24 June 2014

Cycle Race in Sarajevo to Commemorate the 100th anniversary of WWI

Watching a bit of the FIFA World Cup very late at night or early morning here from Tokyo, one cannot help but reflect on the power of sport to channel international competition in a healthy direction.  I turned on the TV very early this morning to check in and see Brazil and Cameroon battling it out on the field.  Brazil is victorious, but there are no serious casualties.

Then I switch to NHK and see reports of Chinese vessels ramming into a smaller Vietnamese boat in the Tonkin Gulf, where a fleet of over 100 Chinese vessels is engaging in "self help" and aggressively staking out turf in an attempt to drill for oil offshore, in waters that China claims, as does Vietnam.  The next report is about similar disputes between China and the Philippines over the Spratly islands, where China is doing landfill on some tiny sand atolls, apparently in an effort to expand them eventually into an airfield.

Then I am reminded of the role that cycling can play. 

The linked BBC,  Guardian and Balkan Insight stories report a UCI- and Tour de France-sponsored race in Sarajevo on Sunday, to commemorate the 100th anniversary of the start of World War I, with the assassination in Sarajevo of Archduke Franz Ferdinand on June 28, 1914 starting the most awful "war to end all wars" ... until the next one.

The assassination in Sarajevo on June 28, 1914 occurred just as the Tour de France was underway.   The Tour was completed, then on August 3 Germany invaded France.  By the time the war was over, 3 winners of the Tour had been slain, along with millions of others.

The 2014 race saw both Bosnian and Serbs join -- and was won by a Slovenian, with an Italian in second.

This international aspect is one thing I enjoy about randonneuring.  Even at the Japan Audax Fleche every April, there are some participants from abroad -- Seattle International Randonneurs and Taiwan randonneurs.  Of course, the "sport" originated and is administered from France, so Jerome is welcome at all Japanese events as a special guest!  At an event like the Cascade 1200, there are riders who have come from many countries.  And at PBP or LEL, the entire world seems to be riding.

Our own David J. in 2012 rode with his father in a commemoration of the 1955 "Peace Race", an early exchange in sport during the area before "detente" had come to prevail over a very cold war in Europe. 

And my long-time friend, Mike Sata, is the proud sponsor of an annual cycling Peace Rally in Chailly, Burgundy, France, which will celebrate its 10th anniversary on August 2, 2014.  (Rumor has it that both Bernard Hinault and Francesco Moser will be among the riders).

Such sport and cultural exchanges help to build friendships.  They help us to see citizens of other nations not as potential enemies, but as people with the same hopes and concerns as we have.  Such friendships are started by participating in these kinds of events -- a sister city exchange or an Audax event in a neighboring country.  They are maintained through volunteering in the organization that sponsores and renews the event.  

It is only through sustained, privately-maintained friendships across borders that we can hope to head off the next great conflagration.

No comments: