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President Kibaki opens African athletics festival

By | July 28th 2010

By Omulo Okoth at Nyayo Stadium

A huge crowd was at hand to witness President Kibaki declare the 17th Safaricom African Senior Athletics Championships officially opened at this custom-made stadium.

Estimated at 25,000, the crowd watched a modestly-choreographed opening ceremony where pupils from Nairobi’s schools and a cocktail of entertainment preceded the ceremony, also watched by Vice-President Kalonzo Musyoka, African Athletics Confederations chief Hamad Kalkaba Malboum, former Speaker of the National Assembly Francis Xavier ole Kaparo and past and current celebrated athletes.

Traditional dancers perform during the opening ceremony of the 17th edition of the Safaricom African Senior Athletics Championships at Nyayo National Stadium, Wednesday. [PHOTOS: STAFFORD ONDEGO/STANDARD]

Scouting regalia

The Head of State arrived at 1.45pm dressed in full scouting regalia after officiating at a scouting function. Then Kenya’s afro-fusion musician Suzanna Owiyo set off the programme with a traditional rendition of an old Nyatiti (kamba nane) number followed by her blockbusting chart, Kisumo.

Sarakasi dancers and renowned Nakuru-based football fanatic Isaac Juma, coloured from feet to head in Kenyan flag colours, rendered a fast-paced dance before the school children did a formation of African map in the famous white, yellow, black and red colours depicting the continent’s diversity inside the stadium.

Teams then filed along the tartan track, amid applause from the crowd. But a thunderous applause was reserved for the Kenyan team, led by world and Olympics 800m silver medallist Janeth Jepkosgei and world and former Olympics steeplechase champion Ezekiel Kemboi.

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Isaiah Kiplagat, Athletics Kenya Chairman, who also headed the Local Organising Committee made a speech in which he extolled African athletes before Sports Minister Hellen Sambili took the stage to thank sponsors and supporters of the event. Kalkaba paid tribute to the youth and Kenya for accepting to host the event then invited President Kibaki whose five-minute address was full of praise of CAA and International Association of Athletics Federations (IAAF) for their faith in Kenya who hosted the World Cross Country Championships in Mombasa three years ago.

Security was high inside and around the stadium, but no ugly incident took place. Petty traders did roaring business selling artifacts, clothes and food.

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