village boys and village girls rise to become world champions through their efforts and hard work. I want to convey on behalf of the President, our gratitude and joy for what you people have accomplished,” Ruto said before joining Kemboi in his usual victory dance.
“The President will also host all the athletes at State House just to show our appreciation for the hard work you people have done. We are more united because of your performance and that is the way to go,” he added.
A buoyant Tourism Cabinet Secretary Phylis Kandie projected an influx of visitors into the country following the win which she says has ‘reverberated Kenya across all countries of the world’. She said: “The mention of Kenya in good light will definitely attract tourists into this country. You have been the best ambassadors to Kenya for a long time and I’m happy with this latest performance which will definitely attract curious tourists in Kenya.”