NAIROBI, Kenya, Feb 7 – Kenya has been hit by major a blow after power house United States of America became the sixth team to pull out of the IAAF World Under-18 Athletics Championships to be hosted in Nairobi from July 12-16.
A letter sent from the United States of America Track and Field governing body (USATF), to youth coaches around the country states that the decision stems from Kenya’s designation as a critical threat by the U.S. Department of State.
“As we all are aware, security has become an increasing concern worldwide, and in particular for official sporting delegations. As part of a review of all USATF security issues, USATF’s security team has conducted a risk assessment for our delegation for the 2017 IAAF World Youth Championships, also known as the IAAF U18 Championships,” the letter read.
“The U.S. Department of State gives Kenya a crime and terrorism rating of “Critical,” the highest level possible. The State Department’s security summary includes risks for all types of crime, from theft to violent crime and terrorism. Given the “Critical” threat, the high cost associated with our team’s increased security needs, and that the team would be composed of children, USATF will not select or travel a team to this event.”
USA, who has been regular competitors since its inaugural in 1999, joins New Zealand, Britain, Australia, Canada and Switzerland in withdrawing.
Local Organising Committee official and Athletics Kenya Executive Member, Barnaba Korir said the pull out of major teams will really affect the championship, blaming poor organisation.
“It’s a major blow that US have pulled out this championship means that we will only have teams from Africa and Middle East participating. We cannot cancel the event. The government is yet to tell us what to do but this shows we are not prepared,” Korir told Capital Sport.
Korir is also concerned that the new tartan track for warm-up and competition is yet to be laid with five months remaining to the event that will be hosted in Africa for the first time.
“Until now the old tartan track is yet to be removed. The procurement has not been done and time is running out so the preparations are not good.”
The championship is set to take place just two weeks before general elections, which typically generate tension and have in the past been accompanied by violence.
Last summer, IAAF President Sebastian Coe announced that the IAAF World Youth Championships would be discontinued after 2017. In the future, the IAAF will host regional events instead of a world championship for youth and junior athletes.