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Opening Ceremony

The opening ceremony had been billed as starting at 9:00am. Everyone had got up really early, had packed their tents and put all their luggage on army lorries, ready to transport them to their various expedition centres. The Europeans, at least, were seated in the main arena at 8:30am as requested.

I began to realise that 9:00am was not going to be the true starting time. Nothing was ready. There wasn’t even a flagpole set up for the Kenyan national flag. But very quickly, things began to happen that suggested that a plan was in place and getting the Europeans out of the way was really just part of it. A whole host of people appeared and began laying gravel on all the paths around the campsite. A new flagpole was erected. Someone painted the rocks around the main dais. Someone else dressed the dais with purple fabric. A large truck drew up with a carved wooden chair, which was moved with care on to the dais. A team of people were painting the front of the Kenya Scouts Headquarters within the campground. Another team were cleaning and polishing the windows. Someone distributed programmes for the opening ceremony. I opened one up. The event was actually due to start at 11:00am. And we were expecting His Excellency the Hon. Mwai Kibaki, the President of the Republic of Kenya.

At 10:40, a very large convoy of limos drove up accompanied by armed guards. The organising committee, the Secretary General of the World Scout Movement, the two of us from the World Scout Committee and other hangers on were lined up into a receiving line and we greeted the President. On Monday I had stroked a giraffe’s nose for the first time. Today, I shook hands with the President of Kenya and briefed him on the programme for the World Scout Moot.

The ceremony was long. It was entirely run by the State PR machine and there were clearly concerns about the President’s security. “I thought we had agreed that there would be no dancing,” said the Master of Ceremonies at one point to the participants, slightly perturbed, I suspect, by the ebullience of 1,500 energetic and possibly uncontrollable young men and women.

I delivered a speech of welcome. This was politely applauded, but it was one of many speeches that all really said the same things: First World Scout Youth Event on African soil; 1,500 young people from 65 countries; Kenya, the last home of Baden-Powell; great honour to be here; great honour to have his Excellency the President here; a great event to look forward to. Eventually, the ceremony was over and the participants moved off to the buses that would take them to their expedition centres, between 3 and 5 hours drive from Nairobi.

As I write, all have now arrived at their centres, though some were greatly delayed by roadworks and breakdowns of coaches. The Moot has now properly begun.

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