With just hours to Saturday’s second edition of the Kip Keino Classic, there couldn’t have been a better time to be assured of the one-day meet’s financial longevity than Monday’s event launch at the Ole Sereni.
Thanks to new title sponsors Absa (formerly Barclays), what is now officially known as the Absa Kip Keino Classic will certainly have a more solid financial base.
In turn, this will mean Meet Director Barnaba Korir will boast a bigger cheque book to entice more attractive names onto the competition’s start list, the right tonic for its eventual, and inevitable, elevation onto the top-tier Diamond League series.
Whoever coined the expression “Magical Kenya” wasn’t merely looking for a catchy marketing tagline, because there’s surely something magical about Kenya.
In sport, the Absa Kenya Open has over the years held a unique spot on golf’s Challenge Tour and its success elevated it onto the European Tour, with the bank financing this year’s edition against the backdrop of serious coronavirus-enforced challenges.
With Absa’s backing, Tournament Director Patrick Obath ensured our tee-to-green organisational competence was impeccable.
And then in June, Kenya’s Safari Rally returned to the World Rally Championship series and made an immediate impact with all top manufacturers’ drivers vowing to make a comeback to the torment in the belly of the Rift Valley next year.
It certainly lived up to its billing as the world’s toughest rally with WRC Safari Rally CEO Phineas Kimathi and his team pulling out all the stops to make for a most successful round on the circuit, even as more well-heeled organisers, including Japan, threw in the towel, calling off their respective events.
Credit too must go to the Kenyan government, through the Ministry of Sports, Culture and Heritage who — via the Sports, Arts and Social Development Fund — provided funds for all these competitions along with Kenya’s campaigns at the Olympic and Paralympic Games, among other assignments.
It’s certainly not easy for a country battling with an incoherent education system, ailing health sector, virtually non-existent housing strategy and challenged security portfolio to set aside a tidy sum for sport, with Sh250 million voted for the Absa Kip Keino Classic alone from Treasury.
It was a no-brainer for Absa to muster support for sport, given the role sport plays in mending a nation’s social fabric especially at a time political temperatures are fast rising.
“Absa is very passionate about things that bring people together, things that will uplift communities and that will uplift this country, and one of the things that we find does this very well is sports,” Absa Kenya Managing Director justified in a chat on the sidelines of yesterday’s Absa Kip Keino Classic launch where the bank announced a Sh20 million commitment for this weekend’s one-day meet.
This Saturday’s competition will certainly be uplifting, and a welcome departure from the political din in a nation whose campaigns run in five-year cycles, starting hours after inauguration all the way to ballot day.
A quick glance at some names on Saturday’s (yet to be finalised) start list is surreal!:
Men’s 100m: Justin Gatlin (USA, 2017 world champion), Trayvon Brommel (USA, fastest man in the world this year — 9.77 seconds), Ferdinand Omanyala (first Kenyan to dip under 10 seconds and fastest Kenyan ever at 9.86);
Men’s 200m: Michael Rodgers (USA, former national 100m champion), Fred Kerley (USA two-time national 400m champion), Isaac Makwala (Botswana, Commonwealth 400m champion, Olympic 4x400m relay bronze medalist);
Men’s Steeplechase: Soufiane El Bakkali (Morocco, Olympic champion), Benjamin Kigen (Olympic bronze medalist and fastest this year – 8:07.12), Amos Serem (newly-crowned world under-20 champion);
Men’s hammer throw: Wojciech Nowiscki (Poland, Olympic champion);
Women’s 200m: Christine Mboma (Namibia, Olympic silver medalist and world under-20 record holder), Beatrice Masilingi (Namibia, Olympic finalist), Marie-Jose Talou (Cote d’Ivoire, former world 100m, 200m silver medalist);
Women’s steeplechase: Peruth Chemutai (Uganda, Olympic champion), Celliphine Chespol (Kenya’s two-time world junior champion and record holder);
Women’s 1,500m: Faith Chepng’etich Kipyegon (Olympic and world champion), Winnie Chebet (Africa champion), Mercy Cherono (former World Championships 5,000m silver medalist, multiple world junior champion), Winnie Nanyondo (Uganda, former Commonwealth 800m bronze medalist). The list goes on…
With the meet not open to spectators (there could be limited numbers allowed owing to Covid-19 protocols and precautions), rest assured that NTV will bring the first class action right into your living rooms (and pubs).
Besides playing a great role in the development of athletics, the Nation Media Group, through NTV, is also central to helping track and field stars transition into punditry, with retired athletes — including 2008 Olympic 800 metres champion Wilfred Bungei and legendary pacemaker Martin Keino — expected in the Absa Kip Keino Classic’s commentary booth along with NTV’s fast-rising, indefatigable sports anchor Idah Waringa.
Absa’s entry as title sponsors has certainly raise the bar a lot higher, and I simply can’t wait for Saturday!