NAIROBI, Kenya, Mar 28 – The wait by football and athletics enthusiasts to watch their favorite sport at the country’s second largest sporting facility, the Nyayo National Stadium, will have to chill for another unspecified period with the government waxing lyrical – for the umpteenth time – about it’s opening.
The government has been giving hope and promises of its opening since 2018, a year after the stadium was initially closed for renovations ahead of Kenya’s botched opportunity to host the African Nations Championship (CHAN).
Thursday afternoon was no different.
“Before end of May we should have completed the laying of seats. For the building we have discussed with constructor, they say it will take them 60-75 days to complete the works. We will come back here by end of May and if they will have not finished, we will give them another 21 days,” Sports Principal Secretary Kirimi Kaberia said.
This has now become an all-too familiar song from the ministry, one that sports fans have clearly grown tired of dancing to.
Officials led by new Cabinet Secretary Amina Mohammed toured the facility accompanied by Parliament’s Sports, Culture and Tourism Committee, who were themselves coming back to the stadium for the second time.
As they visited, seats around the terrace area, which are being laid to mirror the national flag were being fitted, with the lower tier of green at 70pc completion.
According to the Parliamentary Committee chaired by Machakos Town legislator Victor Munyaka, the major problem slowing down the completion of the mega facility has been allocation of funds by the central government.
However, Kaberia, the accounting officer at the ministry, could not say how much has been used so far and how much more is needed to see the sports Amphitheatre opened up for use by a facility-deprived population.
“We will sit down with the committee and corroborate the figures after which we will be able to have a more comprehensive answer to that,” Kaberia offered.
Munyaka on his side hopes that the newly inaugurated Sports Fund would come in handy to not only see the Nyayo Stadium renovation works completed, but also the other four which had been earmarked to host CHAN.
Initially, the government had approved Sh4.2bn for the renovation of Nyayo, Kipchoge Keino, Kinoru and Kasarani which had been set to host the biennial CHAN tourney. With Kasarani already done, focus now shifts to the other three.
Kinoru is at the same state as Nyayo, though most of the funding has come through the country government. Kipchoge Keino in Eldoret is miles off target.
The country’s top-flight league has been struggling to condense all its matches for the Nairobi based team at either the Kenyatta Stadium in Machakos or the Kasarani Stadium – which has been reduced to minimal use – to avoid degenerating the surface as it’s the only one that can host international matches.
Alternatively, clubs have been using the deplorable Ruaraka Complex which has been slammed by several coaches.
Amina who is still familiarizing herself with the ministry is however confident that the contractors will be able to finish the job in time. Her predecessors, Hassan Wario and Rashid Echesa danced to similar tunes all through their tenure in office.
Nyayo was closed down early 2017 for renovations but was briefly opened for the Mashemeji Derby in August 2017 before its permanent closure for CHAN preparations. Since then, it has been the all familiar tune of unfulfilled promises.
By Thursday, apart from the seating area being plastered with plastic chairs, the playing surface looked to be well on course while the VIP pavilion and the rooms there-in were only waiting on the final finishing touches.
The dressing rooms are yet to be completed. It is yet unclear whether the worn-out tartan track will be pulled out for a fresh one, something that will attract yet another lengthy closure.
The Stadium was hurriedly patched up to host last year’s Jamhuri Day as well as the First Lady Half Marathon early this month.
Sports fans all across the country have been asking why the government has not advanced the same energy towards the stadium’s core function; hosting sports events.