Kenyan rally enthusiasts can pop the champagne after yesterday’s announcement by the FIA that Safari Rally will return to the World Rally Championship
Kenyan rally enthusiasts can pop the champagne after yesterday’s announcement by the FIA that Safari Rally will return to the World Rally Championship calendar next year.
For those who grew up in the 80s and perhaps 90s, the Safari Rally brings nostalgic moments when they used to line up to watch some of the fastest motor drivers on earth. It was an iconic event that drew thousands of fans and a lot of sponsors even as it helped market the country as a sport destination.
Thousands of foreign rally fans visited the country and left with wonderful experiences. Indeed, many rally fans then made Kenya a must-visit nation due to the thrill and difficulty associated with negotiating the country’s terrain and seeing the wild animals. Importantly, local drivers became heroes as they did well in the event and fans could relate with them as they battled with top racers. Unfortunately, the event was allowed to go away. It is therefore a big relief to have it back.
President Uhuru Kenyatta should be commended for lobbying hard to have the event back in Kenya. It is his personal commitment and promise that made the FIA give Kenya the thumps up.
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The event comes with a lot of positives for the country, chief among them the injection of big money into the economy. Millions of people worldwide will be watching the event leading to more tourists. That will be a huge plus for a sector that used to be among the leading foreign exchange earner. But there will be no time for extended celebrations because the hard work begins now. The biggest concern even as Kenya gears up to host the event is corruption, something too familiar with major events here. Many event officials have been accused of inflating costs to shore up profits.
The Ministry of Sports must ensure the global sporting extravaganza is run transparently and safety taken seriously. Most importantly, the ministry must also ensure suppliers are paid on time. The government should work harder for the event to stay in Kenya for the longest period possible. We should avoid what made the FIA take away the WRC 16 years ago. It should be iconic even to future generations.