NAIROBI, July 10 (Xinhua) — The World Under-18 Championships starts in Nairobi on Wednesday, three decades since Kenya hosted something of similar caliber, the 1987 All Africa Games.
However, it has not been easy for the country, which has pumped in almost 250 million U.S. dollars for the week-long championships that will attract over 130 countries and regions bringing along 2,000 athletes.
This is also the second time that the IAAF World Youth Championships will be hosted in Africa after Morocco hosted it in 2005.
Other than the 1987 All Africa Games, Mombasa (Kenya) also played host to the 2007 World Cross Country Championships, which brought together a record 40,000 fans with over 200 athletes.
Local Organising Committee CEO Mwangi Muthee said preparations of the event are complete and hoped the country will reclaim the overall title.
“We have done a good job, but that will be confirmed after the event. Everything is in order and now we have to sit and watch the action,” he said.
However, the event will miss out top athletes from U.S., Britain, Japan, Canada, New Zealand, Australia, and Switzerland who have all confirmed they will give the event a bye citing security concern and preference for the Youth Commonwealth Games to be staged in Nassau, Bahamas later this month.
Kenya topped the medals table in 1999 in Poland and 2009 in Italy and will be aiming to do so once again as the country hosts its first global track and field event.
This will be last edition of the World U18 Championships after the IAAF Council decided to discontinue the youth championships to focus towards driving regional and continental competitions.
One athlete looking forward to bring fame to her country will be Asia long Jump champion Gong Luying. The 17-year-old girl from China’s Zhejiang province is aiming for gold in Nairobi.
“I try to gain more experience and learn from others. Hopefully I can bring honour to my country in international competitions,” Gong said.
However, while the world will be focused on the performances on the field, it is the host nation that will seek to reinvigorate its breeding system for budding athletes as it looks on how to utilize the equipment that will be left behind.
“What we want first to be remembered is the quality of competition,” said IAAF CEO Olivier Gers.
“We want to make sure we leave behind a lasting legacy for athletics, for the country of Kenya and for the whole region. To have a vibrant, modern equipped stadium that can be reused in future championships is quite critical.”