Wings for Life İzmir runs first, parties later
Nazlan Ertan – İZMİR
AA photoSome 8,000 people gathered in Gündoğdu Square in the Aegean province of İzmir on May 8 to “run for those who cannot run” as part of the “Wings for Life World Run 2016.”
The event, which takes place in 34 different locations with the participation of 130,000 people globally, aims to raise funds for spinal damage treatment research. The Wings for Life Organization, carried out for the third time, spreads onto six continents, where running starts everywhere at the same time, meaning a nighttime run in Japan equals inconvenient noon heat in İzmir.
The Wings for Life İzmir organizers claimed that İzmir’s participation made it the second largest globally, after Vienna. Although announcements stressed the run was “an awareness event” rather than a race, new records were broken globally. Giorgio Calcaterra won the Wings for Life World Run 2016 after outpacing the Catcher Car for five hours and 30 minutes in Milan, Italy. The Italian runner covered a record distance of 88.4 km to outdo everyone else taking part around the world. Kaori Yoshida of Japan ran a whopping 65.78 km in Takashima, smashing the previous female record of 56.33 km, said a statement from Run for Life.
In İzmir, Svetlana Sheperava was first among women and Ahmet Bayram was the winner in the men’s category.
The İzmir run was a source of pride for local associations, universities, businesses and the region’s colorful youth. T-shirts from İzmir’s Pınar Karşıyaka basketball team were seen throughout the event, with more than 360 athletes signing up, making it the sixth largest team to sign up for the global event. The İzmir Trade Chamber (IZTO) was there with 131 volunteers to signify its 131-year history, while the Hilton İzmir team with 100 people in their white shirts with the hotel chain’s logo and many other businesses from Yaşar to Kipa also participated. Big national and international corporations also made an appearance in what they called “a global corporate responsibility event, as well as a great team-building opportunity.”
Turkish NGOs also came to İzmir for the event. “We have more than 150 volunteers who are running with us,” said Aytül Çınar, an administrator for the Educational Volunteers Foundation of Turkey (TEGV).
The municipality’s semi-official Engelsizmir (İzmir without disability) agency opened a stand at the event to create awareness of social services, psychological support and education opportunities for residents with disabilities.
İzmir Mayor Aziz Kocaoğlu, donning sportswear in a rare tieless appearance, also joined the runners and was greeted by a round of applause. “I do not think he will run all the way, but it is good that he is here,” said a member of IZTO. Kocaoğlu was accompanied by the mayor of İzmir’s Konak district, Sema Pektaş, who helped push the wheelchairs of participants with spinal cord injuries.
“This race allows us to feel empathy for those who cannot carry out activities such as walking, running or even standing up,” said Pektaş. “We are also happy that İzmir was selected as a venue and the start of the run is in Konak, the heart of İzmir.”
The run meant several roads and main arteries in the city center and leading to the popular town of Foça were closed between 1:00 p.m. to 5:00 p.m., however the Konak business community did not complain.
“The runners will come in the evening for the after party,” said a waiter at one of the pubs at the waterfront.
“There are thousands of people here who will boost business this weekend.”
True to form, that evening proved to be a lively one for İzmir, with after parties in local nightclubs and dozens of photos posted with the hashtag #rflafterparty. Gündoğdu Square, which had hosted Meral Akşener’s rally to push her bid for leadership of the Nationalist Movement Party (MHP), played its usual role of host to young people drinking beer on the grass.