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Shame as stadiums remain in sorry state; will Ababu deliver?


Apart from Moi Sports Centre Kasarani and Nyayo National Stadium in Nairobi, a majority of sporting facilities outside the capital are still in a sorry state. The current administration is yet to revive the stalled infrastructure

For instance, stadiums such as Kipchoge Keino in Eldoret (Uasin Gishu County) and Wilson Kiprugut Chumo Green Stadium in Kericho (Kericho County) have been named after big names in the sport but remain an eyesore.

The iconic Kamariny stadium in Iten, the country's home of athletics talent remains a disfigurement in Kenyan sports facilities.

Elgeyo Marakwet, Nandi and Uasin Gishu have been christened the home, source and City of champions respectively because of the high number of athletics medallists the three have produced over the years, but shockingly, training facilities remain a mirage.

Since 2016, the stadiums that would have placed the country among nations that value talent development have stalled.

 A section of the incomplete Kipchoge Keino stadium in Eldoret yesterday December 10, 2022. Sports CS Ababau made an impromptu visit at the facility. [Stephen Rutto, Standard]

At Eldoret's Kipchoge Keino Stadium, which is named after the legendary Olympic champion Kipchoge Keino, the Ministry of Sports is yet to complete the construction of a pavilion and changing rooms.

"Our main focus this year is to speed up the upgrade of our county sports facilities. We have two main sports projects which are the 64 Stadium in Eldoret and Chagaiya High Altitude Training camp, and we are hopeful of completing them," Uasin Gishu Governor Jonathan Bii says.

Nandi County Government is yet to complete the Eliud Kipchoge training camp that is named after the World marathon record holder Eliud Kipchoge.

Two years ago Kericho Green Stadium was renamed Wilson Kiprugut Chumo Green Stadium in honour of the late Kiprugut Chumo, who won Kenya the first Olympic medal in 1964, in Tokyo. It is yet to match the big name.

In the Tarakwa area of Uasin Gishu, a proposed Chagaiya High Altitude Training camp, which will host nearly 300 athletes from the county, is still under construction, seven years after its establishment.

Slow progress

For the last nearly eight years, completion of the proposed upgrade of stadiums by both national and county governments has been slow. Other facilities have stalled and turned to eyesores, putting to shame areas that have produced the highest number of top athletes, who continue to rake in the medals.

In January this year, Sports Cabinet Secretary Ababu Namwamba ordered an audit of all stadiums under refurbishment by his ministry, adding that it was shameful that the country was spending millions of money on upgrading stadiums, yet there was no meaningful progress.

The CS said he had written a letter to the auditor general, asking for an audit on all the recently constructed stadiums across the country.

After touring Moi Stadium, one of the stadiums under construction, the sports CS expressed displeasure with the manner in which the contractor was undertaking the construction works. He claimed the contractor was delivering shoddy work and that the project was not commensurate with the amount that the government had appropriated to put up the stadium.

Namwamba decried the poor state of Moi Stadium, which he said had cost the Kenyan taxpayer Sh180 million, noting it was laughable that there was nothing notable done on the ground.

"It is a big shame for one to claim a contract to build a stadium that cost Sh180 million only to do a job that does not match the amount of money allocated," he said.

As upgrading of stadiums stalls, budding athletes who can't afford long drives to access better facilities continue to struggle with poor training facilities such as running tracks, physiotherapy and gyms among others.

Poor consultation

Claims of establishing stadiums without consultation and adequate awareness among athletes and coaches are also deliberated on in low tones.

"We have heard many people caution athletes against switching to road races at young ages. We have to train and compete for a longer time before switching to road races, but that can't happen because there are no facilities even in the world's most famous training base - Iten," 27-year-old half marathoner Boniface Kimutai said at the stalled Kamariny Stadium.

Kamariny Stadium upgrade was a joint undertaking between the Ministry of Sports and Elgeyo Marakwet County, but it remained in a sorry state as athletes suffered after the contractor abandoned the site.

 Dilapidated Kamariny stadium a major training facility in Keiyo North sub-County in Iten, Elgeyo Marakwet County on November 9, 2021. [Christopher Kipsang,Standard]

The county pumped Sh50 million on terraces in one section of the proposed modern stadium, which remains the only palpable structure in the facility that was once used by the country's world beaters in athletics. It was to be refurbished at Sh287 million.

Just like other stalled establishments, the towering terraces on the eastern part of the stadium were also beginning to rot away.

Earlier in February this year, Elgeyo Marakwet County established a mud track where a tartan track was set to be built after waiting for the completion of the facility for too long.Before county construction machines embarked on upgrading and compacting the track on Monday, a new contractor was yet to start work at the site.

The contract for the construction of the iconic Stadium was terminated by the Ministry of Sports in September 2020, and a new one is yet to start the upgrade works.

Athletics coach Elkanah Ruto says tacticians and athletes have been requesting the county government to make the stalled stadium usable, to enable athletes to prepare for the upcoming Athletics Kenya (AK) track and field weekend meetings.

Ruto said the stadium will be open for training purposes from next week. He added that they were still engaging the county to upgrade the mud track to a murram track to make it usable during the rainy seasons.

"We are glad because the stadium has been made usable after years of closure. We requested the county so that athletes can prepare for the track season," he said.

He continued: "Lane one, which is crucial for training is not yet ready but are soon meeting as coaches in Iten to have a consensus on the lanes so that we avoid situations where we end up having a substandard training facility. We are happy that athletes can train on the track even in the current state."

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