CELEBRATING THE TRIUMPHS OF 2021 IN SPORTS AND LOOKING AHEAD
The year 2021 began under a cloud of gloom due to the ravaging effects of coronavirus which led to the disruption of livelihoods, loss of lives, and postponement of major sporting and cultural events. Despite the trellis of challenges, Kenya excelled in the sporting world, both in the participation and organisation of international, regional and national competitions.
For the first time in 18 years, Kenya held the Word Rally Championships, Safari Rally, an event that attracted tens of thousands of spectators from across the country with over 825 million people in global television viewership and more than 1.5 billion online impressions making it one of the most streamed events worldwide. The event had far-reaching economic benefits to our country and to the business community in the bubbly town of Naivasha, injecting upwards of Ksh 6.1 billion into the economy in form of cash transactions, foreign exchange, and investment.
The organisation of the event received unprecedented acclamation from the international motorsport body FIA, participants, and attendants due to the strict observance of Covid-19 mitigation protocols, the selection of the routes and general organization of the competition.
It is this exemplary show and the overarching reforms in the sports sector, I believe, that enabled Kenya to successfully defend a seat in the World Motor Sport Council General Assembly in an election held in December this year. This is a win for Kenya as it enhances the country’s presence in the global motorsports governing body. It also reinforces the importance of the Safari Rally for the next 5 seasons.
In the same year, Kenya hosted the European Tour Open Golf Tournament and the inaugural Kenya Savannah Classic bringing together professional golfers in the first major golfing event in Africa since the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic. Kenya also hosted 1,500 athletes for the World Athletics Under 20 championships that were held at the Moi International Sports Centre, Kasarani. The World Under 20 event saw 4 new records set in Nairobi, 15 championship records, 11 area records, 68 national records, 10 national senior records, and 256 personal bests with Kenya finishing top of the table. The country’s junior athletes exceptionally and successfully defended the country’s athletic dominance by bagging 16 medals (8 gold, 1 silver and 7 bronze).
Additionally, Kenya had the privilege to host the African Deaflympics trials and the only country in Africa to host the World Athletics Continental Tour series (held under the Kip Keino Classic banner). The Tong-IL Moo-Do championships were held in Mombasa in December closed the year extremely well.
Away from home, the Tokyo 2020 Olympics was another highlight of the year 2021. From the preparation here in Kenya, to the residential camp in Kurume City in Japan, and eventual participation in the Olympics, we saw precision in the organisation, proper coordination and meticulous execution.
The entire planning and preparation for the Olympics placed the athlete at the core of preparations and competition. As a result, Kenya had a Covid-19, and scandal-free preparatory process executed in a conducive environment, facilitating Kenya’s continental dominance finishing top in Africa with a total of 10 medals (4 Gold, 4 Silver and 2 Bronze). Kenya also participated in the Paralympic Games and was represented in various other competitions in Football, Cricket, Basketball, Volleyball and boxing in major cities of the world.
Beyond the field and track events, the government has continued to support sports and talent development through the renovation, upgrading, and construction of stadia across the country.
In the year 2021, the government completed the renovation of the Moi International Sports Centre Kasarani, Nyayo National Stadium, Chuka Stadium, Wang’uru Stadium (in Kirinyaga County) which hosted this year’s Madaraka Day, the Jomo Kenyatta Stadium in Kisumu, Kinoru Stadium and has advanced the construction of Kirigiti Stadium in Kiambu County to near completion.
Additionally, the government completed the refurbishment of Stadion Hotel at Kasarani Stadium (which is not only a conference facility but also acts as a residential camp for both national and international teams), and the renovation and upgrading of Jamhuri Sports Ground.
To preserve and reinforce the stability of cricket and football in Kenya, I constituted the Cricket Normalisation Committee in March, 2021 and the FKF Caretaker Committee in November, 2021. These Committees are operating in close consultation with the International Cricket Committee and FIFA to restore the managerial integrity of the concerned Federations and secure Kenya’s participation in regional and international championships in the future.
To cushion our sportsmen and women from the vagaries of Covid-19, we stepped up efforts to offer monthly support to them as well as provide psychological and technical guidance at the start of the pandemic. Overall, 2021 has been an excellent year for the sporting family.
The 2022 sporting calendar promises to be equally exciting with the Agnes Tirop Conference in January to discuss athlete safety, equality and inclusion in sports and the Agnes Tirop Cross Country Championship in February, 2022 in honour of Kenyan Olympian after whom the event is named. The WRC Safari Rally Kenya will be held in Naivasha from 23-26 June, 2022, the World Athletics Championships in Oregon, USA, July 15-24, 2022, the Commonwealth Games, 28th July to 8th August 2022 in Birmingham, UK and the World Athletics Continental Tour among many other regional and international championships. Kenya’s Resumption to Sports Protocols will continue to apply with modifications to guarantee the safety of players and spectators.
Amb. Amina Mohamed, Cabinet Secretary for Sports, Culture and Heritage