Inaugural beach games in Malindi brilliant, cross-cutting move by NOC-K
What you need to know:
- For Kenya, the beach games play the dual role of creating more sporting offerings for our youths while providing fresh attractions on our tourism menu.
- And with Malindi boasting a busy airport with quick transfers to beachfront, with a bigger budgetary allocation from the county and national governments, alongside public-private partnerships, Kenya hosting the World Beach Games here wouldn’t be a long shot, especially given that the sad state of our stadium infrastructure doesn’t hold traditional sports in good stead.
Some 525 years ago on April 13, 1498, Portuguese explorer Vasco da Gama anchored his ship in Malindi.
The native of the famous fishing harbour of Sines subsequently built the famous Vasco da Gama Pillar in Malindi’s Shela area.
This navigational landmark remained pivotal in the era of exploration, helping open up the Kenyan coast to the world.
However, since Vasco da Gama – the first man to sail directly from Europe to Asia - died in December, 1524, in Cochin, India, while serving as Portugal’s Viceroy in India, there has been hardly any landmark or event worth writing about in Malindi.
The ubiquitous Italians may have transformed the town into virtually an Azzurri province, but Malindi really has nothing to write home about in sport since the late Harambee Stars’ German coach Reinhard Fabisch called up John “Baresi” Odhiambo, a then unknown star from Malindi’s Two Fishes FC, into the Kenyan national team.
That’s why it was reassuring to see Malindi host the inaugural Kenya Beach Games last weekend under the auspices of the National Olympic Committee of Kenya (NOC-K), with over 800 athletes in attendance.
Multiple disciplines featured at the beach games, including taekwondo, rowing, karate, boxing, dhow racing, aquathlon (running and swimming), judo, football, ajua, three-on-three basketball and surfing.
The games were hosted to sieve talent as Kenya prepares to feature at the second Africa Beach Games to be held from June 24 to 30 in Hammamet, Tunisia, following the inaugural games organised by the Association of National Olympic Committees of Africa (Anoca) in Sal, Cape Verde, in June, 2019.
The Tunisia games are a qualification path to the second World Beach Games to be hosted in the beautiful “Land of the Gods” Bali, Indonesia, from August 5 to 12, following the successful inaugural edition hosted by Doha in 2019.
About 100 National Olympic Committees are expected in Bali to compete in 14 disciplines confirmed so far, namely aquathlon, beach handball, beach football, beach tennis, beach volleyball (4x4), beach water polo, beach wrestling, individual kata, open water swimming (five kilometres), three-on-three basketball, air badminton, surfing, beach sprint rowing and wingfoil racing (surfing).
What was more significant about last weekend’s Malindi games at the well thought-out Buntwani Waterfront Park was the infrastructure established by the Kilifi County Government that is fast becoming the most sought-after recreational facility at the coast, perhaps Malindi’s most famous address after the Vasco da Gama Pillar and the five-star Billionaire Resort and Retreat owned by Italian billionaire and former Formula One mogul, Flavio Briatore.
Also, NOC-K’s decision to focus on non-traditional sports like the beach games will offer young Kenyans an opportunity to feature on the global stage away from the athletics, rugby and boxing staple.
Especially with the International Olympic Committee (IOC) having cast the net wider to include disciplines such as sport climbing, skateboarding, baseball, karate and breakdancing on the Olympic programme.
And, yes, even cheerleading could soon be an Olympic sport!
This after the IOC, in July 2021, officially recognised the International Cheer Union, placing the cheerleading federation on the verge of being accepted into the Olympic competition programme, offering ringside sports enthusiasts a stab at an Olympic gold.
For Kenya, the beach games play the dual role of creating more sporting offerings for our youths while providing fresh attractions on our tourism menu.
And with Malindi boasting a busy airport with quick transfers to beachfront, with a bigger budgetary allocation from the county and national governments, alongside public-private partnerships, Kenya hosting the World Beach Games here wouldn’t be a long shot, especially given that the sad state of our stadium infrastructure doesn’t hold traditional sports in good stead.
Credit must go to Kilifi Governor Gideon Maitha Mung’aro and his predecessor Amason Jeffah Kingi for securing the Buntwani Waterfront Park, an example that should be emulated by other governors in the coastal and lakeside regions.
Besides hosting sports competitions, Buntwani is now home to religious festivals, car boot sales, school activities and is the place to be for families on weekends and various holidays.
Kudos to president Paul Tergat, secretary general Francis Mutuku and the team at NOC-K for pulling off the inaugural beach games and proving that outside-the-box thinking offers hope for the future of Kenyan sport.
Vasco da Gama, a traveller even in death, must be smiling where his remains rest at Lisbon’s Jeronimos Monastery where they were brought after initially being interred in Cochin’s St Francis Church.
Well done NOC-K and Kilifi County Government.
Looking forward to the second edition of the Kenya Beach Games, probably even on the shores of Lake Victoria, or the beautiful beaches of Lake Turkana!
Over to you Kisumu and Turkana county governments.
Makori is the Managing Editor (Sports) at Nation Media Group. [email protected]