Wednesday was a day for David Lekuta Rudisha to rub shoulders with high and mighty in the Kenyan society.
Or rather, a day for the high and mighty to rub shoulders with the world 800 metres champion and record holder.
In the morning at State House, Nairobi, Rudisha received the Kenyan flag to the Olympic Games from Head of State and Commander-in-Chief of the Armed Forces, President Mwai Kibaki.
In the evening, he was enjoying the company of Youth and Sports minister Paul Otuoma, legendary Kipchoge Keino, the ministry’s permanent secretary James Waweru and Safaricom CEO Bob Collymore during a dinner hosted by mobile telephone service provider, Safaricom, at the Moi International Sports Centre, Kasarani.
Here, the world record holder received glowing tributes from every speaker, where the minister issued an “executive order” for the celebrated runner to bring glory to Kenya.
While Kenya is most certainly assured of an Olympic defence in 800m, the same can’t be said of boxing; but trust one man to break the jinx that has seen Kenyan boxers wait, albeit in vain, for a second Olympic gold since 1988.
It is 24 years since the late Robert Napunyi Wangila became the first and only Kenyan to win an Olympic gold outside athletics with a triumph in the welterweight category, but Ben Gicharu has vowed to do the unthinkable in London.
“With the right plans by the federation and practice, we will deliver in London,” the flyweight boxer said on the sidelines of the Wednesday night bash.
“I’m sure that I will be at the Jomo Kenyatta International Airport not only to receive you but to make you millionaires by handing Sh1million to each gold that you will have bagged,” Collymore told the athletes.
Safaricom announced a Sh10 million jackpot for the Olympics team, which will include cash prizes for medal winners.
In the scheme, gold medalists will take home Sh1million, Sh600,000 is up for silver medalists, while bronze winners will take home Sh300,000.
Further, any team that registers a clean sweep of gold, silver and bronze at the podium in the Olympics will receive an additional Sh1 million each, making it the most attractive jackpot in Kenya’s history.
The company also presented each member of the team with a Samsung Galaxy Pocket and airtime worth Sh10,000 each, as they prepare to leave the country for the pre-Olympics training camp in the UK.
During the 2008 Beijing Olympics, the Kenyan team posted an impressive performance bringing home 14 medals including six gold and the first ever marathon gold, courtesy the late Samuel Wanjiru.
“Looking at the names and records of some the athletes representing Kenya in London such as David Rudisha, Vivian Cheruiyot, Mary Kaittany, Pamela Jelimo and Jason Dunford, one gets the sense that we are sending, easily one of our strongest squads and I therefore believe that the London Olympics will be the best event for Kenya yet,” Collymore added.