Caption for the landscape image:

Hot air? Sorry state of Kericho stadium despite Ruto promise to refurbish it

Scroll down to read the article

A recent photo of the public entrance at Kiprugut Chumo Stadium which still bears the old name Kericho Green Gtadium despite being rebranded as Kiprugut Chumo Stadium last year.

Photo credit: Vitalis Kimutai | Nation Media Group

Eight months ago, President William Ruto announced the renaming of the former Kericho Green Stadium as the Kiprugut Chumo Stadium, a move that many believed would end decades of neglect at the facility.

The announcement cemented the late Wilson Kiprugut Chumo's position in the annals of Kenyan and world history as the first Olympic gold medallist for Kenya, a feat he achieved by winning bronze in the 800m at the 1964 Tokyo Olympics.

The President's announcement - made during the Mashujaa Day celebrations on October 20, 2023 in Kericho County, where the stadium is located - was expected to speed up the ongoing upgrading of the sports facility. 

A recent photo of the VIP entrance at the Kiprugut Chumo Stadium which was rebranded in November last year.

Photo credit: Vitalis Kimutai | Nation Media Group

However, eight months on, construction of the facility has yet to resume, with the contractor abandoning the work immediately after the Mashujaa Day celebrations due to alleged non-payment by the government for some of the work already done.

This is despite Sports Cabinet Secretary Ababu Namwamba presiding over the official renaming and rebranding ceremony of the stadium on 25 November 2023, a month after the President announced the change of name to Kiprugut Chumo Stadium.

The 10,000-seater stadium was built in a record 45 days by Modern Precast Kenya Limited for use during the national holiday.

The county government had pumped in Sh110 million to upgrade the stadium in 2019 after years of neglect.

"Allow me to celebrate Kiprugut Chumo, the first Kenyan to win an Olympic medal, by renaming Kericho Green Stadium after him," Ruto said during the Mashujaa Day celebrations to cheers from the crowd. 

Athletics Kenya President Jackson Tuwei (left), Principal Secretary for Sports Peter Tum (centre) and Cabinet Secretary for Sports Ababu Namwamba (in track suit) during the unveiling of Kiprugut Chumo Stadium in Kericho town on November 25, 2024.

Photo credit: Vitalis Kimutai | Nation Media Group

The single sentence in his written speech further cemented Kiprugut’s name in the annals of sports history.

Kiprugut  made history at the 1964 Tokyo Olympics when he became the first East African to win an Olympic medal, a bronze in the 800 metres (then 880 yards), raising the Kenyan flag high.

In the subsequent 1968 Summer Olympics in Mexico, he upgraded to silver in the same event, clocking one minute, 44.57 seconds after coming in second to Australian Ralph Doubell.

Kiprugut, who was born in 1938 at Kinamget village in Kericho, died on November 1, 2022, at the age of 84.

He was buried on November 12 at his home in Kipchebor Village, Ainamoi Constituency.

Though several calls were made to honour Kiprugut while alive by renaming the stadium after him then, the dream was not realized until a year after he died, when the President unexpectedly made the announcement.

It marked the end of unfulfilled promises made by local leaders to have the stadium renamed after the athlete for the honour he brought the country at independence, shining the light for other athletes who came after him.

But the abandoning of the works by the contractor has shined the spotlight on the ministry of sports’ commitment to oversee completion of the stadium and implementation of a Presidential directive.

It is only the VIP gate and dais that have been renamed Kiprugut Chumo, in what appears to have been a public relations stunt, while the construction of the other facilities remains incomplete and still bears the old name – Kericho Green stadium.

The sections that stand out as incomplete are the parking lot, the wall and security perimeter fence, public pavilions, public toilets, gates, changing rooms and offices.

A synthetic that was pulled out to facilitate the upgrade of the facility to host the Mashujaa Day celebrations has not been laid back as the track is yet to be properly leveled.

The leveling the football pitch has not been done as well.

The departments of Roads and Public Works, Interior and Sports were jointly funding and overseeing construction of the project with Sh400 million said to have been allocated.

“The contractor has not resumed construction of the stadium due to non-payment. The work will proceed once the funds are released,” a senior government official who did not want to be named due to the sensitivity of the matter stated.

He confirmed that no budgetary allocation had been made so far for the facility.

Kericho County security enforcement officers are manning the facility which is used for training by athletes and footballers, despite its status.

“It is unfortunate that the government has not released funds for the completion of the stadium despite the Presidential directive while construction of other similar facilities in parts of the country is ongoing,” Kipng’eno Chelule, a former athlete said.

“This is a matter that requires direct intervention by the President as it has become a laughing stock of his administration” Chelule said.

Athletics Kenya President Jackson Tuwei was among those who accompanied CS Namwamba during the rebranding of the stadium, turning a new leaf on the history of the facility.

