Paris Olympics fever as first batch of Team Kenya departs for France


President William Ruto with some of the 79-member Kenyan team to the Paris Olympics at State House, Nairobi on July 5, 2024. 

Photo credit: PCS

The 2024 Paris Olympics fever is starting to build as the first batch of Kenyan athletes leave for France on Sunday evening.

Kenya Sevens Rugby, the only other team sport at the Paris Summer Games, will be the first to leave tonight for high-performance training in Miramas, a coastal town some 743km south of Paris.

The sevens rugby team, which is making its third appearance at the Summer Games, will depart on board an Air France flight at 21:45, just after the send-off party at the Stadion Hotel, Kasarani.

The team's General Manager Dimmy Kisalu said the team will fly direct to Paris before taking another flight to Marseille in the south of France. They will then take a bus to Miramas, which is an hour's drive from Marseille, two regions famous for sport.

The national volleyball team, Malkia Strikers, who are due to arrive in the country tonight from the Philippines, were due to leave for Miramas on Tuesday but their flight has been rescheduled for Thursday.

Also flying to Paris on Thursday night will be a group of sprinters; Zablon Ekwam (400m), Wiseman Were (400m hurdles) and the 4x400m mixed relay team, the latest addition to Team Kenya for the Paris Games.

Kisalu noted that Africa's fastest man Ferdinand Omanyala, who was due to compete at the FBK Games in Hengelo, Netherlands, last night, will join the team in Miramas on Friday.

The early departure is to allow Team Kenya to acclimatise in Miramas ahead of the Summer Games.

The deal to have Team Kenya camp at Miramas was sealed in 2022 and the first phase of the partnership began in February last year, with Kenyan athletes benefiting from the modern facilities.

Among those who have benefited are Omanyala, fencing queen Alexandra Ndolo and the Kenya Sevens rugby team.

 Air France

"We have all hands on deck as far as Team Kenya's travel arrangements are concerned. We want the process to be as seamless as possible," said Kisalu, adding that the rest of the itinerary would be announced later.

Head of logistics Shoaib Vayani said Kenya Airways and Air France will be Team Kenya's carriers with direct flights to Paris.

"We will not have any transit and that will save us a lot, especially for the athletes who want to leave much later for the Games," said Vayani, who is also the Deputy Secretary General of the National Olympic Committee of Kenya (NOC-K).

Vayani said both flights have given concessions to athletes, allowing each to carry three luggage at no extra cost, in addition to carrying sports equipment free of charge as long as it is notified in advance.   

"We have dedicated desks for Team Kenya in both Nairobi, Paris and Marseille to ensure that our athletes and team management are comfortable," said Vayani.

 205 nations

Nearly 10,500 athletes representing 205 nations are expected in Paris where they will compete in 32 sports in 329 events.

A total of 83 Kenyan athletes had qualified for the Olympics as of June 30 in six sports - athletics, rugby sevens, judo, fencing, volleyball and swimming.

Kenya had 85 athletes in six sports at the previous Tokyo 2020 Olympics, which were held in 2021 due to Covid-19.

There was a drop in performance at Tokyo 2020 where the country collected 10 medals; four gold, four silver and two bronze.

The 2016 Rio Olympics remains Kenya's best-ever performance with 13 medals, six gold, six silver and one bronze.

However, Kenya remains the most successful African nation at the Olympics with 113 medals; 35 gold, 42 silver and 36 bronze.