It’s rather unusual to have the permanent secretary in the Ministry of Planning, Edward Sambili, addressing a media conference on the eve of the Olympic Games.
It may also appear a bit weird and out of place to see the director of the Institute of Primate Research at the National Museums of Kenya, Thomas Kariuki, showing up at the Olympic Park to talk about fossils.
Many have been left wondering, also, what the chief executive officer of Kenya Commercial Bank, Martin Oduor, would be doing on the sidelines of the world’s greatest sporting spectacle, flanked by Information and Communication PS Bitange Ndemo, whose closest encounter with sport was his spectacular finish in the half marathon race at last month’s Lewa Marathon.
Well, the game has changed and Kenya’s top private and public sector officials are, finally, embracing sport as the vehicle that could help wheel the country into a middle income economy in the next 20 years.
And there could be no better place to launch this aggressive assault than the stage where Kenya is best known, sports.
President Mwai Kibaki has led a huge delegation to London to cash in on Kenya’s sporting prowess to inject economic impetus, a mission that will mean added pressure to perform on the athletes.
“This is the first time that we are seeing the Head of State at the Olympics and I would like to thank President Kibaki for the support he has given the team,” National Olympic Committee of Kenya (Nock) vice-chairman David Okeyo said on Friday.
“And with Prime Minister Raila Odinga coming for the closing ceremony, the morale in camp is quite high as the athletes can now see that the entire government is behind them.”
Ndemo is of the view that game applications with Kenyan characters should be on Kenya’s sights as a way of celebrating the success of the country’s sportsmen and women.
He added that the presence of high-profile government officials, led by President Kibaki, is testimony to the fact that Kenya’s sporting muscle has full government support.
“We all see our kids playing with Nintendo and PlayStation games that has foreign characters... it’s about time we had applications with Kenya’s stars to celebrate their achievements,” he observed as top government officials prepared to follow the opening ceremony at the Olympic Stadium.
Boxers Benson Gicharu (flyweight) and Elizabeth Andiege (middleweight) will be the first Kenyans in action on Monday when they come up against Egypt’s Abdelaal Ashan and Marina Bolnova of Kazakhstan respectively.
On Wednesday, Mercy Obiero follows suit in the 66kg weightlifting category of the snatch and clean-and-jerk competition before Dunford brothers Jason and David take to the pool on Thursday. Jason is expected to make the final of the 50 metres butterfly on Friday evening.
The track and field programme only starts on August 3 with the women’s 10,000m final and women’s marathon expected to deliver Kenya’s first gold medals – that is, assuming that Jason Dunford doesn’t strike gold next Friday.