What next after stellar under-18 world championships?

Monday July 17 2017

First Lady Margaret Kenyatta jogs on the track with former and current Kenyan athletes prior to the opening ceremony of the 2017 IAAF World Under-18 Athletics Championships on July 12, 2017 at Moi International Sports Centre, Kasarani. PHOTO | CHRIS OMOLLO | NATIOON MEDIA GROUP

First Lady Margaret Kenyatta jogs on the track with former and current Kenyan athletes prior to the opening ceremony of the 2017 IAAF World Under-18 Athletics Championships on July 12, 2017 at Moi International Sports Centre, Kasarani. PHOTO | CHRIS OMOLLO | NATIOON MEDIA GROUP 

By ELIAS MAKORI
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Kenya proved its ability to host major sporting competitions over the last week with Sunday’s successful conclusion of the final IAAF World Under-18 Championships at the refurbished Moi International Sports Centre, Kasarani.

The final two days of competition shattered the IAAF’s attendance records with over 30,000 fans turned away in Sunday’s afternoon session after the 65,000-seater stadium filled to the brim with hardly any space to move a limb.

The IAAF’s Press Delegate for the championship, Olaf Brockman, confirmed that the above capacity 65,000 fans in Sunday’s final session was a world record for IAAF’s under-18 and under-20 competitions, and holds Kenya in good stead should Athletics Kenya put in a bid for another major championship.

Which in my opinion they ought to do. After all, IAAF President Seb Coe maintains that during his presidency, Africa will host a world championship. Athletics Kenya and the Ministry of Sports, Culture and the Arts must now sit down and scheme the next course of action which should be to put in a firm bid for a leg of the IAAF’s Diamond League series.

The 14-leg series’ only competition in Africa is the Meeting International Mohammed VI d’Athletisme in Rabat and with Nairobi having shattered the attendance record last weekend, the Kenyan capital stands a great chance of hosting a leg of the Diamond League series.

Realistically, Nairobi can earn the Diamond League hosting rights from 2019 or 2020 given the time it takes to meet IAAF’s stringent conditions. Three years down the line, in 2023, Nairobi will be ready to host the senior IAAF World Championships for which Hungarian capital Budapest is also considering putting in a bid as part of the city’s plans to host the Olympic Games.

With London hosting this year’s IAAF World Championships next month, Doha will be the hosts of the 2019 championships and Eugene’s “Track town USA” in Oregon State organising the 2021 edition.

State, corporate and Nairobi City County support for the Under-18 championships in Nairobi proved that indeed Kenya can rally the financial guarantees required to host such competitions.

Of particular interest was how event partners, the Sarova Group, flexed its legendary culinary muscle to feed over 2,000 people breakfast, lunch and dinner.

With a team of 500 caterers, including two five-star chefs, Sarova provided the catering at both Kasarani and the championships’ village at Kenyatta University. Sarova Panafric general manager, David Gachuru, heaved a huge sigh of relief when the championships drew to a close without a single incident of food-related illness.

“We invested millions in food safety and spent over Sh1 million on equipment and food hygiene,” he explained as the championships closed on Sunday evening.

“We had millions in worth of food stocks and never ran out of food as we served the athletes and officials from the 131 countries, volunteers, media and security teams,” he added.

With cases of cholera reported in Nairobi lately, Sarova went to great lengths to avoid any mishaps, including hiring four policemen to ensure every stock is guarded and kitchens properly secured, and even disinfecting the buses that ferries their kitchen staff who served approximately 100,000 meals during the five-day championships.

Kenyan journalists will agree that Kasarani put together one of the best media centres for any global athletics competitions with free wi-fi and LAN connections courtesy of Safaricom, free meals courtesy of Sarova who also operated an open bar every evening at the media centre to quench the thirst of weary scribes who also enjoyed free accommodation at the Kenya School of Monetary Studies.

I highly doubt that Sports Kenya will manage to keep the facilities at Kasarani intact, and, instead, I propose that a special team be thrown into motion to sustain the facilities and convert the Moi International Sports Centre into a profit-making facility that continuously hosts first-class events.

The media centre could, for instance, be hired for the next big event at the stadium, next month’s presidential inauguration, or even be used as a media nerve centre for the August 8 General Election.

Offices that were reconstructed in the stadium’s belly could also be leased out to accommodate all of Kenya’s sports federations and other organisations involved in sport.

This will help the stadium generate revenue that would be pumped into its maintenance and also offer subsidies to sportsmen and women preparing for major international competitions.

The government must act tough on vandals in Standard Gauge Railway fashion to prevent destruction of property. Already, Kenya’s senior athletes and coaches have started enjoying these new facilities, having moved in just yesterday to prepare for next month’s London championships.

A big thank you to Kenyans for supporting the Under-18 championships and kudos to the government, Nairobi City County and the Local Organising Committee, led by Jackson Tuwei (chairman) and Mwangi Muthee (CEO) who worked tirelessly to deliver a first-class event.

Credit must also go to the late Interior Cabinet Secretary Joseph Nkaissery who marshalled an inter-ministerial team that ensured everything was in place for the competition.

Not to forget SuperSport whose live coverage of these championships was first-class and helped showcase Kenya and a leading nation in event management and organization.

The billions who watched the global broadcasts will have lasting impressions of our beautiful nation etched in their memories.

Jittery nations like USA, Italy, New Zealand, Great Britain, Japan and others who gave the championships a wide berth due to “security fears” have missed a memorable competition.

Much to their chagrin, there was no terror attack at Kasarani or Kenyatta University during the championships.