NAIROBI, Kenya, Jul 12 – President Uhuru Kenyatta on Wednesday announced free entrance to fans wishing to watch the IAAF World U18 Championships that got underway at the Moi International Sports Center Kasarani.
Kenyatta was speaking after officially opening the five-day global event that saw Kenya open her medal account with silver in the Girls 3000m that was won by Emmaculate Chepkirui.
The Head of State assured that Kenya is very secure to citizens and all visiting athletes from the131 nations participating in the event.
“I wish to assure you that Kenya is a secure and peaceful country and continues to embrace democratic ideals as we progress in building our nation,” said the President at the Moi International Sports Centre Kasarani where he opened the extravaganza.
The President also assured the International sporting fraternity of Kenya’s commitment to ethical, clean and fair sports competition.
“My administration fully supports the fight against unfair sporting practices as part of developing this industry,” said the Head of State as he announced free entry to the games for the remainder of the period.
The Championships bring together over 2000 athletes and sports managers from 131 countries. The First Lady Margaret Kenyatta, who was present, is the patron of the IAAF championships, Kenya Chapter.
President Kenyatta described the competition as a special occasion for the people, saying sports occupies a unique place in the Kenyan society, a country recognized globally for producing some of the greatest heroes in athletics.
Some of Kenya’s elite athletes including 800m world record holder and two-time Olympic Champion David Rudisha as well as Javelin star Julius Yego attended the colorful opening ceremony.
Kenyatta, who was later joined by Deputy President William Ruto, underlined the importance and centrality of sports in people’s lives.
“Sports make our bodies strong, strengthens collaboration, builds discipline and also plays an important role in international relations,” The President told the excited crowds.
The Head of State said Sports provides people with a unique opportunity to stand as one irrespective of geography, language and creed.
“This event provides a unique platform to develop new talent and future champions.”
The President gave a history of the various key International Championships where Kenyan athletes had participated in starting with the 1954 Vancouver, Canada Athletics where veteran Nyandika Mayoro, who was present, took part.
This was followed by the first Olympic Games for Kenya in 1956 in Melbourne, Australia.
“In 1964, as a young and newly independent nation, Kenya won her first medal at the Tokyo Olympic Games, through Mzee Wilson Kiprugut.”
He said the country’s phenomenal winning tradition culminated in Kenya’s best Olympic performance during the 2016 Olympic Games in Rio De Jenairo, Brazil, where its champions brought home a total of 13 medals, emerging in second position only to the USA.
“During the 2015 World U18 event held in Cali, Colombia young Kenyans hauled another 13 medals emerging in position two, again in second position after the United States. These are examples of our senior and junior athletics teams’ tradition of exemplary performance in elite global competitions over the years”, he added
The President said Kenya’s development strategy identifies sports as a major driver of nurturing talent.
“We are committed to developing sports as a fully-fledged industry as part of our broader strategy for growing our economy and creating jobs for our youth.”
The President said Kenya has been developing the critical sports and games infrastructure, as the country looks forward to hosting many and bigger championships in the future.
He asked the visitors not to hurry back home when the games are over but find time to sample Kenya’s cuisine, culture and enjoy its hospitality.
President Kenyatta thanked the IAAF for giving Kenya the opportunity to host the biennial event observing that Kenya is the second African country to host the event after Morocco in 2005.
Kenya is further honored to host the 10th and last edition of the WU-18 youth championships.
The Head of State led Kenyans in observing a moment of silence for departed Cabinet Secretary for Interior, coordination and National Government Maj. Gen (Rtd) Joseph Nkaissery who played a key role during the preparations for the games.
IAAF President Lord Sebastian Coe, and Local Organizing Committee (LOC) chairman Lt-Gen (Rtd) Jackson Tuwei also addressed the ceremony.