NAIROBI, July 7 – Its not everyday I get to cover athletics but my experience at the national championships made me question whether Kenya is ready to host next year’s Africa Athletics Championships (AAC).Apart from the action on the track, there was hardly anything resembling an electric atmosphere which is sad for a country where athletics is the national sport.
The organization of the whole event itself was farcical as some races had to be cancelled, others were rescheduled at the last minute and there were long lulls in between some of the track events which sucked the buzz out of the three day tourney.
Ideally, this three day event and this month’s trials should have acted as a dry run for the 2010 Africa Athletics Championships (AAC) which Kenya is supposed to host.
However with six months to go in the year, there is nothing to show that Kenya is set to host a major sporting event.
A tournament of this magnitude is supposed to galvanize a nation months before it’s held. Up to now, majority of Kenyans are unaware that Africa’s crème de la crème of track and field are scheduled to grace the country.
The shenanigans surrounding the organization of the AAC is a complete contrast to what prevailed before the 2007 IAAF World Cross Country championships were staged in Mombasa.
Under the guidance of then Sports Minister Maina Kamanda, Kenya welcomed the world to its shores for a memorable event whose enduring image was the sight of Kenenisa Bekele wilting in the searing coastal heat and ultimately pulling out of the race.
Kenya won the team title that day capping a great day for Kenya and the organizers patting themselves on the back for a job well done.
These time round, the same organizers are pulling their hair out over the alleged snail pace by the government to endorse the tournament that could see much needed jobs created and bring in revenue for our struggling economy.
The ongoing spat between the sports ministry and Riadha House over the funding of the AAC has exposed the political machinations which is not good for the reputation of sport as a viable sector.
It’s also telling that the financial allocation for this tournament did not feature in Uhuru’s Kenyatta 2009/2010 budget plans further calling into question the government’s commitment.
The success of the 2007 World Cross Country Championships and other marquee events like the Standard Chartered Marathon, Tusker Safari Sevens and the Kenya Commercial Bank (KCB) Safari Rally is an indicator of how capable we are able of organizing world class events.
It’s sad that our very own track icons who trail blaze in well organized circuits abroad may not be able to strut their stuff on home soil.
The media should also be called into question for failing to hype the event that Kenya should be lucky to be awarded to host following the social upheaval after the 2007 general elections.
At this point in time the general public should be gripped in anticipation of the AAC and the prospect of seeing our arch rivals from Ethiopia and Eritrea in the flesh.
With the FIFA World Cup and Africa Cup of Nations to be held the same year in South Africa and Angola respectively, a successful AAC would have enhanced not only Kenya’s but Africa’s reputation to host premier sporting events.