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Kenya Honors National Olympic Team
    2008-08-30 03:06:05     Xinhua
The Kenyan government on Friday honored the national Olympic team for their excellent performance at the just concluded Beijing Olympic Games.

The athletes, who were each decorated with flower garlands and kikoi's, was given a sip of traditional sour milk (Mursik) from a gourd and the famous coconut drink (Madafu) amidst cheers and ululations from hundreds of jubilant coastal residents and troupes of traditional dancers.

The sporting heroes aboard five open trucks were driven in a convoy of over 100 vehicles along Mombasa city roads to the Treasury Square where the celebration ceremony later took place.

Along the route, all the way from the airport to the Treasury Square, curious ecstatic crowds lined along the route to get a glimpse of the golden team. Taarab bands, acrobatic troupes and traditional dancers could be spotted in various points along the route.

The performance which saw Kenya emerge number 15 overall and the best in Africa with 14 medals, five gold, five silver and four bronze, is the best ever since the country debuted in the Games 52 years ago.

Addressing the athletes during a colorful ceremony, President Mwai Kibaki applauded them for their patriotism and sterling performance at the Olympic Games.

The president urged Kenyans to emulate the national Olympic team's spirit by uniting and working together in developing the country.

"The performance of the team reaffirmed our country as a leading sports power especially in track events. In so doing, you kept our flag flying high on many occasions and our national anthem was played five times," the president said in recognition of the team's performance.

He specifically commended the woman athletes for winning Kenyan women's first ever Gold medal in the Olympics, saying Kenya also won its first Gold in Men's Marathon and gained world recognition in the 800 meters and 1,500 meters events.

"During those moments, our national colors and melodious anthem echoed, not just at the Olympics stadium but also in millions of homes across the globe, where people stayed glued to their TVs. Indeed you brought fame and glory to our country," Kibaki said.

He, at the same time, challenged sports managers and other stakeholders in the country to help increase the number of events that Kenya can participate in future games in order to improve on the medal tally.

"Kenya participated in just five out of the 28 disciplines. I would therefore like to challenge our sports managers and other stake holders to expand the number of disciplines that Kenya participates in during future games to improve on the medal tally, " he said.

Kibaki said Olympic Games were the pinnacle of all sports competitions in the world, saying Kenya had abundant untapped talent in diverse disciplines in the country who can win medals in the next Olympics to be held in London.

"Let us learn from the success of China which managed to conquer the rest of the world through a deliberate training program," the head of state said.

He directed sports administrators to start planning for the next Olympics especially now that the country was in good spirits after the successful Beijing performance, saying on its part the government was committed to establishing an International Sports Academy to serve as a center of excellence to nurture and develop sports talent.

The president also wished the Paralympics team that is in Beijing success in their competitions, urging them to bring home more medals and keep the national flag flying high.

During the occasion, medal winners and finalists at the Beijing Olympic Games received handsome cash prizes from the government and well-wishers with gold medalists receiving 2.3 million shillings (about 33,500 U.S. dollars), silver 1.125 million shillings while bronze got 780,000 shillings.

Vice President Kalonzo Musyoka and Prime Minister Raila Odinga underscored the importance of sports in promoting peace and national unity.

They reiterated the government's commitment to providing adequate resources for the promotion of sports in the country.

The prime minister stressed the need for diversification and modernization of the country's stadia so that Kenyans could participate in more discipline at Olympic Games. (1 U.S. dollar=68 shillings)
 
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