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The legacy of Glasgow's Games will reach from Dalmarnock to the heart of Africa

THOSE who dismiss the legacy potential of the 2014 Commonwealth Games will have to digest significant food for thought.

Kip Keino has used the financial fruits of his sporting career to build a children's home.  Picture: Jamie Simpson
Kip Keino has used the financial fruits of his sporting career to build a children's home. Picture: Jamie Simpson

The charity focus of the opening ceremony - £4m and rising for UNICEF's Putting Children First - should have gone some way to silence cynical critics. Scotland's record-shredding medal haul will encourage tens of thousands to consider exercise. Thirteen judo medals will have kids queuing at every dojo in the country. It will be the same at hundreds of other clubs in a range of sports.

I hope those who said this could not happen have not discouraged coaches and volunteers, and that there are enough to cope with the influx. This will surely drive up the current 70% of kids who meet the recommended one hour of daily activity, and the paltry 21% of adults who exercise vigorously for 15 minutes weekly. These are just a fraction of the statistics being monitored to gauge legacy impact.

Yesterday we saw the length of its reach: from the heart of Glasgow's Games to Kenya, where one of sport's most inspiring humanitarians has changed hundreds of lives. Kipchoge Keino is perhaps best known as a former Olympic and Commonwealth athletics champion: Olympic 1500m gold in 1968 and 1972 steeplechase. In 1966 he did the mile and three-mile double in Kingston, and in 1970 he won the Commonwealth 1500m in Edinburgh as the Games went metric. The Scottish allcomers' record he set there was broken at Hampden only this month - by a Kenyan.

If sporting prowess defined Keino's youth, spectacular philanthropy defines his 74 years. I've witnessed his incredible generosity of spirit first-hand, privileged to stay on his farm in Eldoret, where he established an orphanage which to date has fostered nearly 600 children. "They all call me 'Baba' - father." He feeds them off his land. "I hope to build a technological university there," he says.

Keino was an orphan, raised by an aunt, and has never forgotten. He discovered two starving children in 1965 when he was a young police officer. "They were naked, starving and eating soil," he recalled. "I took them home to my wife."

Phyllis, a nurse, brought them up as her own on their 500-acre farm. Their home is called Kaza Mingi, "a lot of work" in Swahili.

On the living room walls hang hundreds of photographs, mainly weddings, of the children they fostered. They include doctors, university lecturers, teachers, computer programmers, farmers, nurses, policemen and soldiers, businessmen. "They all started at the Kip Keino Children's Home as orphans," he says.

He describes some rescued from dustbins, toilets, and thickets, including Aids orphans and the abandoned offspring of prostitutes. "Many would have died because of bad health, starvation and disease, or killed by animals," he says.

If Oxfam had not installed a borehole, helping contain endemic illness, he might not have been healthy enough to be an athlete.

Some 280 pupils are in his high school, and 360 in the primary which bears his name. There is another school in Zimbabwe. When I visited Eldoret, the children were in immaculate uniforms and polite to a degree that would shame sectors of our society. Just as Keino's generosity of spirit shames many of the wealthy in our culture.

His foundation pays the fees and sends the brightest to university (18 currently being funded). "Education is the most important thing," he said.

We make no apology if some of this sounds familiar. One Herald article about him was read by Ed Monaghan of City Legacy, the consortium which built the Games Village in Dalmarnock. Yesterday he and Glasgow Lord Provost Sadie Docherty presented a £10,000 cheque to his Foundation in a ceremony at the City Chambers. It will reach into the heart of Africa, to mud huts where despair over Aids and anguish about starving, dying children abounds. Where kids die every wet season because parents cannot afford less than £1 to prevent malaria, and sell mosquito nets for pennies to buy food.

The consortium is also donating £300 for every house they build, worth a total of £90,000 to the Prince & Princess of Wales Hospice. "This is deliberately targeted legacy," said Mr Monaghan.

The fourth finisher in Sunday's men's marathon was an orphan, added Keino, "and we have others who are going to compete."

During a gracious and moving acknowledgement he said the money would go towards a library and dormitory.

Keino's first name, Kipchoge, tells precisely where he was born: "near the maize store," he explains. "It was in the open air."

He has a favourite aphorism: "I came into this word with nothing, and I leave this world with nothing. The most important thing is to help the needy children of our society to live like any other children."

Keino has travelled a remarkable journey: champion athlete, leader of his country's team here in Glasgow, chair of their national Olympic committee. I prefer to remember him simply as "Baba".

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