20 July 2012

An Olympic sotry with no sponsorship and maybe no medal prospects but who cares

Two days ago the Telegraph carried a  story yesterday about how the Rwandan Olympic team was taken to the heart of the people of Bury St Edmunds

The five strong team (actually six as one member, a mountain biker,  has yet to arrive) has spent the lst two weeks in the Suffolk town preparing for the London Games. It looks as if they have ben welcomed with open arms.When the team venture out on to the streets of Bury on a training run, they find people lining the streets. Some of them, clad in running gear, join in. Runners from the local athletics club act as pacemakers.

Schoolchildren turn up at their base, the Abbeycroft Leisure Centre, to watch them train.
Judo competitor Yannick Fred Sekamana recalls: “We arrived on a Friday. On Saturday, in the morning, we went for a run, and we could see all these people. All these people were interested in us. They’ve come to see us. I didn’t expect that.”

Students from a local school created a mural which was unveiled last week. Cultural and educational links have been forged, with a teacher exchange programme in place and a display of Rwandan dancing in the town centre last weekend.

Swimmer Alphonsine Agahozo, celebrated her 16th birthday, and was thrown a surprise party at the town’s guild hall.

The Rwandans have instead been overwhelmed by the generosity of their hosts. “I didn’t expect it to be as good as this,” Sekamana smiles. “We knew people had prepared things for us, but we didn’t know it would be as much as this.

“The British people have a good character,” says 10,000m runner Rbort Kajuga. “They have good hearts. They treat people with kindness. All the people here have made me happy. When they see us, on their face, they have happiness.”
But for all the cultural outreach, it is the competition they are here for. Although all five are outsiders in their events (Rwanda's best medal hope, mountain biker Adrien Niyonshuti), simply participating in the Games is a source of immense national pride. “First of all, I have to make sure I give a good image of judo and Rwanda,” says 18 year-old Sekamana, who was born in France and only started competing for his nation after hearing about an event in Burundi and taking second place. “After that it depends on the draw.” 
 The Rwandans left Suffolk on Wednesday morning, but Sekamana has vowed to return with his best friend. “I’ll make sure I see everybody,” he says. 
  Amid the deluge of negative stories that this Olympic Games has produced, here is a happier yarn. A simple tale of friendship, generosity and understanding. And only the Olympics could have made it possible.

The Rwanda will compete in the following events:

Robert Kajuga - Men's 10,000m
Jean--Pierre Mvuyekure - Men's Marathon
Claudette Musakakindi - Women's Marathon
Adrien Niyonshuti - Men's Mountain Bike
Fred Yannick Uwase - Men's Judo 73kg category
Alphonsine Agahozo - Women's 50m Freestyle

Not much of a story you may say - and a bit schmaltzy but  it is heartening to see the level of welcome they received in Bury St Edmunds. I hope they do their very best even if they return to Rwanda with no medals.


Claude said...

Simply thank you!

jams o donnell said...

It is a heart warming tale isn't it?