Vanessa Bryant announced plans for a public celebration of life for her late husband Kobe Bryant and daughter Gianna on February 24 in a touching Instagram post on Friday.
“#2, #24 #20 years as a Laker,” the bereaved wife and mother wrote in the post, confirming that a memorial service would be held at Staples Centre arena that Monday morning at 10:00 (1800 GMT, 9pm EAT).
She said more details were to come.
Gianna Bryant wore No. 2 for her school basketball team and Kobe Bryant wore No. 24 in the later stages of his iconic 20-year career with the Los Angeles Lakers.
Kobe Bryant, 41, and 13-year-old Gianna were among nine people killed in a helicopter crash in the rugged hills west of Los Angeles on January 26.
The event will fall on a day between two Lakers home games, but the rival Los Angeles Clippers will host the Memphis Grizzlies in an NBA game at the arena in downtown Los Angeles that night.
Lee Zeidman, president of Staples Center, told the Los Angeles Times that getting the court ready for the game won’t be a problem.
“Staples Center has hosted over 220 doubleheaders in its 20-year history,” Zeidman said. “While this is going to be a very emotional day for the Bryant family, the Los Angeles Lakers, the city of Los Angeles, as well as for the men and women who work at Staples Center, we are very confident we will be ready for 6 pm doors opening for the Clippers-Memphis game following the ceremony.”
Staples Center, also the home of the NHL’s Los Angeles Kings and venue for concerts and events such as the recent Grammy Awards, has hosted memorials for recording artists Michael Jackson and Nipsey Hussle.
Fans mourning Bryant had made the area outside Staples a spontaneous shrine, leaving mountains of flowers along with basketballs, jerseys, stuffed animals and other mementoes.
Those items have been cleared away, with thousands of them being sent to Vanessa Bryant at her request.
The Lakers themselves paid emotional tribute to Bryant there in their first game after the club legend’s death, when they hosted the Portland Trail Blazers five days after the accident.
Gianna’s teammates Alyssa Altobelli and Payton Chester, Alyssa’s parents John and Keri Altobelli, Payton’s mother Sarah Chester, basketball coach Christina Mauser and pilot Ara Zobayan also died in the crash, which remains under investigation.
A memorial service was scheduled for Monday at Angel Stadium in Anaheim for the Altobelli family. John Altobelli, 56, was a longtime coach of the Orange Coast College baseball team.
Human rights group pleads for banned athletes
A human rights group has petitioned the World Anti-Doping Agency (Wada) and the Athletics Integrity Unit (AIU) to lift bans on all athletes sanctioned for doping, basing their demands on “questionable errors” in anti-doping programmes.
They argue this will ensure justice for the affected sportsmen and women.
According to the Africa Alliance for Health, Research and Economic Development (AAHRED), suspensions and bans on athletes due to anti-doping rules violations has become common in Kenyan and, generally, East Africa.
“The negative effects of the anti-doping programmes present misery and painful punitive actions specifically to those who deny the charges of doping but are found guilty on evidence of results with discrepancies from both human and equipment technicalities, leave alone the naturally occurring biological conditions beyond their control requiring extensive research,” said Gilbert Kiplom, the sports and human rights officer at AAHRED.
Addressing journalists in Eldoret on Wednesday, the group claimed they had examined the steps that include sample processing, laboratory chain of custody, A-Sample confirmation and analysis process.
These are the most important steps that determine credibility of the doping tests that lead to either positive or negative results and which they say “raised serious doubts.”
“We have cases of so many suppressed voices of athletes affected by the anti-doping control procedures whereby they are articulating to the world how AIU and doping testing institutions control procedures have casted doubts over positive test allegation amounting to infringement of their liberal rights,” said Isaac Kore, a scientist at AAHRED.
“Such suspensions render these athletes jobless and with no livelihood,” said Kore. The organisation is now calling on the government to support the Anti-Doping Agency of Kenya (Adak) and Athletics Kenya (AK) in their anti-doping campaigns. “We call on the government of Kenya to support by funding research on biological factors, environmental doping causatives agents for the sake of justice and accountability in sport,” said Justine Kurui, the CEO at AAHRED.
Kurui said by doing so, the country will reduce the possible discrepancies and increase public and all stakeholders’ confidence in the process of attaining indisputable results for the good of the sport and the country’s image.
“Let it be known that suspension or banning of athletes/ officials causes irreversible damage to human lives if done without justice in due process.
“The errors preceding suspension cannot and must not be neglected as it can portray the highest level of impunity and presumptive outcome that can damage lives and destroy the future of our hardworking athletes,” added Kurui.
