Lack of fanfare for a section of Kenyan runners from Olympic Games elicit sharp reactions
Charles Thuku and Edwin Otieno
It was literally a disturbing break of tradition seemingly occasioned by abysmal organisation by the authorities when a section of Team Kenya members returned home from the Tokyo Olympics to a cold reception on Tuesday night.
Placed 19th overall, Kenya was the top-placed African country with four gold, four silver and two bronze medals but the poor reception of athletes who have been arriving in batches has already sent tongues wagging.
The social media was ablaze with the topic as local athletics enthusiasts made comparisons with how other countries welcomed back their stars.
As per tradition, triumphant Kenyan sportsmen and women are welcomed by family members who are only all too eager for them to take a sip of traditional fermented milk, Mursik.
The reception is also not complete without such athletes receiving hugs here and there from traditional dancers and vuvuzela-blowing, overzealous fans.
On the contrary, athletes from Uganda were celebrated by the state as they landed in the country where they were escorted to the state House in Kampala in a lovely motorcade.
This is despite Uganda not being listed among the top 90 teams in the pecking order of the medalists.
In Kenya’s case, the athletes were treated as normal citizens after which they waltzed to their training bases almost unnoticed by the staff at the normally busy Jomo Kenyatta International Airport.
For celebrated Marathon champion Eliud Kipchoge and middle distance runner Timothy Cheruiyot, they arrived shortly after 12.30 am yesterday but there were no fleet of sleek vehicles that would ordinarily be expected to accompany them.
Instead, the duo arrived on a chilly night with a small group of journalists and former Sports CAS Hassan Noor Hassan the only ones at hand to receive them before leaving for an unknown destination even as question arose whether the poor reception may have been due to athletes arriving in different batches.
On Monday, there was no fanfare when 1500 metres gold medalist Faith Kipyegon and 5,000 metres silver medalist Hellen Obiri and some athletes who did not bag any medals, Edna Chebitok and Edna Chebitok arrived at 1.45 pm aboard an Ethiopian Airlines flight.
But, at least, they were treated to lunch at the imposing Ole Sereni Hotel where Sports Principal Secretary Joe Okudo was in attendance.
The reception is a stark difference from the kind of reception Harambee Stars received when they returned from Togo, where they beat the hosts 2-1 in a Africa Cup of Nations formality match, which they could not have qualified even if they won 10-0.
Harambee Stars players were chauffeured by several state of the art SUV Range Rovers to Safari Park where they were all treated to lunch, given their winning bonuses, before they were allowed to go home.