Saturday marked not only the International Olympic Day but also a new dawn for South Sudanese athletes hoping to participate at the next Summer Olympics in 2020. They marched through the Juba national basketball stadium in the presence of a multitude of dignitaries as Olympic flags were raised and the spirit of unity and harmony praised.
“Importantly, the Olympic Games present a unique opportunity for the citizens of South Sudan to come together under one flag to participate as a unified nation on the world stage,” said David Shearer, Head of the United Nations Mission in South Sudan, adding:
“This vision provides a reminder to us all of the greater cause we seek in South Sudan: harmony, peace and prosperity. This is not only in line with UNMISS’s core priority – to build durable peace in South Sudan, it is also in line with the values of the entire United Nations family”.
The International Olympic Day has been celebrated on 23 June since 1948. During the 2016 Summer Olympics in Rio de Janeiro, three South Sudanese athletes competed, for the first time, under its own flag. The national talents on display at Saturday’s Olympic Day event will be hoping to take part in the next Summer Olympics, in 2020.
Under the respective flags of the South Sudanese National Olympic Committee, the International Olympic Committee, the Association of National Olympic Committees and the Association of National Olympic Committees of Africa, a number of important people delivered remarks befitting the occasion.
The Special Representative of the African Union to South Sudan, Jerome Biswaro, also stressed the importance of the spirit of sports, which “have no race, color or ethnicity, and one of its characteristics is to unify the people.”
Mr. Biswaro also noted the Olympic potential of South Sudan and the role sports can play for peace, and vice versa.
“The potential in South Sudan is immense, but we believe that peace is fundamental to organize its people. I also wish to confirm that African Union believes that through sports and Olympic values of friendship and respect we can all make a difference and inspire a peaceful society,” he said.
First Vice President Taban Deng Gai promised those in attendance that South Sudan will prove its Olympic worth to the world.
“This is the Olympic Day and it is the day of the youth of the republic of South Sudan. I am assuring you our youth can do well in any sports activities,” he said, adding that his office stands ready to support the Olympic team that will end up going to Tokyo in 2020.
“We shall compete in the Olympics, whether it is in high jump or long jump, we shall be there”.