I have often pointed out that I am not a very keen sports fan. I don’t put my weekends aside to put my blood pressure on the line for games being played and broadcast on TV. And you will hardly ever find me wearing a sports jersey to show my strong attachment to a given sports entity. However I am really fascinated by a lot of things that are brought about by sports.
My mind is always blown away by the amount of money that swims alongside the sports stars. If you see what a top player in the English or Spanish football leagues takes home or what those American Footballs see when they check their account balance you may go blind. I won’t even talk about the golfing and basketball stats. It’s insane.
I am intrigued by how sports in general, embody the human desire to strive for excellence and be the very best they can, to push the limits (and I am not talking about the cheats here) and maintain the discipline that comes with staying at the top. That is why it is not rare for top sports personalities to be invited to speak to business people or students to inspire them to be great achievers.
At the national level, you will be amazed at the amount of patriotism that a sports victory can induce in one. At the Olympics, a gold medallist will have a moment where the national anthem of his/her country is played out to the whole world. What a moment of national pride especially if one is from a country where heroics at this stage are not that many.
The love for a country that sports evoke easily makes many politicians envious. A great sports star will be loved by so many so easily where politicians have to promise heaven and earth for a fraction of the same love. In India, cricket star Sachin Tendulkar was considered a god given that the game of cricket is nearly a religion in that subcontinent.
In Rwanda, cycling seems to have etched its place in people’s hearts over the last couple of years. It is that one sport that gives the country hope and joy more easily than other fields where a lot more disappointment may have been harvested. The Tour du Rwanda cycling race has grown in leaps and bounds and it is now a key event on the national calendar. Not only have Rwandans proven good at the sport, the country also seems so well suited for it.
The numerous hills around the race course not only provide a good challenge for the pro-cyclists, they also come with spectacular views that make one acknowledge the beauty of the country. This year’s edition has 16 teams covering a total distance of 959.1km over the course of eight day. As a tourism promoter I am particularly pleased with the partnership between the Rwanda Cycling Federation (FERWACY) and the German Society for International Cooperation (GIZ) in a bid to boost tourism along the Kivu Belt region.
This is a partnership that was long due because in my view, one of the greatest gifts from this cycling phenomenon is the promotion of Rwanda’s tourism products along the Kivu belt like Lake Kivu, the museums, tea plantations and so much more that one can experience along the same route as the cyclists. I have seen sections of the race where the cyclists have been welcomed with traditional Rwandan drums and dance. Just the perfect soundtrack to an event that shows of the fact that the roads to Rwanda’s tourism spots are very well done.
The areas of Rubavu, Karongi and Musanze are some of the most beautiful parts of the country and have most of the attractions that the country has to offer. Just like the big marathons around the world, the Tour du Rwanda is a great moment to show off the countryside in this era where video and photography rule the digital space. The images from the race course can make you think that Rwanda has been “photoshoped” and yet what you see is exactly what you get.
Seeing the winning cyclists standing in front of a Visit Rwanda screen or canvas or others having it on their shirts just as Arsenal FC does with their sleeves clearly pushes the message that one should Visit Rwanda, even those in Rwanda deserve to Visit Rwanda. Thank you Tour du Rwanda for being a great platform for tourism promotion.
The views expressed in this article are of the author.