By Robert Nyagah
With the World Continental Tour Gold Series kicking off in Nairobi next month, the famous Kip Keino Classic is an event packed with plenty of mouth-watering athletics battles, set to take place at the Kasarani Stadium.
During the one-day meet, our very own champions Noah Kibet in the men’s 800m, and Vincent Keter in the 1500m, will bring the heat as they look to retain their crowns. Local fans will be fervently hoping that home hero Ferdinand Omanyala, Africa’s fastest man, can provide another blitz race similar to last year’s record of 9.77 seconds. In the same breath, it will be refreshing to see world javelin champion Julius Yego make a comeback to competitive sport on home soil.
Speed merchants such as Olympic silver medallist Christine Mboma and Jamaican megastar Shelly-Ann Fraser-Pryce, are expected to light up the 100m track, while four-time world hammer throw champion Pawel Fajdek, who won last year’s Classic, and Olympic champion Wojciech Nowicki of Poland, are in the provisional list for the upcoming showcase.
Behind the scenes, a lot is going on to make sure everything goes smoothly for fans trooping back to the stadium after a lengthy absence due to the Covid-19 pandemic.
With a 100 percent capacity allowance, expect massive throngs of fans at the stadium, with a chorus of voices bellowing from the stands to provide a tense atmosphere and camaraderie; the kind that both fans and competing athletes have missed for a while.
The hive of activity will help to increase economic opportunities for ticket agents, hoteliers, artists, transporters, and fashion industry players, all of whom benefit from mega showbiz opportunities.
First and foremost, credit goes to the Ministry of Sports, led by Cabinet Secretary Amb Hon Dr Amina Mohamed, who has made a significant investment in developing the logistics and intensive preparations that go with hosting a world-class experience before, during, and after the showbiz.
Corporate sponsors, who see the tournament as a global platform to not only showcase their brands but also connect with Kenyans, many of whom are die-hard athletics fans, are also critical enablers to the tournament’s overall success.
Absa Bank Kenya, one of the main sponsors of the Kip Keino Classic, has promised to increase sponsorship towards the tournament’s success, exceeding the Ksh15 million invested in the previous edition. Absa’s support is a huge boost for Athletics Kenya, the organisers, and the sports industry in general, which is regaining its footing after being severely hampered by the effects of the coronavirus.
Already in a long-term relationship with the Ministry of Sports and Athletics Kenya Board, the bank’s aim is to elevate and develop the local sports scene while facilitating socio-economic development in communities, and also using sports as a voice for championing environmental conservation.
Indeed, Kenya is an athletics hub, and sports play an important role in fostering social equity and tolerance among the country’s various ethnicities, religions, and cultures. The exploits of our athletics heroes at home and abroad provide a sense of pride for Kenyans, inspiring patriotism and a sense of purpose among the citizenry, even during difficult times.
In addition, profits from an athletes’ winnings help to improve their lives and the livelihoods of their families, the communities around them, and the entire athletics ecosystem.
The Kip Keino Classic’s transformation into a first-rate tournament is a statement of the evolution sparked by a strong government-private partnership. Linking efforts between the government, sports stakeholders, and the private sector is critical in establishing a solid foundation for uplifting Kenya’s sports economy and reaping the benefits of being a true sporting nation.
We look on with bated breath at what awaits us on Saturday, May 7.
Go Team Kenya!