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Kenya Open like no other, thanks to Covid-19

GOLF By Elvince Joshua | March 18th 2021
Zimbabwean golfer Robson Chinoi in a mock recording at Karen Golf Club on February 24. [Stafford Ondego, Standard]

This will be a Kenya Open like no other.

The local sports scene has never been the same ever since the first case of Covid-19 was reported in the country, in March 2020.

As medics and governments were burning the midnight oil trying to piece up information about the new virus, economies were feeling the weight exerted by the bug. Almost all sectors of the economy were affected. Sports was not spared either.

The 54-year-old Magical Kenya Open Championship, a European Tour event, was among the major events that were shelved last year after the government enforced stringent health measures aimed at containing the virus.

Other than the 1994 event which failed to take place due to lack of sponsorship, the annual tournament has been held every year until Covid-19 happened...

Kenya Open was established in 1967 and it had remained on the Challenge Tour schedule until 2019 when it was elevated to the elite European Tour calendar.

But last week, President Uhuru Kenyatta spelt out tough rules in a public order that outlawed social gathering and political rallies for the next two months; a proclamation that might grave effects on the heritage of the magical event.

"Cognisant that the propagation of the coronavirus disease within our borders has been fuelled by political gatherings and large social gatherings, I direct that all forms of political gatherings be and are hereby prohibited for a period of 30 days,"Uhuru said last Friday in his First Coronavirus Public Order of 2021 address to the nation.

Local golfer Justus Madoya training at Golf Park Ngong Racecourse on March 11, 2021 ahead of the Magical Kenya Open 2021. [Stafford Ondego, Standard]

"If indeed we value the lives of fellow Kenyans...these meetings must stop. This order apply to everyone, myself included.

"This is an order and anyone found violating it will be dealt with."

This decree by the Commander-In-Chief was not only directed to politicians but also ordinary citizen.

In the past, it had become a tradition of sort for a sitting Kenyan president to grace the final day of the Kenya Open.

While the organisers expect the president to continue with the tradition, it will be interesting to see how he will wade through the First Public Order pronouncement, should he honour the invite.

"To secure the implementation of the Order on political gatherings, public ceremonies, I, hereby further direct the National Government Administration Officers (NGAO) jointly with the National Police Service and County Governments Enforcements Officers to strictly enforce this Public Order regardless of the social and political status of the convenors of the political gatherings," said Uhuru.

Professional golfer John Wangai takes shots of a giraffe at Nairobi National Park during an early morning game drive organized by Kenya Tourism Board (KTB) where they announced support for the Golf Tournament on March 13, 2021. [Stafford Ondego, Standard]

Meanwhile, unlike the previous editions, this year's show will pass as one of the most expensive legs of the tour for both local and international media covering the event.

It will cost approximately Sh500,000 to have one journalist cover the event. Each journalist, whether local or foreigner, will be required to be holed up in a bubble (under restricted conditions) where they will not be allowed to interact with the public for the entire duration of the tournament.

The bubble conditions are expected to have great significance on the social aspect of those involved in the tournament, from participants, caddies and the media. Interaction will be limited.

But for fans, this event will be out of bounds although if you still want to have a feel the European Tour outside the serene environment of Karen Country Club, then you may need to be at the Sigona, Vet Lab or  Muthaiga Golf Clubs, where enthusiasts will be allowed access to follow the action live on TV.

Covid 19 Time Series


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