Athens Marathon chance to show solidarity to refugees

8 November 2015
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On the eve of Sunday’s Athens 33rd Authentic Marathon, organizers and humanitarian organizations called on Greeks and foreign runners and spectators to seize the opportunity to show their solidarity with the thousands of refugees who keep reaching Greece to escape war zones.

Since 2009 the Athens Marathon has launched a Charity and Social Liability Program that allows involved charities to use the sports event as a means to promoting their scopes and collect money. This year the refugee crisis holds a leading role.

The Doctors Without Borders will participate in all races attempting to cover as many kilometers as possible to gather funds for those in need. “We are running here for a doctor over there,” is the main slogan of their participation this year.

They urge citizens to join them in the race to provide medical aid to refugees arriving in the Aegean Sea islands by making donations on their website marathon.msf.gr.

For each euro donated the donor will take one footstep along the original 42 km route from Marathon to the 1896 Olympic Stadium in the heart of Athens in virtual reality. Each step made will be converted into support for the refugees.

In previous years, Doctors Without Borders have collected more than 50,000 euros.

In addition, on an initiative of the Greek Athletics Federation (SEGAS) that organizes the Marathon, all isothermal blankets used by runners at the end of the race will be delivered in coming weeks to refugees on Lesvos. The island has received the bulk of the 600,000 refugees flows since the start of this year.

Runners and spectators are also urged to donate, as in the past year, shoes and clothing for the refugees and other people in need.

A record number of 43,000 runners will participate in this year’s Athens Marathon and the shorter 10 and 5 km races, up from 35,000 participations in 2014.

About 16,000 runners will run the classic 42 km Marathon race the legendary Athenian soldier Pheidippides run 25 centuries ago from the Marathon battlefield to Athens to announce Greeks’ victory over the Persian forces.

About 16,000 foreign nationals — among them around 350 Chinese — will take part in all races, an increase of 35 percent compared to last year, according to SEGAS President Kostas Panagopoulos.

Each one of them has at least one relative or friend to support and cheer him/her along the way, according to estimates from previous years.

Another 100,000-200,000 spectators are expected to be following the event along the route and at the finish line inside the Panathinaikon marble stadium where the first modern Olympics were hosted.

Last year the Athens Authentic Marathon raised approximately 500,000 euros which were donated for good causes. This year organizers hope to break this record.

Addressing a press briefing ahead of the event this week, Greece’s Deputy Sports Minister Stavros Kontonis praised organizers for the humanitarian profile of the Athens Marathon.

“This series of initiatives show that despite the economic difficulties Greece faces in recent years, Greek people are always willing to help. SEGAS’ sensitivity to the refugee crisis honors all of us, because it shows the best image of Greece,” he said.

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