What you need to know:
- On a weekend that will also see Eliud Kipchoge and Brigid Kosgei lead a galaxy of Kenyan stars at the London Marathon on October 4 (live and exclusive on NTV), sport will certainly market Kenya as ready for post-coronavirus business.
- That’s why we need all hands on deck for a successful hosting of the Kip Keino Classic and other subsequent sports competitions, including the 2021 WRC Safari Rally, Kenya Open and World Under-20 Championships.
On Tuesday night, Croatia’s capital Zagreb hosts the Memorial Borisa Hanzekovica, which is the penultimate round of the salvaged, seven-meet World Athletics Continental Tour Gold label series of one-day track and field meetings.
So far, the inaugural Tour has successfully visited Turku, Finland (Paavo Nurmi Games), Szekesfehervar, Hungary (Gyulai Istvan Memorial), Tokyo, Japan (Seiko Golden Grand Prix), Chorzow, Poland (Kamila Skolimowska Memorial) and Ostrava, Czech Republic (Golden Spike Meeting).
The final stop on the Tour will be at Nairobi’s iconic Nyayo National Stadium for the October 3 Kip Keino Classic.
And with the cancellation of the Magical Kenya Open Golf Championship, initially scheduled for March but postponed to November 12 to 15 owing to the coronavirus pandemic, the Kip Keino Classic bears added significance to Kenya.
In a year ravaged by effects of Covid-19, we had hoped to use the Kenya Open as a shopping window for the world over the four days of action at Karen Country Club.
It would have helped increase the tourist inflows to help kick-start a tourism sector badly hit by the virus.
Last week, Tourism and Wildlife Cabinet Secretary Najib Balala indicated that in the month since international flights resumed on August 1, about 14,000 tourists have visited Kenya.
Balala prays that, under the circumstances, Kenya bags at least 20 percent of tourist arrivals compared to the previous year, and is hopeful that in the next 10 months, we can rally at least 400,000 tourists to get to the desired target.
The Kip Keino Classic now remains the only international event lined up in post-coronavirus Kenya, making it of greater significance than mere track and field results.
Understandably, renovation work at the Nyayo National Stadium was slowed down by the virus and credit must go to the Ministry of Sports, Culture and Heritage for the round-the-clock work so far undertaken, and to President Uhuru Kenyatta for his hands-on interest in the refurbishment.
Sports Cabinet Secretary Amina Mohamed and Principal Secretary Joe Okudo assure that all’s on track and the venue will be ready to host elite athletes on October 3.
Given that the Kip Keino Classic is just three weeks away, we expect all government agencies to rally unconditional support for the ministry, and for the indefatigable meet director Barnabas Korir and his Athletics Kenya team in finalising preparations.
Indeed, we hope to see President Kenyatta at the Kip Keino Classic to celebrate fruits of his unbridled attention to the refurbishment of the now fabulous Nyayo National Stadium.
The first drone shots of the refurbished stadium taken by Nation Sport at the weekend unleashed a breath-taking view of a vastly-improved venue which the world will embrace on October 3.
Credit must go to President Kenyatta, and to Amina and Okudo for supervising an excellent upgrade of the competition venue which has been licenced to host the first three editions of the Kip Keino Classic.
With work at Kasarani also in progress to prepare it for the World Under-20 Athletics Championships that have been pushed to August 17 to 22 next year due to inconveniences caused by the coronavirus, it’s gratifying to see two of Kenya’s best sports venues, finally, given a fresh lease of life.
They will not only be handy for track and field, but also benefit our football clubs and national teams that have been perennially subjected to the inconvenience of plying their trade on mediocre surfaces.
And this should, hopefully, translate into better performances.
And once we get done and dusted with this year’s Kip Keino Classic, we hope to see the laying of a new synthetic track at Nyayo.
Given the time constraints and other procurement challenges, it hasn’t been possible to have the new track laid in time for October 3, forcing organisers to knock the erstwhile surface into competition shape.
It’s unfortunate that the contractor handed the task of re-carpeting the track three years ago laid a surface that couldn’t stand the test of time, and it’s by sheer luck that we are able to salvage it for October 3.
Such poor workmanship must not be tolerated.
With the issue of the venue done and dusted, focus now shifts to technical preparations for the competition, including populating the start lists with marquee names that would draw in global television audiences.
Kenya is a popular destination and it’s hardly surprising, therefore, that Korir and his team have already received numerous requests by top foreign athletes seeking slots on the Kip Keino Classic start lists.
It’s a nice problem to have, and one that should also lure the corporate sector to top up the government’s funding for this competition as good return on investment is assured.
And profits aside, it will be a welcome contribution to the development of Kenyan sport.
How I wish the corporate sector would match the government’s contribution, shilling-for-shilling…
On a weekend that will also see Eliud Kipchoge and Brigid Kosgei lead a galaxy of Kenyan stars at the London Marathon on October 4 (live and exclusive on NTV), sport will certainly market Kenya as ready for post-coronavirus business.
That’s why we need all hands on deck for a successful hosting of the Kip Keino Classic and other subsequent sports competitions, including the 2021 WRC Safari Rally, Kenya Open and World Under-20 Championships.