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How Kenyan security got an A rating during WU20

Monday, August 23rd, 2021 21:00 | By
WAU20 Security sweep.

After passing the button to Cali, Colombia for the hosting of the 2022 World Under 20 Athletics Championships, the South American country must pick vital lessons from how the Kenyan event was organised and emulate the same at next year’s showpiece.

With several challenges for the championships, ranging from terror threats, to the global coronavirus pandemic, it was a true test of the nerves for the Kenyan organisers who delivered a world class showpiece that was even acknowledged by World Athletics and with the challenges expected to face any host of an event of such a magnitude, the Columbia should literally borrow a leaf especially from the security organization during the five-day extravaganza at Kasarani.

Despite the fact that five countries, USA, Britain, Japan, Germany, China and New Zealand decided to give the Nairobi event a wide berth due to security concerns and the surge of the pandemic, no major incidents occurred at the event, thanks to a team of 448 police officers and more importantly 38 crime busters from the Director of Criminal Investigation (DCI) who ensured safety for all the athletes and officials from the 116 countries that participated in the event.

According to Deputy Director of Operations at the DCI Samuel Bett who was also part of the Local Organising Committee (LOC) for the junior global championships, apart from the physical security presence witnessed at the Championships in Nairobi, there were DCI plain cloth officers in every corner.

“We had to guarantee the safety of all the 116 countries taking part in the championships.

We had to carry out several virtual meetings with several countries to guarantee them about their safety before, during and after the championships and we had to deliver what we promised,” Bett told People Sport.

He added: “Our operations were very technical but silent. We had the bomb disposal unit that cleared the ground and ensured everything was ok on each and every day.

We had detectives at the Covid-19 testing areas every day to ensure that only those who tested negative, gained access to the stadium, there were systems that denied unqualified persons entry to the championships even at the first entry point.”

There were a number of local journalists who were accredited, but still failed to gain access to the championships after silent scrutiny from the detectives.

“The Anti-Terrorism Unit was also heavily present at the championships, just in case of anything, but probably very few people if not any, noticed them,” Bett said.

The highest number of Covid 19 cases that were reported at the Championships was on the fourth day of the Championships on Saturday when 26 people from different departments tested positive and were barred from gaining access to the facility.

The showpiece in Nairobi earned their place in the history books with four world U20 records, 15 championship records, 11 area U20 records, 68 national U20 records and 10 national senior records.

The championships that ended with a flourish on Sunday saw the Jamaican women and the South African men broke world U20 records in the 4x100m relays, adding to the two world U20 records set by France's Sasha Zhoya in the men's 110m hurdles.

Hosts Kenya topped the medal table with eight gold, one silver and seven bronze medals, ahead of Finland (4, 1, 0), Nigeria (4, 0, 3), Ethiopia (3, 7, 2) and Jamaica (3, 6, 2).

From the 116 countries that competed in Nairobi, 18 teams won gold medals, 35 won medals and 63 had top eight finishes. 

Kenya, Finland, Nigeria and Botswana were among the countries that had their best ever world U20 championships. Namibia and Israel won their first gold medals and Cyprus won its first medal.

World Athletics President Sebastian Coe hailed the athletes, teams and organisers for their dedication and determination to make this a successful event despite the logistical challenges created by the Covid-19 pandemic.

The championships were broadcast to more than 70 countries around the world and every other country had access to a livestream on World Athletics’ YouTube channel.

"These championships have not just taken place, they have been highly successful," Coe said.

"We have all been so impressed with the range and depth of talent we have seen from these young athletes. 

"The last World U20 championships (in Tampere in 2018) featured names like Armand Duplantis, Jakob Ingebrigtsen  and Peruth Chemutai among others, all Olympic champions just three years later.

So it's reasonable to think we've seen some of the Paris 2024 champions-to-be In Nairobi.

"The next four years offer unprecedented opportunities for these future champions to move on to the senior World Championships and Olympic stages.

I'm really looking forward to seeing many of these young champions rising through the senior ranks."

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