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Cash crunch hits plans for world youth 2017 event

By Brian Yonga

Preparations for the 2017 World Under-18 Championships to be held in Nairobi continue to stall as the government yet to release funds over a year since Kenya won the bid.

A delegation headed by International Association of Athletics Federations (IAAF) vice-president Hamad Kalkaba Malboum is expected in the country next Tuesday to inspect the progress of preparations for the championship and efforts being made to deal with the doping scam in athletics.

The team was supposed to jet in last December but the trip postponed due to scandals at the world body.

Local Organising Committee (LOC) chairman Jackson Tuwei Lt. Gen (Rtd) on Thursday said the Cabinet was meeting to approve the Sh2 billion budget needed to host the event scheduled for July 11 to 16 at Safaricom Kasarani Stadium.

Last month, the committee requested a supplementary budget of Sh200m to begin preparations, but the government went quiet.

Sports Principal Secretary Richard Ekai said there was no cause for alarm, promising to hold a meeting to jump-start the preparations but one month down the line, no funds have been released.

Ekai said the ministry was expected to scrutinise the budget before a memo is done for approval by the Cabinet.

As the government was dragging its feet, AK wrote to IAAF requesting for a change of venue for the youth championship from the 30,000-seater Nyayo National Stadium to the Safaricom Stadium Kasarani.

Tuwei, who spoke during the unveiling of the LOC secretariat at Safaricom Kasarani Stadium is optimistic the country will be ready to host the international competition.

He said they are expecting team from IAAF next week to oversee the preparations.

“It would have been nice if our preparations were at an advanced stage, but, nonetheless, I believe the government is committed to ensuring we succeed in hosting the championship.

As soon as the funds are out, we shall see some improvement,” said Tuwei.

He further said that Kasarani Stadium would soon be closed down for renovations on the running and warm-up tracks.

Athletes will be accommodated at the Kenyatta University and IAAF officials will stay at the Safari Park Hotel.

“The secretariat would help in logistics and planning of the championship. It would also help in marketing Kenya as a tourist destination,” said Tuwei.

If the championship is a success, it will be the second global competition to take place at the home of athletics after the 2007 World Cross Country Championships that were held in Mombasa.

At the same time, Tuwei is optimistic that a Bill seeking to criminalise doping and the setting up of testing mechanisms will be tabled in Parliament soon.

Last week, Kenya was given a two-month grace period by the World Anti-Doping Agency (Wada) to step up the fight against doping.

This is after the country missed last week’s’ deadline to prove it was not a non-compliant nation.

Showing seriousness would include creation of legislation that would criminalise doping and setting up of testing mechanisms.

40 Kenyan athletes have been sanctioned in the last three years.

On Wednesday, AFP reported that the Kenya’s athletics team could be banned from the Rio Olympics by IAAF if AK is found to be non-compliant with the WADA code.

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