NAIROBI, Kenya, IAAF President Sebastian Coe says it is a big moment for Kenya as the nation prepares to stage the last edition of the World Under-18 Championships at the Moi International Sports Center, Kasarani.
Speaking in a press briefing on the eve of the event in Nairobi, Coe was pleased with the development of upcoming athletes in Kenya after meeting President Uhuru Kenyatta who assured him of full support.
In his statement, Coe welcomed the world to the Nairobi 2017 Championships that officially start in the Kenyan capital on Wednesday to run until Sunday.
“This is not a sacrifice, this is a labour of love for anybody that loves athletics to be witnessing athletics in this nation that has made such an extraordinary contribution to the history of our sport for the last 30 or so years,” the IAAF chief said.
Coe paid tribute to the Local Organising Committee (LOC) and Kenya for putting together what promises to be a fitting farewell to the event formerly known as the IAAF World Youth Championships.
“This is a very big moment in the history of Kenyan athletics. My visit here is also a personal one because much of my career as an athlete was defined by great races and competition with Kenyan athletes.
Kenyan athletes have made a huge mark on our global sport way before I became a senior international athlete,” the retired two-time Olympic champion and middle distance world record holder added.
The IAAF President stressed the global track and event showpiece that will be discontinued after Nairobi 2017 in favour of continental U18 championships is the perfect stage for the next generation to showcase their prowess.
“This is an extraordinary opportunity to watch the talent and the champions of the future. It’s through this edition that Usain Bolt, Alyson Felix and other great athletes have emerged.”
“There is no reason why we should not be uncovering some of the jewels of our future championships. Some of those athletes will travel to London at the World Championships,” the 1986 European 800m gold medallist underscored.
He paid homage to great Kenyan runners such as former Olympic champions Naftali Temu (men 10000m), Amos Biwott (men 3000m steeplechase) and Kipchoge Keino (men 1500m, 3000m steeple) to the stars of today for their contribution to the sport.
“Your history is our history and I’m delighted to be here to celebrate the largest track and field event to ever come in Africa,” Coe added.
The IAAF chief met President Uhuru Kenyatta on Tuesday morning before coming to the international press conference at the Moi International Sports Centre, Kasarani that will host the WU18 action until Sunday.
“This event signifies the commitment Kenya has for our sport. I visited the President of Kenya where he committed and continues to commit to our sport. He promised to look at the sport more broadly outside elite competition where you have excelled at,” Coe underscored.
The Moscow 1980 and Los Angeles 1984 Olympic men 1500m champion joined the country in mourning the late Cabinet Secretary for Interior and National Coordination, Major General (Rtd) Joseph Nkaissery who was instrumental in the planning for Nairobi 2017 who passed on in the early hours of last Saturday.
“My sympathies to family and friends of Cabinet Secretary who so sadly passed away who was so inseparably responsible for some of security ambitions. I paid our respects and the respects of the federation to the President this morning,” Coe added.
Coe toured the facilities including the stadium, media tribune and competitors’ area before leaving to pay a visit to Kenyan distance running legend Tegla Loroupe and her Refugee Athletes Team that made history at the Rio 2016 Olympics.
Nairobi 2017 will be streamed across 160 countries on the IAAF YouTube and Facebook channels and will be covered live by South African pay television channel SuperSport and local broadcaster Kenya Broadcasting Corporation.
-By SportPesa News-