North and South Rift regions in Kenya are known for producing top athletes in the world but little has been done to help the world-beaters pursue their dreams in terms of facilities.
For example, North Rift is home to former world marathon record holder Wilson Kipsang, former, World Under-20 10,000 metres champion Rhonex Kipruto, London Marathon champion Mary Keitany, two-time world marathon champion Edna Kiplagat, among others.
We embarked on a five-day journey to assess the state of stadiums managed by Sports Kenya, and those built and run by county governments. Nation Sport visited nine stadiums. When the Jubilee government took power in 2013, it promised Kenyans five modern stadiums across the country to help nurture talent, and to host local and international championships.
In its 2017 manifesto, Jubilee government pledged to finalise construction of three new stadia in Nairobi, Mombasa and Eldoret along with the Kenya Academy of Sports.
The government also promised to upgrade regional stadiums in Kiambu, Makueni, Elgeyo Marakwet, Marsabit, Nyeri and Chuka. Very little has been done to build these new stadiums or to renovate existing ones.
Kamariny Stadium is a case in point. Located two kilometers from Iten town in Elgeyo Marakwet County, anyone entering the stadium is welcomed by a broken gate, open electricity cables and a heap of soil left behind by the contractor.
The running track had been graded but weeds are now taking over even as athletes strive to use clear patches for speed work. Three small children on school holiday ask us if we are the ones constructing the stadium and why its is taking us so long.
“When will you finish building the stadium? It has stayed this way for a very long time. We hope you have come to finish the work because we want to use the facility too,” young Allan Kimutai asks us. We explain to them our mission and they join us in touring the facility which athletes have started using in spite of the open trenches left behind by the contractor. On the stadium’s Eastern Wing are 2,000-seater terraces built by the county government before contract for refurbishment of the facility was awarded.
According to Elgeyo Marakwet County Governor Alex Tolgos, Iten offers good training atmosphere for local and foreign athletes. He regrets that Kapsait, which is the other good place for training, has no facilities.
“The national government was doing very little to build facilities for athletes who have brought Kenya glory, so we opted for a short-term solution which was to grade the roads so athletes could use them for training,” Tolgos says.
“We purchased equipment for levelling the roads which were in bad shape and posed danger to athletes as we seek a long-term solution, and it has really helped,” said Tolgos.
In 2016, Elgeyo Marakwet County allocated Sh60 million to construct a pavilion and to improve the running track but midway through, the national government announced that it would build a new modern stadium at the site.
"Work on the facility has stalled since 2017 after the contractor excavated the ground and left due to lack of payment,” Tolgos said. Former Cabinet Secretary Rashid Echesa visited the stadium and promised that work would resume but that has remained an empty promise.
Nation Sport has learnt that Sports Kenya officials toured the facility last week and again promised that construction work would continue but at a smaller scale.
The Elgeyo-Marakwet County Government availed the nearby Kiptingo grounds as an alternative training ground for athletes but it is yet to be marked. Athletes have now come together to raise money from well-wishers in a bid to make Kiptingo ground suitable for training. It has been graded and is currently being compacted. Athletes have to travel 40 kilometres to the University of Eldoret track in Uasin Gishu County for training, but it is fast becoming congested. Some athletes opt to travel some 14 kilometres away to Tambach Teachers Training College.
Coming tomorrow: Focus on Nandi County stadiums