For the next five days, Kenya will be under the global sporting spotlight with the hosting of the IAAF World Under-18 Championships at the spruced-up Moi International Sports Centre, Kasarani. About 2,000 athletes and officials will descend on the new, blue synthetic surface to celebrate the final edition of the age-group competition that started in 1999 in Bydgoszcz, Poland.
Since the 1987 All Africa Games, Kenya has never hosted such a major sporting event. The government and Athletics Kenya (AK) deserve credit for making available millions of shillings for the championship kitty and offering the necessary guarantees to the International Association of Athletics Federations (IAAF) to earn the event’s hosting rights.
The championships are the culmination of four years sometimes, frenzied and feverish activity preceded by a series of proposals by stakeholders and parties to the AK.
It, therefore, offers a sense of satisfaction to all stakeholders to see the action finally get underway. In the bidding and subsequent proposals, Kenya had a huge advantage given the pedigree of our athletes and their track record in international events.
The massive support track and field events enjoy in Kenya was also a plus, coupled with improved infrastructure and great bandwidth that allows for efficient communication.
The championships’ legacy was another crucial factor not to mention that Kenya today boasts among the best facilities in global athletics. The new Mondo tracks at the Kasarani stadium and Kenyatta University are exactly the springboard Kenya needs to catapult our budding athletes into professional careers.
Kasarani has been fitted with a brand new media centre that will come in handy as Kenya prepares to host the Africa Nations Championships (CHAN) next year.
The Sh600 million spent on hostel repairs at Kenyatta University is also a bonus for the institution. Besides the facilities, training of officials handling the championships will boost national championships and introduce world class standards in officiating to the country.
With Kenya’s image taking a battering after terror attacks in recent years, the IAAF championships offer a stellar public relations opportunity as Brand Kenya goes overdrive to market the country on live television coverage of the July 12-16 action.
Despite the pullouts by, among others, UK, USA, Japan, Australia, Canada and New Zealand, Kenya has succeeded in showcasing organisational acumen.
Intervention by the late Interior Cabinet secretary Joseph Nkaissery and First Lady Margaret Kenyatta fast tracked preparations. With charges as low as Sh200 per ticket and an entertainment village set up at Kasarani, fans are guaranteed value for money.