Nyandarua is among counties that did not have a standard stadium by the time Kenya embraced devolution in 2013.
Interestingly, it is a county that has nurtured multiple global athletics champions.
These include John Ngugi, who won five World Cross Country Championships titles and a 5,000 metres gold at the 1988 Olympics Games in Seoul.
Others are Julius Kariuki, steeplechase gold medallist at the Seoul Olympics, the late Samuel Wanjiru, who won Kenya’s first Olympic marathon gold medal at the 2008 Games in Beijing, and Japan-based Eric Wainaina, silver and bronze medallist in marathon in two World Championships outings.
Ruth Waithera, Kenya’s first woman to reach an Olympic final, also comes from Nyandarua.
But all these athletes had to shift to Nyahururu to achieve their professional goals as Nyandarua lacks suitable training venues.
And six years into devolution, athletes from Nyandarua are still migrating to Nyahururu to access a standard stadium.
Currently, internationals Bedan Karoki, who recently won the Buenos Aires Half Marathon title, and the fast-rising long distance runner Stanley Waithaka train in Nyahururu.
But all is not lost as the Nyandarua County government has taken steps to put up a standard stadium at Ol Kalou. The county’s Youth, Sports and the Arts executive, Dominic Murani, says the county will have a modern stadium with a capacity to hold about 30,000 people by December, 2021.
The work on the Ol Kalou Stadium started in 2016 but was stopped briefly due the change of guard at the Governor’s office in 2017.
Governor Francis Kimemia refused to take over ongoing projects initiated by the man he defeated, Daniel Waithaka “until an audit was done.”
The work has resumed in earnest, and Murani promised that by end of this year, the VIP dais and perimeter wall will be complete.
County government’s flagship project
“By December of this year, the stadium will be useable before we embark on the phase of terraces,” the executive said, adding that the stadium is one of the county government’s flagship projects and has been allocated Sh50 million in the 2019/20 financial year.
“Slightly above Sh30 million is for building the VIP dais, Sh8 million for the wall and landscaping and Sh9 million for first phase of terracing,” Murani said.
“For several years, we have used the most undeveloped places to prepare for major competitions,” Japan-based long distance runner Lawrence Ngure says.
Ngure is the only Nyandarua runner who refused to shift his base from Ol Kalou to Nyahururu. He hails from Gataarwa village, not far from Ol Kalou town. Ngure, who was training at the stadium when Nation Sport visited, said Nyandarua has many athletes but people associate them with Nyahururu because that is where they get standard track.
He said when completed, the Ol Kalou Stadium will be one of the best high altitude training venues for runners from the county.
“I have always trained here and I always beat those who train in Nyahururu when we meet in competitions in Japan,” he said, adding that there are about 10 athletes from Ol Kalou who are based in Japan.
But the initial work on the stadium was not satisfactory and Murani said drainage system has to be done to end flooding on the playing field.
“In the budget of 2019/20 we are going to do drainage systems for the stadium because you realise we have been having problems of water logging because whoever did the initial work did not do proper drainage,” Murani said.
The executive said the grass on the playing field is not the proper type and the county will be planting grass that is meant for playing pitch. He said the playing field has to be levelled again.
“After that we are going to have automated pop-up sprinklers and irrigation system for the pitch,” he said.