The coronavirus-enforced break from sport has spurred the world into innovation and inspired creativity.
Forced into exile from the norm, event organisers have come up with ingenious ways of sustaining interest across various sporting codes.
In athletics, virtual competitions are now a staple.
RunCzech – the Prague-based athletes and event management company – has even gone as far as using idle airport runways and old breweries to stage races!
With the cancellation of flights as the world waits for the Covid-19 situation to improve, RunCzech took advantage of the idle Prague Airport to organise a five-kilometre fun run that attracted 2,674 runners last weekend.
The runners checked in at airport counters, as one would normally do ahead of a flight, got their running numbers (in place of boarding passes) and proceeded to the designated Gate D6 from where airport shuttle buses drove them not to the aircraft, but to the race’s starting point.
Running in small groups to enforce social distancing, the runners then had an opportunity to view aircraft on display and learn a thing or two about aviation and airport operations in what turned out to be a perfect family day out and a fitting substitute for the Volkswagen Prague Marathon that was cancelled due to the virus.
It was also an opportunity to show the world that the Czech Republic is safe and open for business again.
“Our humble attempt is to demonstrate that the country is safe and competent, that the Czech Republic is running, which is a true physical verification of showing what a place can do and how it works. We simply hope to contribute to the Czech Republic’s post-pandemic recovery strategy,” said Carlo Capalbo, the founder of RunCzech.
On August 1, RunCzech have organised another special run… in a brewery!
According to Capalbo and co., the run will be organised inside the historical cellars of the original Pilsen Brewery next weekend (August 1).
Just in case you didn’t know, the Czech Republic is the origin of the Pilsner-styled beer that traces its roots to the Bohemian city of Plzen where, on October 5, 1842, the first pints were brewed by a hired Bavarian, Josef Groll (1813-1887).
Therefore, the run inside that historic brewery will most certainly attract a great deal of attention… and will be a sobering experience.
Back home, organisers of the WRC Safari Rally have also been thinking outside the box, successfully conjuring up an “e-Safari Rally 2020” run on multiple stages over three days last weekend, and attracting over 250 “drivers” from all parts of the world.
The e-Safari Rally 2020 was run on the DiRT Rally 2 0 video game, with “drivers” competing via PS4, Xbox1 or personal computer platforms, the idea being to have some sort of event on the weekend the actual Safari Rally would have run, had it not been for its coronavirus-enforced postponement.
Madagascar – where e-gaming is a craze – completed a clean podium sweep at the weekend with Rakotonaivo A. Mathieu, “driving” a Mitsubishi Space Star R5 the overall winner of the e-Safari Rally with 343 points.
In fact, six of the top 10 were from Madagascar!
“Very interesting last few days on what was a very successful e-Safari Rally! Lots of positive feedback. We also learnt a few things along the way that will help improve events in the future,” Gurvir Bhabra, the WRC Safari Rally’s Clerk of the Course reacted.
WRC Safari Rally CEO Phineas Kimathi hailed the e-competition as an innovative way of helping the real Safari Rally gain extra attention.
“I’ve received compliments from far and wide. It was a first for Africa and a great initiative,” Kimathi said.
“It’s an affordable way for anyone and everyone to participate in rallying, and also a convenient one, especially during these days of Covid-19.”
Most certainly, the e-Safari Rally will attract more, younger fans to motorsport and drive more eyeballs to the actual Safari Rally when it celebrates its delayed return to the World Rally Championship series next year.
“With the Covid-19 problems, the FIA has seen an exponential increase in the e-gaming sector,” explains Surinder Thatthi, Vice-President for Sport at the International Automobile Federation (FIA) and 1988 Kenya Motor Sportsman of the Year.
“There’s a possibility that if one becomes a good e-racer, that person can also turn out to be a good, real rally driver,” he adds.
In fact, the FIA has already converted one e-license to a real license after the e-racer was tested and proved to be as good on road as on console, Surinder confirms.
There are now plans to hold more regular e-competitions organised by the WRC Safari Rally, something that will definitely attract lots of new motorsports enthusiasts.
E-racing is certainly an outside-the-box, next big thing in sports, and, fortunately, the team at the WRC Safari Rally headquarters at Kasarani is already working on e-competition regulations.
This will elevate Kenya’s status in global motorsports even higher.
Kudos to Phineas, Surinder, Gurvir, and all the great minds at Kasarani behind this latest venture.
Top 10 overall results from last weekend’s e-Safari Rally competition:
1. Rakotonaivo A. Mathieu (Madagascar, Mitsubishi Space Star R5) 434 points,
2. Rakotondrabesa Faihery (Madagascar, Mitsubishi Space Star R5) 366,
3. Begue Kevin (Madagascar, Mitsubishi Space Star R5) 372,
4. Brian Crosselt (UK, Volkswagen Polo GT! R5) 370,
5. Rakotondrabesa Andy (Madagascar, Mitsubishi Space Star R5) 336,
6. Soafome Jean (Madagascar, Mitsubishi Space Star R5) 331,
7. Rabarivelo Aina (Madagascar, Mitsubishi Space Star R5) 341,
8. Rajesh Kankavikar (India, Ford Fiesta R5) 330,
9. Stefan Popov (Bulgaria, Skoda Fabia R5) 303
10. Luide Katembo (Kenya, Ford Fiesta R5) 300.