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Kasarani records biggest ever attendance in IAAF U18 champs

Curtains came down on the IAAF World U18 Championships in Nairobi in glorious fashion yesterday as crowds, never seen before in the competition’s 17-year history, thronged the 60,000 capacity Kasarani Stadium to witness the end of the global youth athletics spectacle.

Having started in Bydgoszcz, Poland in 1999, the IAAF World U18 Championships, initially named World Youth, will no longer be held after 206th IAAF Council Meeting last year decided to shelve it, ostensibly to improve age group competitions at continental levels.

Over 57,000 fans were on hand to witness the championships’ finals moments yesterday, with Saturday’s turn out of 53,000 having already shattered attendance records by far. The Nairobi edition exceeded expectations in many ways, leaving the IAAF and government of Kenya with lots to ponder.

Besides a stolen lens in the media centre on the penultimate day, security in and around the championships venues Kasarani and Athletes Village at Kenyatta University, was admirable. The government had a point to prove after myriads of constant participants in the championships pulled out citing security concerns in Kenya.

A temporary Administration Police (AP) camp established within the stadium ensured round the clock security with many other officers drawn from different police units deployed in and around the venues. Undercover agents from Kenya Defence Forces and National Intelligence Service (NIS) monitored going-ons around Kasarani mostly as ushers, officials or spectators.

The compartmentalised stadium ensured movement of athletes, VIP’s, media personnel and the general public went on with their business without hitches. Kenya spent over Sh4 billion in the entire championships and worked through strict deadlines to deliver the biggest global competition in the country’s history.

The blue tartan tracks installed for the championships and general renovations have left the stadium looking as good as new. Off the tracks, spectators were kept busy by entertainment from top 50 rated artistes who performed live while visitors got a glimpse of the country’s culture with Maasai market selling local products.

The event was streamed live in 106 countries around the globe as the Local Organising Committee (LOC) provided incentives to foreign and local journalists covering the championships.

The organisation and execution of the 10th and final edition in Kenya has proved it is a sleeping giant and can host any sporting event if resources are harnessed and utilised well.

“We do not want to stop here. It has been a steep learning curve for us and we have proved that we can hold such. The world can now take us seriously when we bid for bigger championships in future. Now that we have successfully staged this, we will definitely go for a bigger event,” said Sports Cabinet Secretary Hasan Wario.

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