Today, the sports world celebrates the Olympic Day with various activities lined up locally and globally, even as Covid-19 continues to bite.
Traditionally celebrated by a run, this year’s Olympic Day will be quite different with the global lockdown slowly easing, but not making it safe enough to engage in physically interactive sport.
That’s why the International Olympic Committee (IOC) has conjured up a digital workout incorporating 23 global sporting stars.
In Kenya, our celebrated Olympians - Faith Chepng’etich Kipyegon, who is the Olympic 1,500 metres champion, and Humphrey Kayange, the man who helped lobby sevens rugby to get into the five rings’ family – will lead the virtual workouts from 11am.
The National Olympic Committee of Kenya (NOC-K) explains that the 23 Olympic athletes will take part in the live Olympic day workout video which will be streamed live on the IOC Instagram account @olympics from 11am (Kenyan time).
“This will be largest 24-hour digital Olympic workout, escalating the efforts of over 5,000 Olympians who have engaged over 243 million people online across 50 countries through the #staystrong, #stayactive, #stayhealthy campaign,” NOC-K says.
Besides the Chepng’etich and Kayange-led virtual workouts, NOC-K, through its “Sports for All” commission led by Shoaib Vayani, will also reward contestants who entered art and essay writing competitions in the build-up to today’s celebrations, under the theme “My Olympic Dream.”
These are youths aged 13 and below (for the arts competition) and 14 to 18 for essay writing, with shopping vouchers and educational material up for grabs by the top contestants.
Also, NOC-K has launched a campaign to promote a running culture that’s already growing in Kenya with many enthusiasts staying focused during these coronavirus days with addictive morning and evening runs.
Between now and close of business on July 5, serial amateur runners and upstarts alike are required to challenge themselves over various distances, from five kilometres to the half marathon (21 kilometres), and log in the times recorded on their sports watches to NOC-K’s Twitter handle and Facebook page (@OlympicsKe and NOCK-Olympics Kenya).
Top performers will receive Olympic certificates.
Besides celebrating the Olympic Day, this drive will encourage healthy, active living in Kenya.
The Olympic movement has been integral in promoting friendly relations between competitive individuals and nations of supporters, camaraderie that culminates, once every four years, in the Summer and Winter Olympic Games, with the latest kid on the block being the Youth Olympics.
Sadly, the Tokyo Olympics, initially scheduled for July 24 to August 5 this year, have been pushed to the same time next year, owing to global effects of the coronavirus pandemic.
Nonetheless, when they finally, hopefully, hold next year, the Tokyo Olympics will be a major celebration of man’s triumph over adversity.
It will indeed be a moment that Baron Pierre de Coubertin (1863-1937), founder of the modern Olympics, will be proud of.
In his message ahead of today’s Olympic Day, International Olympic Committee (IOC) President Thomas Bach emphasized the need to embrace the Olympic values of excellence, friendship, responsibility and solidarity.
And this transcends the sporting arena into our everyday life, including caring for the vulnerable.
Like what Olympic marathon champion Eliud Kipchoge has been doing lately, getting out of his busy training programme to help the needy reeling from the coronavirus’ effects.
Kipchoge has so far given food and other essentials to over 500 people in the last few weeks, his Eliud Kipchoge Foundation leading a spirited drive to bail out the vulnerable.
That’s the hallmark of a true Olympian!
It’s good to see the Ministry of Sport and other sportspeople join in similar efforts across the country, proving that there’s more to sport than simply competition.
A while back, on a visit to the Kip Keino Primary School in Uasin Gishu County, I was impressed to see pupils in special classes learning about the Olympic movement, complete with studies on Paron Pierre de Coubetin’s life and philosophy.
Such training inculcates a sense of discipline in the young citizens, helping them grow into responsible adults who embrace the Olympic mantra of values, achievement and excellence.
How I wish to see the partnership between the Anti-Doping Agency of Kenya and the Kenya Institute of Curriculum Development yield a curriculum on anti-doping education so that our children also grow up appreciating that it’s about training hard and winning easy, rather than cheating to earn a quick, ill-gotten buck.
Such education, anchored on Olympic values, will also help our fight against banned performance-enhancing substances.
Meanwhile, as we enjoy the Olympic Day today, I pay tribute to NOC-K for changing the way the Olympic movement is managed in Kenya through their all-inclusive, open door policy.
Slowly, but surely, the NOC-K executives - led by the legend himself, Paul Tergat, along with the indefatigable Secretary-General Francis Mutuku – have worked overdrive to steer the Olympic movement in the right direction.
Once infamous and notorious for financial impropriety and frequent loss of athletes’ Olympic kit, NOC-K has risen from the ashes to become one of the world’s most enviable national Olympic committees.
We salute these impeccable strides today as we join NOC-K and the global Olympic movement in embracing healthy and active lifestyles while focusing on the Olympic motto of Citius, Altius, Fortius (Faster, Higher, Stronger).
I may not be as athletic as Tergat, but I will certainly put in a few kilometres today, never mind the time clocked…. it’s all in the Olympic spirit.
Happy Olympic Day, everyone!
Makori is the Editor – Sports at Nation Media Group. [email protected]