Kenya on World Map Again as it Hosts World Athletics U20 Championship

Kenya on World Map Again as it Hosts World Athletics U20 Championship

Naomi Wandede
updated at April 12, 2023 at 7:46 PM
  • Kenya on World Map Again as it Hosts World Athletics U20 Championship
  • The country is hosting the elite athletics event just six weeks after it successfully hosted the WRC Safari Rally
  • It was selected to host the event after successfully hosting of the IAAF World U-18 Championship in 2018
  • Kenya, the first African country to host these major world track and field events, has now set its sights on hosting the World Championship in 2025
  • President Uhuru Kenyatta has played a key role in transforming the country’s image, attracting dignitaries and top tier events to the country like a magnet
  • This is no mean achievement for a leader who ascended to the presidency amid fears of Kenya becoming a recluse state

Kenya is once again hogging international headlines as a major global event unfolds behind closed doors at the Moi International Sports Centre, Kasarani.

Kasarani National Stadium. Photo: Kasarani National Stadium.
Kenya hosted IAAF World U-18 Championship at Kasarani in 2018. Photo: Kasarani National Stadium.
Source: Facebook

Nairobi is hosting the World Athletics U20 Championship 2021 from August 17 - 22, making Kenya the first African country ever to host the championships.

The event, which has brought together over 100 nationalities, comes hot on the heels of the epic WRC Safari Rally 2021 that Kenya successfully hosted in June this year and had three local drivers among the overall top 10 finishers, with Onkar Rai winning the WRC3 category.

The privilege of hosting such top-tier global events within six weeks of each other is yet another affirmation of Kenya’s capacity to not only produce sports champions but also admirably host international events.

Notably, the decision to award Nairobi the biennial U-20 event followed the successful hosting of the IAAF World U-18 Championship hosted at Kasarani in 2018, proving its ability to host a major athletics competition.

The championship, which was the first major world track and field event to be staged in Africa, attracted 60,000 spectators in each of the final two days, the highest attendance recorded in the event’s history.

The ongoing U-20 championship was scheduled to take place last year but was put off for one year due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Yet, amid the rising global status, Kenya is not resting on its laurels.

President Uhuru Kenyatta and First Lady Secretary-General Margaret Kenyatta, who is the event's patron, remain buoyant that Kenya will win the bid to host the World Championship in 2025.

“We have been honoured to host the World under 20 Athletics Championships 2021, and it is my profound hope that this will now lay a foundation for Kenya to be the first African country to host the World Athletics Championships,” Kenyatta said on Tuesday, August 17,

He also noted that the country will do everything within its power to be ready for the global event in three years’ time.

Kenya’s bid to realize this dream was boosted by World Athletics President Sebastian Coe, who waxed lyrics about the country’s standing.

“The U20 championship showcases the future of our sport, so Kenya, with a young and enthusiastic population and such a rich history in athletics, is a perfect fit for us,” Coe said.

While Kenya could yet succeed or fail in its bid, one unmistakable thing is Uhuru’s charm and appeal to the world, which keeps on attracting dignitaries and top tier events to the country like a magnet.

Since he became president in 2013, Uhuru has slowly transformed the country’s image globally in many respects.

From securing Kenya a place in the powerful United Nations Security Council (UNSC) to hosting most of the world’s most powerful leaders and premier conferences, it has been no mean achievement for Uhuru, a leader who ascended to the presidency amid fears of Kenya becoming a recluse state.

Influential leaders who have visited Kenya since 2015 include former US President Barack Obama, Pope Francis, former Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu (twice), Chinese Prime Minister Li Keqiang, former British Prime Minister Theresa May, former UN Secretary-General Ban Ki Moon and Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi.

Others include Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan, Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, Italian Prime Minister Matteo Renzi, pop singer Madonna and Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg among many others.

The majority were visiting Kenya for the very first time or for the first time in many years.

Notably, Uhuru was the second African leader to hold talks with the 45th US President, Donald Trump, at the White House after he was invited for a state visit.

He was also among the first African leaders to be phoned by Trump’s successor, Joe Biden. He met UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson in London last July.

Outstandingly, Uhuru has risen to the occasion every time he has graced the world stage.

A known pan Africanist, his eloquence in representing the African agenda has always been commended, and it is no doubt that he has secured Kenya a front-row seat in the world affairs arena.

Kenya has in recent years been unsurprisingly voted among the most influential African nations.

Kenya is also on record as the first African country to host the Tokyo International Conference on African Development (TICAD) when it opened its doors to host the sixth edition in 2016.

In the same year, Kenya also hosted the 14th meeting of the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD 14).

The visits and meetings have always been a massive shot in the arm for the country’s image and tourism.

Naomi Wandede photo
Naomi Wandede