The 2017 edition of the Friendship Games organized by the Monegasque Peace and Sport associationis certainly impressive on paper. Two hundred children of Burundian, Rwandan and Congolese origin, three countries represented, and three renowned sports ambassadors, in the form of a former taekwondo champion, an athlete and a former rugby player. It is a sports competition organized in a country plagued by civil wars and nine international federations, diplomats and representatives of local authorities are completing this unprecedented scheme. Who better than a bronze medalist in the long jump at the London World Athletics Handicap World Championships in July 2017, as a guide for this event? The Franco-Burundian Jean-Baptiste Alaize, victim of the genocide in 1993, is distinguished by his drive to live. As an entrepreneur – he owns Fast Clean Luxury Company, specializing in home car washing; the athlete receives financial support from a subsidiary of Aviva, especially for his training uniforms.
Fishing net and bits of wood
After a long time of convalescence, the native of Burundi was eager to return to the “country”, after his first return in 2013. “I had to return to Burundi with a medal around my neck” said Jean-Baptiste Alaize. The athlete hurriedly left Burundi when the civil war broke out in October 1993. He was then only two and a half years old, he was orphaned and the lower part of his left leg was amputated.
Twenty-four years and two Paralympic Games later, the Drômois adoptee devotes some of his free time to the events organized by Peace and Sport to help poor children around the world through the promotion of sport. The foundation acts as an intermediary between associations wishing to offer their services in areas of conflict or poverty and children enthusiastic about the idea of discovering a way to escape from the struggles of their daily lives. The association has, for example, developed an explanation guide to build sports equipment with locally found objects.
The refugees and locals aiming to become local educators are trained in the basics of coaching. The same process will be applied in Burundi, where 64.4% of the population lives below the poverty line, according to the latest data collected by the United Nations.
Hutu with Tutsi
“These young people demonstrated through sporting practice that community life is possible and goes beyond the divisions between ethnic groups – Hutu and Tutsi – from the conflicts that began in the early 1990s,” enthuses Jean-Baptiste Alaize, a Tutsi, who has an adopted little brother… a Hutu.
“My adoptive parents adopted a Rwandan and were a bit scared at first that we do not get along,” said the sprinter. “We are definitely very close.”
Raised in Montélimar from 1998, when he was fitted with a prosthetic, Jean-Baptiste improved his personal long jump record by one centimeter on the occasion of the World Championships in London. An additional feat that could show the way to the Rwandan, Congolese and Burundian children to open the doors definitively to a positive regime: peace.
The Peace and Sport games 2017 truly offer inspiration to the world.
Photo credit to Peace and Sport.