Korir slams Government for silence on Nairobi 2017 WU18
Olympian and 2012 Boston Marathon champion, Wesley Korir, has slammed the Government for burying its head in the sand even as top countries continue pulling out of the Nairobi 2017 IAAF World Under 18 Championships.
The Cherangany Member of Parliament blamed the Ministry of Sports, Culture and the Arts for failing to strike a reassuring tone in the wake of what is now threatening to be a mass withdrawal from the last ever global showpiece of its kind.
But Government spokesman, Eric Kiraithe, quickly moved to assure countries willing to participate in the event scheduled for July 12-16 stringent security arrangements were in place.
On Monday, defending champions USA became the sixth and the highest profile nation to pull out from the event citing security concerns, joining New Zealand, Britain, Australia, Canada and Switzerland.
Athletics world governing body, IAAF, have in the past raised concerns over the slow strides taken by the Local Organizing Committee (LOC) to ensure the country is ready to host close to 1600 athletes from over 150 countries.
Speaking at Parliament buildings on Wednesday, Korir warned the inaction by authorities risks damaging the country’s image besides laying to waste the huge outlay of tax payers money the State guaranteed to host the event.
“The billions allocated for the event are a concern because if, the event flops then those billions will have gone down the drain.
“We’re so focused on who we’re going to elect as our next Head of State during the upcoming General Election at the expense of the image of our country. Should we fail to host a successful event then our image will be adversely affected,” the legislator who finished fourth at last year’s Boston Marathon charged.
“These withdrawals are a great cause for concern. The Government has not spoken a word or tried to assure everything is well in response to the concerns raised by these countries.
“Funds meant for the championship were approved a long time ago but most members of the committees are yet to be paid. Worse, the Government’s silence is a slap in the face of Kenyan and other athletes,” Korir lamented.
He warned that the continued exodus from the event will inevitably have a trickle-down effect on its competitive edge and, thus, its appeal.
Korir advised the country was far better off giving up the hosting rights rather than holding on with little commitment towards ensuring it was a resounding success.
“The damage in hosting a flop event is it will never be forgotten,” he underscored.
When contacted by Citizen Digital, Kiraithe said fears over terrorism and crime during the event as well as the election euphoria were unfounded.
The Government spokesman instead challenged countries which have already announced their withdrawal to stop using lack of security as a scapegoat saying that Kenya’s record of successfully hosting international meets in the past speaks for itself.
“It’s true that security in the country is a challenge but you know very well that we aren’t holding the games in dangerous areas like Mandera and El Adde, its here in Nairobi. Let me assure you that security will be tight,” Kiraithe stressed.
Kiraithe added Kenya had moved fast avert further pull outs by putting in place advanced security measures which they have been continuously reviewing and will continue doing so until the completion of the championships.
“Security details will be followed to the letter in places where the athletes will run,sleep and do their practice.Notably, this is a timely event that will take place for a specific period of time and we are very ready to see that ends well,” the spokesman emphasised.
Kiraithe warned politicians against making reckless statements during the electioneering period that can be interpreted by the international community that Kenya is unsafe.
-Report by Janet Okumu, Matthews Mutai and Mwangi Githinji
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