IAAF World U18 Championships at Kasarani Stadium onSaturday 15/07/17.[Boniface Okendo,Standard]
An army helicopter hovered above but the sound of its engines was drowned by the roar of the fans inside the Kasarani Stadium immediately Lydia Cheruto’s name was called as athletes lined up for the 800 metres semi-final.
The patriotism witnessed on Friday evening before the race which she went on and won has been the trademark of Kenyans who are attending the ongoing IAAF World U18 Championships Nairobi that end today.
At some point, on the field announcer pleaded with Kenyans present to cheer not just their own but everyone who is participating.
“Tafadhali shangilieni kila mtu sio Wakenya pekee,” he said.
In a show of patriotism, Kenyan fans turned up in impressive numbers to support Team Kenya. According to veteran sports journalists who have covered other international youth championships, the turnout which could be more than 40,000 is highest compared to Cali in 2015 and Donetsk in 2013.
TASTE OF KENYA
The move by President Uhuru Kenyatta on Tuesday to waive the entry fees plus a social media campaign by the Kenya Tourist Board (KTB) is paying off.
Initially, those who wanted to follow the events from the terrace were to pay Sh200, VIP Sh500 and VVIP Sh1, 000. The free entry created a demand for the VIP and VVIP sections leaving the terraces empty. Despite the entry being free, the spectator mix comprises Kenyans from all walks of life.
Stanley Njenga from Dandora who had brought his two children and wife to watch the games said he would want the country to host more of these events.
“I have only seen such events on TV. To watch them live is a great privilege for me and my family,” he said adding that they had walked from Dandora to the stadium.
“Security especially is very good. If the police were not here in such numbers people will be robbed in the evening when going home,” he said.
More than 1,000 officers drawn from the General Service Unit, Kenya Police Service and NYS are providing security for the event. Their presence is felt immediately one alights at the Safari Park stage on Thika Road where GSU officers are positioned every five metres apart along the perimeter wall of the stadium.
Those using public transport to access the venue are however being forced to walk three kilometers from Thika Road before gaining entry. There is only one entry for the public located at the far end of the stadium near Baba Dogo and there is no dedicated bus route to the event.
Let’s get behind our team at Kasarani
Inside, hundreds of plainclothes officers with identification tags direct spectators. Standing on the terraces is not allowed and once a section of the stadium is full, no more fans are allowed therein. Also banned is selling of snacks inside the stadium.
The action is not just inside the stadium but also the Kasarani Village where a non-stop carnival is a huge attraction especially to foreigners.