The late South African Leader Nelson Mandela famously noted that sport has the power to change the world, inspire, and unite in a way that little else does.
“It speaks to youth in a language they understand. Sport can create hope, where once there was only despair,” Mandela said during a speech in 2000 in Monaco, France.
“It is more powerful than governments in breaking down racial barriers. It laughs in the face of all types of discrimination,” he said.
On Tuesday, April 30, a video of Mandela’s speech was played on a large screen inside the African Union Representational Mission to the United States in Washington, D.C., as students from nearby universities, dignitaries and media gathered for the announcement of the inaugural Grand Africa Run, a mass-participation road race organized by the nonprofit Nova Connections under the auspices of the African Union and in partnership with the DC Mayor’s Office on African Affairs, that will take place on July 21 during African Week celebrations in the nation’s capital.
“The more I thought about this idea of the Grand African race I began to see how we can bring the African diaspora and friends of Africa together, to promote our togetherness, to promote that which binds us and to promote all the wonderful accomplishments and the amazing things that are getting ready to come to Africa,” said Her Excellency, Dr. Arikana Chihombori-Quao, the Ambassador of the African Union Mission.
“We realize that quite often we only talk about negativity and completely disregard all of the wonderful things that are happening in Africa,” the Ambassador said.
The event is comprised of a main 5K race, as well as a 1K run for children 11 years of age and under.
Organizers expect thousands of runners to take part at the scenic course along the Anacostia River walk with the race starting and finishing at the Yards Park in D.C.
Officials also expect a number of top African athletes to attend as guests and as participants in the event where registration opened Wednesday, May 1, on the event’s official website, www.africanrun.com.
“This event will probably be one of the highlights of the African Diaspora celebration in July and it’s a reflection of the Africa we all want based on the Agenda 2063’s Aspirations,” H.E. Dr. Chihombori-Quao said, referring to a new initiative that aims to connect the African diaspora in North America through the running of sport and gathering the diaspora to celebrate African culture.
Mamadou Samba, the director of the DC Mayor’s Office on African Affairs, also emphasized the importance of the inaugural Grand African Run and why holding it in July is ideal.
“It shows the positive contribution to the communities in the United States and to Africans on their home continent,” Samba said.
“The mayor [Muriel Bowser] believes this is very important and to highlight it during the celebration of the African Diaspora drives home the point of all of us being one family and recognizing that we are all brothers and sisters,” he said.
Dr. Gashaw Abez, the event’s director and Chairman of the Board of Directors of Nova Connections, said the Grand African Run is rooted in the value that the sport of running has for millions across the continent of Africa.
“And, a running event will be an ideal platform to connect the diaspora and tell positive stories of Africa,” Dr. Abez said.
“For this, the event is much more than a race and is organized under the motto of ‘The Africa We Want, Better Together.’”