NAIROBI, Kenya, Jul 16 – An estimated crowd of over 55,000 cheering fans filled up the Moi International Sports Complex, Kasarani Stadium for the last day of the IAAF Championships.
The crowd went into a frenzy singing along as the national anthem thundered through the stadium’s public address system after newly crowned world 800 metres girls champion Jackline Wambui had received their medals after leading Kenya to a breath-taking 1-2 sweep.
One could barely hear themselves think as the Kenyan fans who had packed the 60,000 seater capacity sports facility went wild as Wambui engaged her compatriot Lydia Jeruto in some in-house race to the line.
Cheers for Team-Kenya roared around the stadium as the fans and dignitaries including First Lady Margret Kenyatta got involved in the Mexican Wave.
For many who attended the four-day international meet, it was a first of its kind spectacle to be witnessed in the history of the country after the Kenya hosted the All Africa Games in 1986.
“To see Africans competing on their own grounds and being cheered by an appreciative crowd is really a great thing to have,” a television commentator noted.
Kenyans from all the walks of life were present at the stadium; school going children, university students, government officials.
The First Lady could be seen in the VIP dais clad in a black blazer and jeans trouser cheering alongside IAAF officials and Cabinet Secretary Ministry of Foreign Affairs Amina Mohamed and Sport, Culture and Arts Cabinet Secretary Hassan Wario among others.
Kenya garnered four gold medals, seven silver medals and four bronze medals. This left Team Kenya in fourth place with a total of 15 medals.
Germany topped the table with 131 points.
“50,300 spectators in the evening session. 37,600 in the morning session. The largest ever crowd at a World U18 Championship. THANK YOU KENYA,” IAAF World Athletics Club wrote Saturday night.
A majority of those in the crowd were appreciative of this event because among other dozen reasons, Kenya is renowned throughout the world for its athletic prowess and nothing beats watching your home team win at home.
But the support for Team Kenya did not stop there.
During the four days when the games were on, social media was coloured with captivating and supportive hashtags such as #TeamKenya, #TujazeKasa and #MagicalKenya.
You could tell Kenyans are a unified lot, the kind that loves one another and carries the Kenyan spirit proudly.
The event has also tossed the country into a global spotlight.
“Thank you, Kenya for the amazing send-off. Thank you for an amazing cheering crowd,” the television commentator said in closing.
It will be the talk of town in the world of sports after Sunday’s historical success. The kind of spotlight that has fallen on Kenya would be impossible to garner despite any amount of marketing. The question is, has the government fully taken advantage of this?