2020 promises to be a busy year in local sports, and everyone – depending on their favourite sport – will be spoilt for choice.
From the Tour du Rwanda to Kigali International Peace Marathon to the Basketball Africa League (BAL) finals, it will be a full package for athletes and fans alike.
Here are the five major events you should look out for.
Tour of Rwanda
The ever-fascinating cycling race will kick-off the 2020 season and it takes an extra edge after earning upgrade from 2.2 to 2.1 UCI category last year when Eritrean Merhawi Kudus – riding for Astana Pro Team – claimed the title after leading the standings from Stage 2.
Will a Rwandan rider win? Will the coveted Yellow Jersey go to a foreign cyclist again? It gets underway in three weeks – on February 23 – and all will be determined on March 1 with the ultimate Stage 8.
When Tour du Rwanda turned international in 2009, it took home riders five years before Valens Ndayisenga became the first Rwandan to win it in 2014.
Rwandans may be competing against riders from World Tour and Pro Continental teams, but definitely expectations are high from the millions of spectators who line up the roads cheering on them, and they won’t be patient for another five years for another Rwandan victory.
Once again, this year, the route promises to be grueling with long climbs on almost every stage, including 4,279 metres in Stage 4 that will depart Rusizi to Rubavu on a 206.3km distance – the longest stage of the eight-stage race.
Israel Cycling Academy will be the most elite team in the 17-team peloton following their recent upgrade to UC World Tour status after merging with Katusha.
In a country of about 13 million citizens, it is estimated that at least three million watch the race. The 12th Tour du Rwanda will have a total distance of 889 kilometres.
Kigali Peace Marathon
The Kigali Peace Marathon will be another standalone spectacular event mid this year. Rwanda Athletics Federation (RAF) is yet to determine the exact date of the famous multi-category race.
Having been initiated in 2004 as an amateur race as a way of using sports in the healing and reconciliation process in the aftermath of the 1994 Genocide against the Tutsi, the event has since grown to become one of the most respected annual athletics events on the continent.
According to organisers, over 10,000 participants from 55 countries across difference categories – full marathon, half marathon and amateurs – took part in the run last year.
Along with the Tour du Rwanda, Kigali Peace Marathon is one of the biggest and always trending sports events in the country.
Of late, Rwandan runners have found their niche in half marathon, challenging years of dominance for Kenyan participants. However, the full marathon remains a Kenyan affair.
BAL 2020 Finals
Since the inauguration of the state-of-the-art Kigali Arena last August, Rwanda is increasingly becoming a basketball hub on the continent.
Courtesy of the 10,000-seater modern facility, Rwanda will host the finals of the inaugural Basketball Africa League (BAL) season in May.
The continental tournament tips off in March, and Rwanda’s Patriots will be the sole East African side in the 12-team competition.
A joint effort between the world basketball governing body (FIBA) and the American National Basketball Association (NBA), BAL will have Jordan Brand as its exclusive outfitter.
Mountain Gorilla Rally
Contrary to the event’s usual tradition where, in the past – including last year, it used to take place late in the season, the 2020 Mountain Gorilla Rally is set for May 15-17.
The new scheduling will compel more international crews to participate as they battle for points in the African Rally Championships.
Motorsport star Jean Claude Gakwaya, and his navigator Jean Claude Mugabo, claimed the 2019 Mountain Gorilla Rally last October en route to clinching the national rally championship.
CHOHM Golf tourney
Currently under redevelopment, the Kigali Golf Club is set to be expanded from nine to an 18-hole course.
Once complete, the new-look facility – will also comprise a bowling alley and squash court – will host the Commonwealth Heads of Government (CHOGM) golf tournament as its first event in June.
Rwanda will host the CHOGM Meeting from June 22 to 27 in Kigali, marking almost eleven years since joining the Commonwealth in November 2009.
The upgraded Kigali Golf Course, according to its management, will not only boost golf tourism in the country, but it will also allow Rwanda to host more and bigger international competitions.