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Sambili glad she saved Nyayo from changing name

By Christopher Owuor
Wednesday, February 12th, 2020
Nyayo National Stadium. Photo/PD/JOHN OCHINEG
In summary

Former Sports Minister Hellen Sambili delightfully expressed her pride at cancelling a Sh118 million deal that would have seen Nyayo National Stadium renamed Coca Cola stadium in 2009 for a period of three years.

The former Mogotio Member of Parliament was at the helm of the Sports Ministry when global beverage manufacturers Coca Cola came up with a previously unprecedented proposal to buy naming rights from Sports Stadia Management Board (SSMB) in 2009.

She pulled the plug on the deal after SSMB, then chaired by Joe Aketch, had put pen to paper in agreement with Coca Cola.

During the funeral service of the late retired President Daniel arap Moi at the same stadium yesterday, Sambili was still happy with her intervention 10 years ago.

“I’m glad I was there to stop the deal. I understood then that it bore a huge commercial value to SSMB and the revenue would have helped in various ways but facilities like Nyayo Stadium have more than commercial values attached to them.

It carries very significant heritage value to the people of Kenya and with hindsight, a lot of people now agree with me that I did the right thing,” Sambili told People Sport yesterday.

The stadium was built by Moi in 1983 to predominantly serve athletics but the facility has attained varied use over the years with football and basketball taking their fair share. 

“I would do it again if somebody tried to commercialise a facility like Nyayo Stadium. There are no regrets at all from me.

Imagine if we had such events at a stadium bearing a commercial name rather than then cultural name Kenyans cherish,” she posed.

The stadium was closed for renovation in 2017 but underfunding left it desolate until Moi’s funeral service took a detour from Kasarani to Nyayo. 

The 25 per cent incomplete work was hastened with Uhuru Kenyatta making a personal supervision to ensure work was finished in time for yesterday’s service.

Nyayo has invariably been opened for select state functions and athletics events without key facilities like changing rooms and lavatories which are incomplete. 

The venue has, however, remained closed for football activities but the flurry of activities in the run-up to Tuesday’s memorial service raised hope of the facility finally opening gates for all sports, two-and-a-half years after it was closed.

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