NAIROBI, Kenya, Feb 13 – Officials from the Japanese inland city of Kurume have assured they have sealed all entry points to annul fears of the spread of the deadly Coronavirus after signing a Memorandum of Understanding with the National Olympic Committee of Kenya (NOCK) that will see the Kenyan team for the 2020 Tokyo Olympics hold a training camp there.
After months of deliberations, the deal was finalized on Thursday in Nairobi where the Principal Secretary in the Ministry of Sports Joe Okudo inked the agreement in the presence of Cabinet Secretary Ambassador Amina Mohamed and NOCK chief Paul Tergat.
“We have sealed all the entry points into Kurume and the nearby city of Fukuoka as part of preparations to stop the spread of the virus,” Kurume City representative Kazunori Hirotani assured as they unveiled the agreement in Nairobi on Thursday.
The death toll from the deadly virus has risen to 1,367 as at Thursday with nearly 60,000 infections in China, where the virus is thought to have emerged in the city of Wuhan.
The deadly virus that has sent shockwaves all over the world has led to postponement of major sporting events with the Hong Kong and Singapore Sevens being the latest, joining the cancellation of the Chinese Grand Prix.
And with the Kenyan contingent heading early to Asia to prepare for the Olympics, there had been fears over their safety, but the officials have moved with speed to ensure all will be well.
A huge chunk of the Kenyan contingent will have a pre-Olympic training camp in Kurume City for 21 days to acclimatize with the hot conditions expected in July before moving to Tokyo, the host city of the Summer Games.
Meanwhile, the announcement was warmly received by Kenyan sports stakeholders with Tergat underscoring that the deal comes as a huge favour to Kenya.
Tergat believes the camp will give Team Kenya an advantage over their competitors since they will have already adapted to the punishing weather conditions by the time the competitions officially start.
“The MOU between NOCK and Kurume City has no monetary attachment to us but they are going to assist us and take up everything even in terms of the transport to Tokyo from Kurume City. I hope this partnership is going to go a long way,” the NOCK boss announced.
He added; “As a country we need to give our sportsmen the best preparation so that we can be able to compete in a more competitive way and now that we will be having the largest contingent to Tokyo in our history, we are very grateful to Kurume City for extending the gesture to us, other countries are not getting what we are getting.”
Speaking on behalf of athletes, retired Kenya Sevens veteran Humphrey Kayange flanked by current Shujaa captain Andrew Amonde, Malkia Strikers skipper Mercy Moim, Kenya Lionesses captain Philadelphia Olando and marathoner Ruth Chepngetich endorsed the training facilities having visited the site back in August 2019.
“Karume is a perfect place for our athletes to train and acclimatize just before Tokyo, the partnership is a big plus to them. I had the opportunity to visit the facility in August last year and in terms of standards and quality, my judgment is that it is an ideal place for athletes,” Kayange, who is also one of the Athletes Representatives in NOCK revealed.
Sports CS Amina confirmed the government will support the athletes during preparations and at the games, noting that the aim is to ensure Team Kenya has no issues as was witnessed during the last edition in Rio de Janeiro which was marred by scandals.
Amina hopes the partnership with Japan will continue even after the Olympics with exchange programs between the two that would see Japanese athletes train in Kenya with Japan also offering a similar incentive.
“To athletes, I want to confirm the government’s commitment to fully provide NOCK and Team Kenya with all the necessary support needed in preparations and participation in the Tokyo Games. My office is working closely with NOCK to ensure we beat all the deadlines,” Amina assured.
“By failing to prepare, you are preparing to fail, we are winners and we must prepare very well. We have over the years excelled in Olympics and Paralympics. For us to uphold the status, it’s important that we prepare this team in the best environment possible by ensuring that they train in an environment similar to the one they will compete in.”
Kenya started hunting for training facilities in Japan three years ago and Kurume offered the perfect deal as they only sought for sponsorship as opposed to other cities and institutions which were instead hunting for commercial gain.
“NOCK started the process three years ago with the Ministry of Sports and they went to several areas in Japan including Universities and Cities who made an offer but were taking that discussion in terms of how much they would get thus adding a cost to the country,” NOCK Secretary General Francis Mutuku explained.
He added; “Kurume made an offer that was not in commercial sense but in terms of sponsorship so this appealed to us.”