Kenyans on Saturday thronged the Moi International Sports Centre, Kasarani to cheer competing teams at the IAAF World Under-18 Championships in Athletics.
Saturday’s turnout was by far the most impressive turnout by the home fans since the competition began on Wednesday.
Initial estimates from organisers indicated that close to 50,000 fans turned up at the 60,000-seater stadium, a record for the IAAF World Under-18 competition.
President Uhuru Kenyatta directed that fans be allowed to access the venue for free when he opened the competition on Wednesday evening and Saturday’s huge turnout shows Kenyans heeded the President’s call to attend and cheer the young athletes to victory. The deputy president William Ruto was also at Kasarani on Saturday.
Even IAAF officials were impressed with the numbers at the last edition of the competition and expect many more in Sunday’s final day of action. Half of the stadium was filled by 4pm just before the afternoon programme started and by 6pm, there were very few empty seats.
On Twitter, campaigns to get Kenyans to attend the competition were trending for the better part of day under the hashtags #jazakasaa and #wu18nairobi2017.
“I hope the stadium will be full tomorrow (Saturday) so that we can show the world that we as Kenyans love sports and stand with all teams,” said an official of the LOC.
Outside the stadium lies the village which serves athletes and enthusiasts alike with a chance to take a break from the adrenaline on the main arena.
Music blaring from two main stands continues drawing the attention of many fans who have responded by turning up to explore what’s on offer but business is yet to reach its peak. The curio shop is the main attraction, especially for visiting teams with many Africa-themed materials on display, ranging from pieces of clothing to accessories and souvenirs.
Inside the stadium, fans have thrown their weight behind both Kenyan athletes and foreign competitors.
A good example is in the high jump final where South Africa’s Breton Poole posted impressive results due to support he got from the crowd.
He won the event after jumping 2.24 metres which is a World Under-18 leading time ahead of German's Chima Ihenetu who jumped 2.14m. Vladyslav Lavskyy from Ukraine came in third with a jump of 2.11 personal best.
Speaking after winning the event, Poole said that he was very happy about the Kenyan fans that cheered him very much despite the fact he was not a Kenyan.
“Kenyan fans are so nice. They gave me hope to do better although I was competing with other taller boys. I feel good to have set two personal best times here. It’s a good championship and this is the way it should be,” he told Nation Sport.
Despite a wide gap during the break after the first event, the fans decided to hang around waiting for the evening session which started at 4.30pm.
Samuel Kipruto, who hails from Iten, Elgeyo Marakwet County, said that he wanted to come personally and witness the event since it’s the first in the country and having lived with many athletes, he wanted to see the real action.
“We had to come with my friends and witness the history since it’s the first time this event is being held here in Kenya. I’m happy the stadium today is full and this should now be the way to go,” said Kipruto.
Joshua Kemboi said that he came with his family to cheer the young athletes who are tomorrow's world beaters.
“I’m here today with my family and we just wanted to see the real thing from the stadium. We normally see the events on television and I just wanted to be part of the history here,” said Kemboi.
The traditional dancers kept on singing the patriotic songs in praise of the country and athletes who were participating from the country.