Early in the morning of 20 April the SCO Secretariat's yard was turned into a large sports arena for a preview of the 2019 SCO Marathons. Guests included ambassadors of the SCO family countries, permanent representatives of the SCO member states at the Secretariat, representatives of Chinese sports institutions, the business community and media, as well as foreign students studying in Beijing.
The guests participated in a symbolic one-mile run from Issyk-Kul Lake in the Kyrgyz Republic to Dianchi Lake in the Chinese city of Kunming, Yunnan Province, whose shores lie on the route of the SCO marathons in May and December 2019.
The start signal was given by Mr Shui Tao, Vice Secretary of the Chinese Athletics Association.
In his opening remarks, SCO Secretary-General Vladimir Norov noted that SCO marathons attract hundreds of sports enthusiasts from various parts of the globe. What sets these events apart is that they are open not only to professional athletes but ordinary people of all ages as well as people with disabilities. "In short, the Shanghai Spirit unites everybody. The SCO marathon has, in fact, become an affirmation of healthy living and makes a substantial contribution to strengthening friendship and cooperation between countries and peoples," said Secretary-General Norov.
He noted that during its presidency the Kyrgyz Republic is planning to hold the SCO Marathon on 11 May, and said he was sure that the marathon on the shores of the picturesque Issyk-Kul Lake will be a memorable event in the Kyrgyz presidency of the SCO.
In addition, he said that the 4th Kunming SCO Marathon will be held at its traditional time in December 2019, and expressed his conviction that the shores of Dianchi Lake once again will be the scene of a celebration of friendship and mutual understanding.
Deputy Director of the State Agency for Youth Affairs, Physical Culture and Sports under the Kyrgyz Government Kanat Arpachiev underscored in his remarks that sport is a unique field which always stands above politics and is essential to promoting friendship among peoples around the world.
He stressed that the international marathons are now firmly established as part of the SCO's cultural and people-to-people activities and play a big role in promoting the Shanghai Spirit. "I was delighted to see that Kyrgyz athlete Adilet Kyshtakbekov won the Kunming SCO Marathon in 2017 and Darya Masvola of Kyrgyzstan was among the three marathon medalists in 2018," said he.
He pointed out that the Kyrgyz Republic is continuing that good tradition by hosting the international SCO Marathon on Issyk-Kul this year during its presidency of the SCO. The race will include five categories: marathon, half-marathon, 10,000 m and 3,000 m, as well as a 3,000 m Nordic walking event.
Arpachiev expressed his confidence that the Shanghai family countries will actively participate in the Issyk-Kul marathon.
Ms Zhou Hongbin, Vice Mayor of Kunming, spoke about her city's history. She noted that in the 13th century Kunming was governed by a man born in Bukhara and it was he who laid the foundation for the friendly exchanges between Kunming and Central Asia. Kunming is world-famous as a city of eternal spring and flowers. Kunming has hosted three marathons since 2016 with a total of 52,000 runners. The total number of runners in all SCO marathons is 100,000. Although its history is short enough, the event has already been awarded a gold medal of the Chinese Athletics Association. For Kunming the SCO marathon has become a key area of activity and a major project to promote international people-to-people exchanges and improve health and well-being.
In conclusion Zhou Hongbin expressed her hope the Issyk-Kul SCO Marathon and the Kunming SCO Marathon in 2019 would enjoy great success.
Shui Tao, Vice Secretary of the Chinese Athletics Association, remarked in his address that the SCO marathon is the first and only marathon named after an international organisation. With every year the Kunming marathon grows in scope: it has already received a gold medal from the Chinese Athletics Association and is now nominated for the International Association of Athletics Federations' bronze standard. The SCO marathons will be held around Issyk-Kul Lake, Kyrgyzstan, and in Kunming this year. The Management Centre of Track and Field of the Chinese State General Sports Administration of China and the Chinese Athletics Association will continue to provide all-round support for this movement. At the close of his remarks Shui Tao said that the SCO marathon was an example of what he called "sport diplomacy."
The high-ranking officials' remarks were accompanied by an exciting dance and music performance by the Hohhot Inner Mongolia folk ensemble as well as a virtuoso performance on the national instrument of Kyrgyzstan by Kubanychbek Toktogul, a student of the Chinese Central Conservatory of Music.
The photo exhibition dedicated to the previous SCO marathons in Kunming, the Run the Silk Road marathon and the World Nomad Games in Kyrgyzstan was also of great interest to the guests.
A cascade of 6.666 roses symbilising friendship between peoples helped make for an unforgettable event.