NAIROBI: The IAAF and Tsukuba International Academy for Sport (TIAS) joined forces with Kenyatta University, the Tegla Loroupe Peace Foundation and the United Nations Office in Nairobi to stage a packed day of activities for some 400 children on the playing fields at Kenyatta University last week.

The children came from nine primary schools in Nairobi and further afield. They included schools from the Nairobi slums of Mathare, Korogocho and Kibera (represented by Kibera Street Kids, run by 1987 world marathon champion Douglas Wakiihuri), as well as Kenyatta University Primary School and Ngong.

Some of the schools came from further away, including the Machakos School for the Deaf and Technical Institute for the Blind, and two schools from the Maasai Mara.

But despite the differences in their backgrounds, once the children were warmed up and ready to go, they were all part of the same event, sharing a common goal.

“An event like this is such a positive experience for the children,” said Prof Vincent Onywera of Kenyatta University.

“It’s not just the sport that they’ll benefit from. Food is important; some of these kids don’t see food, so the fact that they’ve come here and eaten something and they’re having fun, it will be a huge benefit to them.”

The sports programme included various Kids Athletics activities covering the core elements of athletics - running, jumping and throwing - and even wheelchair participants from Machakos enjoyed testing their skills on the "Formula 1" obstacle course.

Teams then took part in the Nanairo Ekiden, an adaptation of the traditional Japanese distance relay for which the intention is to pass the spirit of Olympic and Paralympic legacy to the next generation.

“Children in our area have talent but do not have a lot of opportunities,” said Moses Ole Kipalias.

“Events like this will encourage them, and the skills we teachers have learned will help us develop their talent.”

Former marathon world record holder Tegla Loroupe, who also had to overcome difficult circumstances and cultural barriers to excel at her sport, was a keen spectator. So too were some of the athletes who had been part of the athlete refugee teams at the Rio 2016 Olympics and the recent World Under-18 Championships in Nairobi.

“Athletics is one of the incredible sports that allow you to bridge the gap between the elites and the masses,” said IAAF CEO Olivier Gers. - ANA