NAIROBI, July 18 (Xinhua) -- The recently-concluded International Association of Athletics Federations (IAAF) World Under-18 Athletics Championships which ended in Nairobi on July 16 was a great success despite musing some big names.
Athletics powerhouse, the U.S. who were also the defending championships, led five other nations in pulling out of the event, citing security concerns.
Switzerland, Britain, Australia, New Zealand and Canada also cited security reasons but the latter four added the rider that the event was too close to the Commonwealth Youth Games scheduled for July 18-23 in Bahamas where up to 1,300 young athletes from 70 nations and territories aged between 14 and 18 are expected to attend.
"The fears were unfounded because we held successful and incident-free games. Boycotting nations are the biggest losers and probably it is time they told us the actual reasons for their pulling out," the CEO of the local organizing committee (LOC) Mwangi Muthee told Xinhua on Tuesday.
Boycotts hurt athletes the most and those who were absent from the Nairobi event missed out on all the fun and a chance to gauge their performance among the best runners of their age bracket.
Even as they referred to security fears as their basis for pulling out, it is instructive to note that nowhere is safe all over the world and incidents of terrorism happen in Europe and in other places that were once thought to be safe.
The Boston Marathon bombing in April 2013 did not stop people from attending the event - in fact, more people turned out the following year to spite terrorists by not allowing to conceding territory to them.
"Countries that pulled out denied their young athletes their first international sporting experience especially at a time in their budding careers when they needed it the most, and also took away fun from them. It is a chance that has gone forever," Athletics Kenya (AK) Senior Vice-President Paul Mutwii noted.
"The idea of housing the youngsters in one place instead of different hotels was supposed to achieve a purpose and one only needed to be present at the athletes' village and the stadium to understand what I am talking about," he said.
Nairobi-based sports scientist, Bernard Migo, said the absentee athletes missed the opportunity to interact with the outside world and how to contribute to something bigger then themselves.
"Youth play sports to have fun, belong to a group, find excitement and gain recognition. Those whose countries pulled out missed a chance to help them improve their social interaction and confidence with their peers from around the globe," he noted, adding that he wouldn't be surprised if some of them opted out of sport.
Migo said being involved in athletic experiences is not just about winning or losing, but more about other issues like effort, skill-building and team participation.
"Even losing motivates athletes to work harder for next time and they view competition as opportunities to learn from their successes and failures; always trying hard to pursue excellence not perfection," the expert said.
The championships which featured more than 2,000 athletes from over 131 countries from across the globe, was won by South Africa with five gold medals, three silver medals and two bronze medals followed by China with five gold medals, two silver medals and four bronze medals.
Hosts Kenya finished a disappointing fourth, their lowest position in the championships - but with the highest number of medals, 15.
Officials of IAAF described the 10th and final edition of the Under-18 championships as the most-well attended in the event's twenty-year old history.