|© UNICEF Ethiopia/Guilllaume Bonn/2004|
|Goodwill Ambassador Danny Glover presents the winning prize at the UNICEF-sponsored Great Ethiopian Run|
ADDIS ABABA, 28 November 2004 – Under the endless Ethiopian sky, thousands upon thousands of athletes came together to participate in Africa’s biggest road race – the Great Ethiopian Run. Meskel Square in downtown Addis Ababa came alive as the vivid colours of the participants’ t-shirts shone like a sunlit sea.
Watching this impressive event unfold before him was UNICEF Goodwill Ambassador and Hollywood star Danny Glover. Mr. Glover had come to Ethiopia on an official mission with UNICEF.
The event he witnessed encapsulated the spirit of togetherness and teamwork. The Great Ethiopian Run aims to promote organizations active in the fight against HIV/AIDS.
“Children need discipline, concentration, passion, faith in oneself and perseverance to deal with the HIV/AIDS pandemic,” said Mr. Glover. “The world has to respond to HIV/AIDS and our history will be determined by how hard we fight HIV/AIDS.”
The race, which traditionally takes place on the last Sunday in November on the eve of World AIDS Day, has also the goal of promoting positive lifestyle choices among young people, encouraging them to participate in sport and stay healthy.
Total participants included 20,000 registered runners, thousands more unregistered, with an estimated one million watching on the streets, a live Ethiopian TV audience of 11 million (just about anyone with access to TV), and millions more throughout Africa and the world. The runners were keen and charged with adrenaline – so eager to get going that there was at first a false start, before the race began properly.
The Great Ethiopian Run is a beacon of hope in the fight against the HIV/AIDS pandemic. UNICEF and the Great Ethiopian Run have been partners for the past two years, committed to fighting HIV/AIDS in Ethiopia.
The Run provides an opportunity for participating young people to show their commitment as well as to focus their energy on healthy living. UNICEF believes it is important to work with young people – not only because they are affected by HIV/AIDS, but because they also represent a key resource in mobilizing an expanded and effective response to the epidemic.
The Great Ethiopian Run is the brainchild of Ethiopian super athlete Haile Gebreselassie. This year’s Run was the third annual edition.
For the 2004 Run, UNICEF sponsored the participation of 2000 youth in the age categories of ‘under 20’ and ‘20-24’, each with male and female sections.
Yeyesew Mekonnen, 16, who was the winner of the 14-19 boys category, spoke after receiving his award from Danny Glover: “I am young. I have many dreams. The first is to protect myself and stay healthy so that I can teach others. When I finish school I want to be a doctor. Perhaps by then they will have found a cure for AIDS. If not, I want to help find a cure.
“I am very pleased to have won this competition today. It gives me confidence that I can overcome all the challenges that lie before me.”