Kenyan Olympians stuck staying in Rio favela as country awaits 'cheap flights'

Kenyan marathoners Wesley Korir (left) and Eilud Kipchoge sandwich U.S. distance star Meb Keflezighi in Rio. (Getty Images)
Kenyan marathoners Wesley Korir (left) and Eilud Kipchoge sandwich U.S. distance star Meb Keflezighi in Rio. (Getty Images)

As Olympians across the globe were welcomed home to massive celebrations this week, Kenya’s Olympic team remained in Rio de Janeiro while their country awaited cheaper flights out of Brazil.

Those are the charges Team Kenya captain Wesley Korir laid out in a series of Twitter posts. With photos and video, the marathoner described dangerous living conditions — complete with gunshots — in Rio favela accommodations arranged by Kenyan officials, now that the Olympic Village is closed.

With the exception of Olympic champion Eliud Kipchoge, who provided his own transportation home, Kenya’s entire marathon contingent stayed in the favela on Wednesday night, along with a group that included race walkers, boxers and 800-meter bronze medalist Margaret Wambui, according to Korir.

“The best team in Africa and the second-best all over the world in athletics, and this is how they treat us,” Korir wrote on Twitter. He added, “They looked for cheap flights. I guess 25th was the cheapest.”

Asked if he was still in Rio overnight, despite voicing his displeasure on Twitter and arguing with Kenyan officials in Brazil over their room and board, Korir, who is also an elected Member of Parliament in Kenya, told his followers, “3 a.m. and can’t sleep. Had to stay until all athletes leave. … There have been gunshots heard all night, messages beign sent for athletes to stay indoors.”

When Korir received word of a press conference called by Kenyan Cabinet Secretary of Sports Hassan Wario, he said, “Please ask him why he didn’t answer my phone call when we needed him the most.”

After hours of interacting with fans and media on Twitter, Korir announced Kenya’s entire athletic contingent remaining in Rio would finally be leaving Brazil on a flight home at 4 p.m. on Thursday.

The 33-year-old Korir, who twice won the Los Angeles Marathon before winning the 2012 Boston Marathon, vowed to fight for government support for athletics in parliament upon his return to Kenya.