Kenyan Olympic legend is granted the freedom of the city
A KENYAN Olympian who has forged a partnership with Bristol has been given the freedom of the city.
Kipchoge Keino – who is better known as Kip – won his first Olympic gold medal in the 1,500m in the 1968 games in Mexico, despite suffering gallstones and being advised to stay in bed. He went on to win another Olympic gold in the 3,000m in Munich in 1972 to add to his two silver medals and a clutch of honours in the Commonwealth and All-Africa games.
Through his friendship with Bob Reeves of Bristol University a partnership was formed, which has brought the country's Olympic team to Bristol to prepare for this month's games in London.
Some of the Kenyan Olympic competitors – including the country's first female weightlifter – were at the Council House yesterday in their red tracksuits to see Mr Keino, now 72, honoured with the freedom of the city.
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The extraordinary meeting of the full council was arranged especially for the matter. Lord Mayor Peter Main led the meeting in full ceremonial dress and welcomed Mr Keino and the other Kenyan representatives to the city.
"We are extremely privileged to have Kipchoge Keino in our midst today and extremely honoured to have the Kenyan team training in our city. We hope you do very well and pursue the Olympic ideal," he said.
Kenyan High Commissioner Ephraim Ngare told the meeting that the people of Kenya "appreciated the decision by the council to honour "one of the most distinguished Kenyans".
Bristol's Conservative party leader, Peter Abraham, who was Lord Mayor in 2007 when the agreement was signed with Mr Keino to host the Kenyan Olympic team, said: "It was a wonderful opportunity to meet this man who in the early 60s had become world famous man and it felt like a great honour, as it is an honour to be able to stand here today."
Mr Abraham also shared messages from Bristol schoolchildren about their admiration for Mr Keino and the inspiration he has given them.
Council leader Simon Cook (Lib Dem) described Mr Keino as a "legend in his own lifetime" as he endorsed the motion for the member of the International Olympic Committee to receive the freedom of the city, while councillor Jay Jethwa (Con, Stockwood), welcomed the Kenyan contingent in Swahili.
Mr Keino said that since the friendship agreement was signed between Bristol and Kenya there had been a close friendship and that education had been an important part of that with 21 schools in the city and a further 21 in Africa working in partnership.
Mr Keino described the freedom of the city as an honour for him and his country.
Mr Reeves, of the Bristol Kenya Partnership, said that when he suggested the idea of the Olympic team training in Bristol Mr Keino shook his hand and said 'yes' straight away.
"I am quite proud and moved by the fact he has been honoured," he said.