What you need to know:
- Noise to bring the championship to Kenya started in 2019 after World Athletics (WA) announced that the event would be held on a rotational basis across continents
- Athletics Kenya, two Tuesdays ago announced that Kenya had officially presented a bid to WA to host the sport’s showpiece event in Nairobi
- The country successfully hosted the 1987 All Africa Games in Nairobi and the 2007 World Cross Country Championships in Mombasa
One event that puts Rwanda firmly on the global sporting map is the Tour du Rwanda cycling race.
The annual bike competition can be traced back to 1988 but started proper in 2001.
It became part of the UCI (Union Cycliste Internationale) Africa round in 2009 and has grown in leaps and bounds to even attract World Tour teams. For those unfamiliar with cycling, a World Tour team is the highest professional category in the sport. Currently, there are only 19 World Tour teams.
This year’s Rwandan race, shown on Eurosport TV for the very first time, attracted the Israel Start Up Nation team that four-time Tour de France winner Chris Froome signed for in 2020.
The Kenya-born, South Africa-educated, Monaco-based Briton, though, did not participate.
Most famous UCI event
Tour du Rwanda is an eight-day stage race competed on paved roads and has produced some pretty decent home riders the likes of Adrien Niyonshuti, the first Rwandan professional cyclist, who raced for World Tour Team Dimension Data of South Africa from 2009 to 2017, and Janvier Hadi, who won the 2015 All African Games road race gold medal.
The Rwandan tour is easily the most famous UCI event in Africa and is largely supported by the locals, going by how they enthusiastically line up the roads in their numbers to watch the riders speed by.
It is perhaps because of this background that UCI on September 25 announced that Rwanda had been selected to host the 2025 Road World Championships.
This will be the first time that an African country will host the annual global event encompassing 11 categories of races involving elite men and women, under-23 men, junior men, junior women and mixed relay. The Rwandan bid beat another one presented by Morocco.
If any African country deserved to host the championships, then it is Rwanda.
In the same vein, Kenya deserves to host the 2025 World Athletics Championships. Noise to bring the championship to Kenya started in 2019 after World Athletics (WA) announced that the event would be held on a rotational basis across continents.
Africa has never hosted this global athletics bonanza. Athletics Kenya, two Tuesdays ago announced that Kenya had officially presented a bid to WA to host the sport’s showpiece event in Nairobi.
WA has not formally announced the countries that have also presented bid documents though reports indicate that Tokyo, hosts of the 1991 edition, may also be interested.
WA will likely announce the winning city next March. Please pick Kenya. It is the natural choice for Africa as an inaugural host. Kenya has repeatedly demonstrated its ability to stage international sporting events. The country successfully hosted the 1987 All Africa Games in Nairobi and the 2007 World Cross Country Championships in Mombasa. We have for many years hosted the World Rally Championships Safari Rally.
Witnessed record crowds
This year’s edition, making a return to the WRC after a 19-year hiatus, was a resounding success despite the restrictions brought about by the Covid-19 pandemic.
Nairobi only this year staged the World Athletics Under-20 Championships hot on the heels of hosting the Under-18 version in 2017 that witnessed record crowds.
We even won the right to host the 1996 CAF Africa Cup of Nations and 2018 Caf African Nations Championships, but it is best not to talk about football in this piece.
The country possesses the requisite sporting infrastructure, albeit an aging one, in the 43-year-old, 60,000-capacity Moi International Sports Centre, Kasarani.
We have one of the busiest international airports in Africa and adequate hotel rooms to accommodate all visitors to the championships. In fact, a report by consultancy firm PwC estimates that the number of available hotel rooms in Nairobi alone will hit 21,000 by the end of 2021.
Our pedigree in athletics, just like Rwanda with cycling, stands in good stead for us. I liked what AK president Jackson Tuwei said when announcing the bid: “We feel like Kenya is the spiritual home of athletics.”
It is this sentimental appeal that has me all excited. Think about it. Which is the most successful athletics nation in Africa and, arguably, the world? Kenya.
Kenyan names dominate the all-time leading list of fastest runners in middle and long distance races.
For good measure, we have also recently put a mark in the sprints.
A Kenyan, Ferdinand Omanyala, is ranked the eighth fastest human being in history. To be more specific, Kenya owns 60 World and 34 Olympic titles while eight women’s and nine men’s world records are held by Kenyans.
What more convincing would WA need?
Kenya though, could go further. Imagine hosting the 2025 championships in a brand new, ultramodern stadium in Nairobi or Eldoret. Three years is enough time to erect such an edifice.
Over to you presidential aspirants Raila Odinga, William Ruto, Musalia Mudavadi, Gideon Moi, Kalonzo Musyoka, Mukhisa Kituyi, Justin Muturi, Alfred Mutua, Mwangi wa Iria, Kivutha Kibwana, et al.
Kenyans do not need promises of five new stadiums that never were. Just the pledge of one will do and hopefully, actually, be constructed.
That would be an endearing legacy to the 2025 championships, and indeed sports in this country.