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Finally, Kip Keino Classic organisers get their fitting reward

Finally, Kip Keino Classic organisers get their fitting reward

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Nairobi, October 3

When the first starter’s gun goes off on Saturday (October 3), organisers of the Kip Keino Classic Continental Tour will sigh with relief.

The first international athletics competition to be held in Africa since the Covid-19 global near-total shut down in March is very important for Kenya as it signals the return of athletics action at home after many challenges since March 2020.

With athletes from about 30 nationalities converging on Nairobi this Saturday, the Kip Keino Classic Continental Tour is arguably the biggest track and field event ever to be held in East Africa after the World Athletics Cross Country Championships in South Africa, Morocco, Kenya, and Uganda.

The Classic serves as the fillips the world needed to continue fighting the Covid-19 Pandemic, which paralysed the world of sports, athletics included for seven months.

For Kenya government, Athletics Kenya, and sponsors, the Kip Keino Classic is expected to jump start preparations for the World U-20 Championship in Nairobi, Tokyo Olympics Trials, the First Lady Half Marathon and Standard Chartered Marathon races.

The laps so far covered could have knocked off even the best endurance runners but Athletics Kenya has soldiered on since November 23 last year when World Athletics awarded Kenya the Gold Libel classification status of the Continental Tour, which ranks a tier below the Diamond League.

The Covid-19 hiccups delayed the previous dates but the Athletics Kenya President Jackson Tuwei-led team, in association with the Kenyan Government, did not relent.

They, instead, continued organizational assignments either using Zoom or meeting under strict Covid medical protocols.

World Athletics urged Kenya to soldier on throughout the dark days.

“This is an event that is really important, especially for Africa,” AK President Jackson Tuwei told World Athletics.

“It is going to open up sports in the country and most likely in Africa, because since Covid-19, there has not been any major championship in Africa.”

Previously slated for May, the Kip Keino Classic was pushed to the current date after the government extended the cross-border movement restrictions and upheld the sports competition embargo.

Tuwei was further quoted: “A lot of disruption was experienced not only in preparations but also the athletes were affected and so it was a bit of a challenge when it was postponed. But we are very excitednand looking forward to hosting a very successful event,”

President Uhuru Kenyatta amplified the good news on September 26 during the official opening of the re-furbished Nyayo National Stadium.

The Head of State personally oversaw the construction work completed in time for Saturday afternoon action.

He said on 26 September: "In just over a week, this stadium will play host to the Kip Keino Classic, which will be the first-ever World Athletics Continental Tour Event to be held on the African continent.

He added: "The event, named after our great hero and trailblazing Olympic champion, Kipchoge Keino, will bring together elite athletes from all over the world to compete in various track and held events on Saturday, October 3rd 2020.

“Our being entrusted to host this global event is evidence of the confidence that the world has in our country and our levels of Covid-19 containment; as it will be the first global sporting event to be held on the African continent since the advent of the Covid-19 pandemic struck.

Head of State continued: "The Kip Keino Classic, and the other sporting events that will be held as we gradually and progressively re-open the country, will be conducted with strict adherence to all applicable protocols, guidelines and regulations. This will ensure that sportspersons, coaches, media and spectators are kept safe and healthy."

Athletics Kenya President Jackson Tuwei added: “We have directions from the government of Kenya and the Ministry of Health and therefore we will coordinate activities in such a manner that we don’t put any athlete or any other person in jeopardy.”

The planned TV broadcast will be executed by local companies led by TV rights holder NTV, a company of the Nation Media Group which is the biggest media house in the eastern Africa region.

The feed will be shared with World Athletics for global distribution.

With a guaranteed three-year presence at a global level, the Kip Keino Classic is another of returning international athletics home.