AAHRED Wednesday also took issue with global anti-doping institutions saying they had forced some athletes to take up alternative careers rather than those they were talented in. “Olympic 1,500 metres champion and three-time world champion Asbel Kiprop is a classic example of such frustrations we are talking about.
“Even though we are happy for him that he has switched careers and moved on with life after serving a four-year doping ban imposed in April 2019 after he tested positive for EPO, we believe it is not his wish to go to motorsport. Such are the frustrations that our good athletes are going through,” said Kiplom.
Speaking at the same time, distance running star Mercy Kibarus, whose woes commenced in earnest five years ago, moments after she came second at the First Lady’s Half Marathon held in Nairobi in March 2015 maintained her innocence calling on the anti-doping institutions to re-look into her issue.
“All I can say is that I want my issue to be addressed as soon as possible because the results that came out had a lot of errors. I would wish to go back to athletics because I have nowhere else to go to. My whole life revolves around athletics,” said Kibarus maintaining she has never taken any drugs to help her ran faster. She indicated that she has severally proven her innocence but the anti-doping bodies have continuously refused to clear her subjecting her to further suffering and frustrations.
Gor Mahia to host Western Stima Stima at Kasarani
Record champions Gor Mahia have secured Moi International Sports Centre, Kasarani for their weekend Kenyan Premier League clash against Western Stima after paying a surety fee of Sh100,000 to Sports Kenya.
However, K’Ogalo have been ordered to adhere to other tough conditions by the stadia management body among then providing adequate security and restricting their fans from destroying property in the facility.
Gor Mahia assistant secretary general Ronald Ngala confirmed to Nation Sports the new development, saying it didn’t come easy because of the chaotic scenes witnessed during Mashemeji Derby against rivals AFC Leopards last November.
‘”We have secured Kasarani but under strict conditions which our fans must adhere to. Kasarani is the only standard stadium available since Nyayo is undergoing renovation. I ask our fans to maintain decorum on Saturday,” said Ngala.
Ingwe were banned from Kasarani and fined Sh2 million after their fans went on rampage and destroyed seats following the 4-1 loss to Gor.
Kasarani has not been available for K’Ogalo due to prior bookings by Mathare United and Kariobangi Sharks.
Another reason for the unavailability is that K’Ogalo matches are sometimes televised and fixed as double header which Kasarani doesn’t host, a measure taken by the board to ensure its good playing surface is maintained.
Cash-strapped Gor Mahia have been playing their home matches at Moi Stadium in Kisumu after abandoning Kenyatta stadium in Machakos due to low revenue in gate collections.
Kasarani will also host next weekend’s Mashemeji Derby between K’Ogalo and Ingwe.
Fast renovation of stadiums will put our sport in good stead
The fast pace in the renovation of the Nyayo National Stadium, the country’s second-biggest sporting facility after the Moi International Sports Centre, Kasarani, is a welcome step by the Ministry of Sports, Culture and the Arts under the stewardship of Cabinet Secretary Amina Mohamed and Principal Secretary Joe Okudo.
With Kenya set to play host to a raft of international events in the next five months, not least the World Athletics Continental Tour and the World Athletics Under-20 Championships, conclusion of refurbishment of the Nyayo National Stadium is long overdue.
The revamping, however, should not only be limited to the stands and the amenities within, but also a new tartan track should be laid to host future athletics events.
Now that the country has been adopted as a prime candidate to host key international athletics events, the onus is on the various levels of government to ensure that facilities across the country that have been left derelict or whose repairs have been left hanging are swiftly concluded.
The issues of last-minute renovations of sports infrastructure, particularly when events are being held, should be a thing of the past.
The Kipchoge Keino Stadium, the Ruring’u Stadium, the Kamariny Stadium all which have been earmarked for redevelopment in the past, should be quickly fixed to ensure the country is ready to host any world-class sports event. The development and nurturing of talent at the grassroots level hinges on the availability of proper infrastructure for training.
If facilities are standard, then it goes without saying that the depth of talent that emerges from such places would be of a higher quality. For years, our athletes have trained in abject venues but performed wonders in world-class facilities.
So it’s not hard to imagine how good they would be if they were accustomed to using quality facilities.
It is time for the governments, both county and national, to work together and ensure our sportsmen and women have what they want.
The availability of training venues at the grassroots will undoubtedly lead to an increase in the number of youths taking up sports as a profession as is the case in the developed world.
The promise to use much of the money in the sports fund for improving sports infrastructure should be religiously followed if the country is to fulfil its potential in the sector of sports and entertainment which is one of the biggest employers in many parts of the world.
Korir is the chairman of Athletics Kenya’s Nairobi branch.
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