The government and Athletics Kenya have promised to organise a memorable event when Kenya hosts the first leg of the World Athletics (WA) Continental Tour on May 2 at Moi International Sports Centre, Kasarani.
Sports Cabinet Secretary Amina Mohammed on Friday said it took a spirited campaign from the government to bring the event to Kenya.
The efforts culminated in an announcement by the World Athletics on Friday that Nairobi will host the first meeting of the inaugural Continental Tour. Kenya beat Pretoria and Oregon which were also bidding to host the event.
Amina explained that Kenya started campaigning for hosting rights of the championship after she engaged World Athletics president Sebastian Coe during the World Championships in Doha in August, and at a meeting at World Athletics headquarters in Monaco in November.
The Continental Tour, a series of the world's best one-day meetings outside the Diamond League, will start on May 2 in Nairobi and conclude on September 15 in Zagreb, Croatia.
Kenya will stage one of the 10 events in the Tour that came about after the Diamond League struck off mostly long distance races from its 90-minute live broadcast window. The affected races are 5,000 metres, 10,000m and 3,000m steeplechase.
The Continental Tour will be divided into three levels – Gold, Silver and Bronze – whose status will be determined by the quality of competition and prize money on offer. Nairobi will host a gold label event.
Amina noted that Kenya’s campaign to host the meeting was also informed by a decision of the organisers of the Diamond League to strike off long distance races dominated by athletes from East Africa from Diamond League’s prime time.
“We wrote a protest letter to World Athletics indicating how our athletes and athletics community were aggrieved since they, too, provided entertainment during the races,” said Amina. “We went to Doha and Monaco to push our case and at the same time lobby to host the Tour.”
Besides hosting the Tour, Kenya has a busy sporting year, the country also due to host the World Under-20 Championships and World Rally Championship in July. Kenya will also send a strong team to the 2020 Olympics in Tokyo the same month.
“I can assure Kenyans that we shall deliver a masterclass event during the Tour. The success of this event will be a launching pad to many more other events and we need to keep our facilities in good condition,” said Amina. Kenya is also bidding to host the 2025 World Championships in Athletics.
Amina thanked World Athletics officials for their vote of confidence on Kenya as a preferred destination for athletics, especially after Nairobi staged a hugely successful World Under-18 Championships in 2017.
AK president Jackson Tuwei said good performance by Kenyan athletes globally helped the country to win hosting rights of the championship.
“I commend CS Amina for not only supporting our bid but also for going to Monaco to discuss the matter with World Athletics,” said Tuwei, adding that hosting the championship will be a historic moment for Kenya as the country hosts its first senior track event.
“It is a proud moment for our athletes. We wouldn’t have the respect we have now if it were not for our athletes’ achievements.”
Tuwei said Athletics Kenya shall work hard to make sure the event succeeds, adding that his team will address the media next week to reveal their plan for the World Tour event.
World Athletics president Sebastian Coe said the impetus for creating the Continental Tour was to provide more competition and earning opportunities for more athletes.
“Between the Wanda Diamond League and the Continental Tour all disciplines will be catered for and many more athletes will have access to top-class competition,’’ he said.
For the 2020 season's core disciplines - the 200m, 3000m steeplechase, triple jump, discus throw and hammer throw for both men and women - the ranking points will be allotted at the same level as the Diamond League.
Wild card entry to the 2021 World Championships will also be on offer for the best athletes in the core disciplines.
A total prize money of at least Sh21 million ($200,000) will be offered for each Gold meeting as well as significant World Ranking points.