Olympics-Kenya seeks investors ahead of Games bid

LONDON Thu Aug 9, 2012 10:26am EDT

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LONDON Aug 9 (Reuters) - Kenya, which wants to be the first African nation to host the Olympics, appealed to investors on Thursday to fund improvements to facilities that have helped to nurture some of the world's greatest distance runners.

Top class runners from around the world, include British Olympic 10,000 metres champion Mo Farah, flock to Kenya's Rift Valley for the high altitude training that allows them to compete with East Africa's own athletes.

The town of Iten in the Rift Valley had become like "a magic place" for athletes seeking the winning formula, said Isiah Kiplagat, chairman of Kenya's athletics federation.

However, he said the town struggled to accommodate all the athletes who wanted to train there, with some having to board in local houses because of a shortage of hotel rooms.

"The facilities are not conducive, they are not good enough," said Kiplagat, calling for foreign investment.

"It's really a golden opportunity. The opportunities are there for you to invest in high-altitude training centres," he said in a presentation at the Kenya team headquarters close to the 2012 Olympic Park in east London.

Kenya is seeking to develop sports tourism for elite athletes and people like leisure golfers to add to its reputation as a destination for beach and safari holidays.

Kenyan Prime Minister Raila Odinga said in London on Wednesday that Nairobi planned to bid to host the 2024 Olympics.

The International Olympic Committee would like an African nation to stage the Games but South Africa was seen as the obvious candidate after hosting the soccer World Cup in 2010.

Asked if he had been surprised by Odinga's announcement, Sports Minister Paul Otuoma said it should be seen as part of Kenya's efforts to build a modern sporting infrastructure.

He noted how London had coped with huge number of visitors and acknowledged that Kenyan capital Nairobi had a lot of work to do to try to match that standard.

"As a nation we are very much alive to what it really takes to hold an event of this magnitude, but Kenya is heading towards that direction," he said.

Kenya has had a disappointing haul in London so far with Ezekiel Kemboi in the 3,000 metres steeplechase their sole gold medallist.

Flanked by Kip Keino, a double Games champion who now heads the Kenyan Olympic Committee, the minister said he understood that fans were disappointed but a full review should wait until after the Games.

"Expectations were very high on Team Kenya especially after Beijing where we had some six gold medals. Expectations were we should be able to surpass that," said Otuoma.

"Let's support the athletes at this point," he added.

David Rudisha is favourite for the 800 metres on Thursday, while Kenya will also be hoping to strike gold again in the marathon on Sunday. (Editing by Mark Meadows, For all the latest Olympic news go to here)

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