Speech By Amb. (Dr.) Amina Mohamed, Egh, Cav, Cabinet Secretary, Ministry Of Sports, Culture And Heritage During The Launch Of The Kip Keino Classic – World Athletics Gold Continental Tour At Nyayo Stadium, 21st September 2020
Ambassador Nicolas Nihon, Ambassador of Belgium to Kenya
Joe Okudo, Principal Secretary, State Department for Sports
Mzee Kipchoge Keino, a Kenyan Hero and Legendary Athlete who has served our country with impeccable dedication and patriotism,
Lt. General (Rtd.) Jackson Tuwei, President, Athletics Kenya
Mr. Fred Muteti, Chairperson, Sports Kenya
Pius Meto, Director General, Sports Kenya
Myke Rabar, Chief Executive Officer, World Athletics U-20 Championships
Members of the Organising Committee led by Mr. Barnabas Korir, Event Director.
Ladies and Gentlemen
We converge here today, to launch the first ever World Athletics Continental Tour to be held on the African Continent. The Kip-Keino Classic is Africa’s pioneer, one-day meeting outside of the Diamond League. Bearing a Gold Label, the Nairobi Event is classified among the most prestigious World Athletic events based on the quality of competition and prize money.
The name of this event honours Kenya’s athletic excellence. A country of many firsts in the world of track. Cultured for speed, consistency, endurance and smart tact, Kenya sticks out to the world as an outlier in the world of mid and long-distance running.
Dr. Kipchoge Keino, after whom this Nairobi Gold Label Continental Tour is named, is one of our nation’s top sportspersons and the pioneer of Kenya’s unbeaten command in mid and long-distance running.
He debuted his international running career in 1962 when he set a national record in the Mile. Thereafter, he represented Kenya in the first post-independence games at the 1964 Olympics in Tokyo finishing fifth in the 5,000m. Later that year, he set two world records in 3,000m and 5,000m.
In 1965 at the first ever All Africa Games in Congo Brazzaville, he won Gold in 1,500m and 5,000m. At the 1966 Commonwealth Games held in Kingston, Jamaica, he won gold medals in both the Mile and Three Mile events.
Dr. Kipchoge Keino went on to command the track at the 1968 Olympics in Mexico City despite having to run a mile to the stadium in time for the start owing to traffic delays. His victorious finish in the 1500m with a world record time of 3 mins 34.9 seconds which stood for 16 years came packed with many lifelong lessons for upcoming athletes. Many of them credited for our country’s half a century control of the marathon and other athletic disciplines. It was also at the Mexico City Olympics that he also won a silver medal in the 5,000m, despite a gall bladder infection, yet again silencing and enduring the discomfort of present circumstances to yield victory.
At the 1972 Olympics in Munich, Germany he won his second Olympic gold medal in the 3,000m steeplechase and a silver medal in the 1,500m before retiring from active competition in 1973.
By his leadership, Dr. Kipchoge Keino has mentored a generation of the best athletes in and beyond Kenya. This event celebrates his enduring spirit and lifelong contributions to the world of sport in and out of competition.
Ladies and Gentlemen,
Seven years ago, Kenya put in a bid to host the IAAF World Under-18 Championships. We were awarded the hosting rights and staged one of the most successful IAAF U-18 at the Moi International Sports Centre, Kasarani witnessed by over 60,000 fans. More than 30,000 could not access the stadium because it was packed to capacity; a demonstration of Kenyans’ passionate sports enthusiasm.
Owing to this resounding success and following a personal guarantee by His Excellency President Uhuru Kenyatta, World Athletics awarded Kenya the rights to host the World Under-20 Championships initially scheduled for July this year. However, owing to the coronavirus pandemic, this event was rescheduled to August 17 – 22, 2021.
Ladies and Gentlemen,
Last year, in conjunction with Athletics Kenya, I negotiated for Nairobi to be included as one of 10 host cities scheduled to convene the new World Athletics Continental Tour. I personally travelled to Monaco to engage the top leadership of World Athletics, led by the President, Lord Sebastian Coe to bid for Nairobi’s turn and offer Kenyans a chance to witness and celebrate the triumph of our national heroes at home. Continued and deliberate discussions with World Athletics yielded an affirmation for Nairobi to be including in the list of ten cities designated to host the first series of the World Continental Tour.
Other designated cities included: Tokyo/Japan, Nanjin/China, Ostrava/Czech Republic, Hengelo/Netherlands, Turku/Finland, Kingston/Jamaica, Szekesfehervar/Hungary, Silesia/Poland, and Zagreb/Croatia.
Ladies and Gentlemen,
It is therefore with great pride that I launch the Kip Keino Classic to be held at the Nyayo National Stadium on 3rd October 2020. Named after our trailblazing legend, Dr. Kipchoge Keino, the Kip Keino Classic expected to convene more than 150 elite competitors is yet another huge leap in appreciating Kenya’s ability to host mega sports events.
It is my hope that the successful management of this important component of the World Athletics Continental Tour for an initial period of three years is a precursor to realising our ambition to host the World Athletics Championships in the year 2025.
Ladies and Gentlemen,
We have focused on completing the construction of world class stadia across the country. Despite various challenges, we have secured return to work formulas for all with a deliverable deadline of December this year. I wish to appreciate the support of County Governments and Local Administrative structures for joining the Ministry’s monitoring team to assure completion.
I would also like to thank Athletics Kenya, led by its President, Lt. Gen. (retired) Jackson Tuwei, and the Local Organising Committee, headed by the Meeting Director Mr. Barnabas Korir, and all those who have spared no effort to make this event possible.
Finally, I wish all our participating athletes glorious victory. “Remember your greatness and dare to stand on the shoulders of the legends who have preceded you. By conquering your inhibitions and bringing your winning attitude to the track, you will be honouring your country and the great men and women who sacrificed everything so that you could experience this moment.”
To all visiting athletes, I assure you of an unrivalled experience marked by exceptional Kenyan generosity and hospitality. We look forward to welcoming you all to Nairobi.
With these remarks, it is now my pleasure to declare the Kip Keino Classic officially launched.