As Kenya bids farewell to the country’s second president, Mzee Daniel Toroitich arap Moi, a high powered delegation from World Athletics’ Monaco headquarters visits Nairobi this week to assess the city’s preparedness to host the World Under-20 Championships in July.
The delegation will be on a site visit tomorrow and on Thursday before prescribing the way forward for the July 7-12 global extravaganza.
Of concern at the meet’s Local Organising Committee (LOC) has been sluggish progress in revamping the competition venue at Moi International Sports Centre, Kasarani, and the championships’ supporting facilities at Kenyatta University, which will act as the Athletes’ Village.
Standing out in Mzee Moi’s rich sporting legacy are the two world class venues: the Moi International Sports Centre at Kasarani and Nyayo National Stadium.
But both are in serious need of makeovers.
It was, therefore, reassuring to see images of President Uhuru Kenyatta driving to Nyayo National Stadium on Sunday afternoon to inspect works at the venue ahead of today’s requiem service for our former Head of State.
Spectacular renovation work has been done by National Youth Service (NYS) at Nyayo National Stadium, and what had taken years for successive contractors to put right has largely been accomplished by the uniformed men and women inside less than a week.
Which raises the question of why can’t we use the NYS and engineers from the Kenya Defence Forces more actively in resuscitating and stabilising our ailing sports venues countrywide?
Why do we perennially rely on cowboy contractors who pocket tidy sums with little to show on the ground?
Our track and field trials for the Tokyo 2020 Olympics are pencilled for June at the Kipchoge Keino Stadium in Eldoret, but there are serious doubts as to whether the venue’s refurbishment will beat the deadline.
Either the Nyayo National Stadium or Moi International Sports Centre will also host the inaugural leg of the World Athletics Continental Tour on May 2, and the feverish works at the former ahead of Tuesday’s requiem service give it an advantage.
Suddenly, the electronic screen at Nyayo has burst into life, new cabro laid at the parking lot, a fresh coat of paint applied all over the venue and the makeover of changing rooms and other amenities completed with lightning speed.
If it requires a Presidential Decree to have our facilities ready, then President Kenyatta should unleash another Executive Order and spur into motion stadium works across the country.
It helps that the president now has a sports ministry that’s united and not operating at cross purposes, and there’s newfound confidence that Cabinet Secretary Amina Mohamed and her Principal Secretary Joe Okudo could be the tag team that will finally get Kenyan sport out of the woods. Hopefully.
President Moi played his part and delivered to the nation two world class venues that are still a nation’s pride.
It now behoves the Jubilee Government to celebrate Mzee’s contribution by maintaining these venues, and continuing from where he left by constructing more stadiums.
The “UhuRuto” pre-election manifesto boisterously promised a handful of new stadiums if we voted them in.
We did, and they should return the favour by throwing into motion the construction of only two new facilities and take up the challenge from the gauntlet that Mzee Moi threw down.
For now, we just need two new stadiums, not the five promised.
And, preferably, one at sea level in Mombasa and another at high altitude in Nairobi. Surely, that’s not too much to ask!
The rest of the money can be used to maintain the facilities at Nyayo, Kasarani alongside upgrading the other public stadiums countrywide.
That way, Mzee Moi will smile and rest in eternal peace.
As we bid Mzee Moi farewell, let me join in thanking him for the sporting legacy he bequeathed us. A legacy that President Kenyatta can build from.
My sincere condolences to the Moi family, President Kenyatta and Kenyans at large.
Rest in Peace, Your Excellency Mzee Moi!