Olympic torchbearer recalls his moments of glory
By Arifa S. Sharmin
26 July 2012, Dhaka: Shoriful Islam was exceedingly thrilled as he shared his experiences of holding the Olympic Torch. “I was the lone torch bearer from Bangladesh, holding the Olympic torch and running on one of the streets of Nottingham with a team comprising of different nationalities. I never ever even dreamt about it,” says Shorful in absolute awe upon his return to Bangladesh from his first ever visit abroad to London. His eyes sparkled with joy while he was narrating his experiences of the weeklong visit.
Dressed in a white jersey and trousers, holding the Olympic torch in hand, Shoriful along with his teammates were running on the street, people were waving their hands, camera flashes popping up - all are alive in Shoriful memories which he shares with others with pride.
“This is the experience of a lifetime for me, each and every moment are alive in my memory, it makes me proud and also reminds me of my responsibility to the children of Bangladesh. I wish that not a single child dies in my country due to drowning,” says Shoriful while talking about his experiences and dreams.
Shoriful, a swimming instructor of an adolescent club from a remote village of Bangladesh, was selected as an Olympic torch-bearer through the UNICEF- supported International Inspiration Programme along with 8,000 torchbearers at the London Olympic Games 2012.
From Makura to Nottingham
Shoriful (18) lives in Makura village beside the Gahgut river in Rangpur, in the northern part of Bangladesh. He is a student of Class-XII and joined as a swimming instructor for the UNICEF-supported Adolescent Empowerment project in 2010.
“Drowning was a common cause of child death in our village and adjacent villages even around two years ago as most houses are surrounded by small canals and ponds. During monsoon, houses are flooded with knee-deep water for a couple of days. During such times, we have to use our bed for cooking as well as sleeping,” says Shoriful while recounting his life in the village during monsoon.
Talking about the present situation, Shoriful says, “Things have changed, almost of all children above four years have learnt how to swim in my village. They now know how to swim and save others from drowning. Around 50 children took swimming lessons from me inthe last year and a half year.”
Since joining the Adolescent Club, Shoriful has been acting as a catalyst in his community by raising awareness on drowning in his village. His initiative motivates parents to send children for swimming lessons.
It was a big thing that a teenaged swimming instructor from a remote village of Bangladesh made his journey to Nottingham with his Chaperone. “We were 10 in our team from different countries. However, language was the main barrier of communication as I could not talk or understand English, but we were still able to communicate somehow,” he says.
“Dancing on the “World Sports Day” with Olympic jingle along with hundreds of children and playing “Ha-du-du” (a rural touch-and-go game of Bangladesh) with the representatives of the Olympic sponsoring companies at Lords Cricket Practice Field were some unique experiences during my visit to London,” continues Shoriful.
Sports for Change
By involving children of 20 countries in different sports, International Inspiration brings into reality the ‘Singapore Vision’, to ‘reach young people all around the world and connect them to the inspirational power of the Games so they are inspired to choose sport’.
The programme aims to use the power of sport to enrich the lives of millions of children and young people of all abilities, in schools and communities across the world, particularly in developing countries, through the power of high quality and inclusive physical education, sport and play.
In Bangladesh, UNICEF works in both urban and rural areas to provide opportunities for participation in sport and play, with a specific focus on involving girls and delivering life-skills education messages through sport.
From May 2009 onwards, over 12,000 peer leaders were trained to enhance their coaching skills, as well as their capacities to use sport as life skills to empower young people and change attitudes in communities.