Bad news for Kenyan athletes as Namwamba maintains stance on stadia closure

The Star

Bad news for Kenyan athletes as Namwamba maintains stance on stadia closure

Joel Omotto 19:23 - 25.05.2024

Kenyan athletes who have not attained Olympics qualifying standards will have to do it elsewhere as the government has maintained that Kasarani or Nyayo will not be opened anytime soon.

Sports Cabinet Secretary Ababu Namwamba has insisted Nyayo and Kasarani Stadiums will not be reopened until the ongoing refurbishment is complete.

The two facilities have been closed for major upgrades as Kenya prepares for the 2027 Africa Cup of Nations which has seen a number of teams seek playing venues elsewhere.

Among those affected are Harambee Stars, who are set to play their home 2026 World Cup qualifiers against Burundi and Ivory Coast in Malawi next month, while Kenyan athletes have no World Athletics-accredited venue to conduct Olympics trials.

It means those who have not hit the Olympic qualifying standards have to look for competitions outside the country to secure their tickets to the Paris Games with the Ulinzi Complex, which has been proposed to host the Olympics trials, not certified.

Kenyan athletes have vowed to boycott the trials if they are not held at a World Athletics-accredited venue and even though Athletics Kenya indicated that there could be a respite, it looks like that will not be possible.

“I know that Kenyans have had a lot of concerns about the state of Kenyan stadia. Kenyans have expressed concerns about our national teams playing away from home and I can tell Kenyans that is the price we pay for 60 years of neglect,” said Namwamba on Saturday.

“For a long time, this country has neglected to invest sufficiently in our sports facilities. We built Nyayo and Kasarani stadiums 40 years ago and then we let them lie there without any refurbishing.

“Nyayo and Kasarani are 40 years old, they have reached a level where they just can’t hack it and that is why I have closed those two facilities and they are undergoing major refurbishing to be reopened by the end of this year.”

Namwamba maintains Kenya has neglected the stadia issue for so long and the country will have to endure some short-term pain for long-term gain.

“By the time we reopen Kasarani and Nyayo, they would have returned to the highest level of international status. We have to undergo some temporary pain while we fix this decades-long period of neglect. It will be temporary pain but by the time we are done, we will have a permanent fix,” he added.

Kenyan sprinters, such as Mark Otieno, are among the most hit as so far given only Africa’s fastest man Ferdinand Omanyala (100m), Zablon Ekwam (400m) and Wiseman Were (400m hurdles) have attained the Olympic qualifying marks.

The country’s 10,000m runners have already sought refuge outside the country and are set to seek the qualifying standards at this weekend’s Prefontaine Classic, the Eugene Diamond League.

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