As you may know, 2020 was supposed to be a Maasai Olympics year, but we postponed the historic games in an effort to keep our community safe. We’ve continued to monitor the impacts of COVID-19 across Kenya, holding out hope that we could safely resume plans in 2021. Unfortunately, as numbers continue to spike, we’re left with the no-choice decision that the only course now is to officially cancel the 2020 games and pick up where we left off next year. The Maasai Olympics will resume in 2022 on our traditional timetable.
The Maasai Olympics were born out of conversations and collaboration with the Menye Layiok, or Maasai “cultural fathers,” and warrior chiefs to devise an alternative to the long-held tradition of hunting lions as a mark of manhood, bravery, and prestige. Instead, local warriors compete for medals by participating in events that mimic their hunting skills: rungu and javelin throwing, high jump, and 200m, 800m, and 5000m races. The inaugural games were held in 2012 and have happened biennially until 2020.
The Maasai Olympics is more than just a single day. Events run through most of the year, starting with conservation education meetings. In May, the first level competitions to select the warrior athletes for each of the 4 participating teams normally occur, and regional competitions then run from July through September, culminating with the finals in December, now planned for December 2022.
We know that this is disappointing to the local communities, especially the warriors already training for team selection and excited to compete. We look forward to resuming next year when it is hopefully safe to do so once again and gather as a greater regional community to celebrate the incredible athleticism of the Maasai and the recovery of the local lion population.