But all local leaders skipped the function, claiming they had been “ambushed” by being given short notice to attend.

Kiprugut’s family members, led by Sarah Langat, the eldest daughter of the legendary athlete, said they were grateful for the recognition their father had been accorded by the President after years of uncertainty.

“The announcement by the President to rename the Kericho Green stadium as Kiprugut Chumo Stadium got us by surprise. We are forever grateful for the honour bestowed on our late father,” Langat said on behalf of the family.

Eliud Kipchoge, the double Olympic marathon champion, recently commended the government for recognizing the contribution made by Kiprugut by renaming the stadium after him.

“We should not be asking why it took years for the government to recognize and immortalize Kiprugut's name by renaming Kericho Green stadium after him. Instead we should be grateful that finally this has been done in what is expected to inspire the next generation of athletes,” Kipchoge said.

Kiprugut’s generation of athletes competed not for the money but for the love of sports and patriotism.

“Kenyan athletes should avoid drugs by all means, run clean, winning fair and square. It is possible to do that. We did it in our time, it has been done by great athletes and it is still doable,” Kiprugut said in a previous interview with Nation Sport.

 As the current crop of athletes earn millions of shillings in athletics, the highest amount Kiprugut remembered being paid in his career was $300 which when converted was Sh2,100 at the time.

 “I remember being paid 20 dollars which converted to Sh7 (translating to Sh140) and it was so much money at the time,” Kiprugut said.

The prize money received was enough for him to provide for his family and take care of personal needs.

“I built my house with savings from my days in the army (Kenya African Rifles), from where I retired in 1974 with the rank of a sergeant, and the pocket money we got for participating in sports outside the country,” Kiprugut said a few months before his demise.

A high number of prominent athletes, led by the 1972 Olympics 4x400 metres relay gold medalists Charles Asati and Hezekiah Nyamao, were in attendance during the rebranding of the renamed stadium.

“Nothing takes Kenya to the world stage than sports. It is our marketing jewel. Renaming of the stadium is in recognition of our heritage and a tradition set by Kiprugut. It is so significant that it will be written in the sands of time,” Namwamba said then.

“We had this young man (Kiprugut) who travelled from his village in Kericho to Tokyo and announced in a special way that he had arrived at the world stage” Namwamba said.

The CS noted that Kenya’s National Anthem and the flag were not even a year old, but the flag was raised in Tokyo after Kiprugut finished on the podium.

“A year after the Olympics, Kiprugut won a gold medal at the All African Games held in Congo Brazzaville and cemented our position and heritage in sports. If we were to put the 1964 and 1965 achievements into monetary value, it would be on the scale of tens of billions of dollars today,” Namwamba said.

“The government should move with speed to complete the stadium and set up the long jump, high jump and triple jump among others. This stadium needs to be redesigned and completed,” Jackson Tuwei, the Athletics Kenya President said during the relaunch of the facility.

Tuwei stated that one year before the 2021 Tokyo Olympics, the Japanese Embassy to Kenya facilitated Kiprugut to travel to Nairobi for celebrations.

“Kiprugut was to travel to Tokyo to watch the Olympics competitions real time in what would have been a memorable event where he won the Bronze in 1964, but he was not in good health and had to remain in Kenya,” Tuwei said.

But before the qualifying athletes travelled to Tokyo to represent Kenya, Kiprugut asked for a meeting with two 800 metres athletes and AK facilitated Ferguson Rotich and Emmanuel Korir to travel his home in Kericho.

The US-based Korir went on to win gold at the Tokyo Olympics which had a huge, positive impact on Kiprugut.

“With his bronze in the Tokyo Olympics, gold in All African Games in Congo, Kiprugut set the stage for David Rudisha (2016 and 2018), William Tanui (1992), Wilfred Bungei (2008) and Paul Ereng (2006),” Tuwei stated.

Tuwei noted that in the 1964 Olympics, the 800m record stood at 1:45.9 minutes and had since been sliced to the current 1:40.91 set by Rudisha in the final of the 2012 Olympic in London.

“In 1964, there were 93 countries participating and in 2021 we had 206 countries participating in the Tokyo Olympics... Kiprugut cemented Kenya’s position in the annals of sports history in the global stage and our current crop of athletes are building on that,” Tuwei stated.

It remains to be seen when the construction of the stadium will resume with Kenya currently facing a stadium crisis that even forced the national football team, Harambee Stars, to play its World Cup qualifying matches in Malawi.

The Nyayo Nation Stadium and Moi International Sports Centre, Kasarani, are both undergoing major renovations with the former only temporarily opened for this weekend’s athletics trials for the Paris Olympic Games.

The government is also undertaking the construction of a new facility – the Talanta Sports City on Ngong Road, Nairobi.

The venues are expected to be ready in time for the 2027 Africa Cup of Nations football tournament which Kenya will co-host with Uganda and Tanzania.