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Sport Aid (also known as Sports Aid) was a sport-themed campaign for African famine relief held in May 1986, involving several days of all-star exhibition events in various sports, and culminating in the Race Against Time, a 10 km fun run held simultaneously in 89 countries. Timed to coincide with a UNICEF development conference in New York City, Sport Aid raised $37m for Live Aid and UNICEF. A second lower-key Sport Aid was held in 1988.
A central event was the lighting of a symbolic torch at the United Nations by Omar Khalifa, a champion Sudanese 1500m runner to signal the start the 10K races around the world. Khalifa began his journey to the United Nations on May 16, when he lit a torch from the embers of fire in El Moweilih relief camp in the Sudan. He was then flown to Athens where the torch of Africa and the Olympic torch were symbolically joined. This was the first time the Olympic torch had been lit outside of an Olympic Games. He then ran through 12 European capitals, being greeted by leaders like Margaret Thatcher, Prince Charles and Princess Diana, François Mitterrand, Helmut Kohl and Pope John Paul II.
The events in the United States were not widely publicized due in part to its clash with Hands Across America. Sport Aid was scheduled to take place on the eve of a UN special session on Africa, and so the timing conflict with Hands Across America could not be avoided.
Race Against Time
At 15:00 UTC on Sunday May 25 1986, 19.8 million runners around the world ran, jogged or walked 10 kilometers with sponsorships or donations given to support African famine relief charities.
274 cities held official events to allow over 19.8 million participants to follow designated courses with television coverage shown worldwide. London saw 200,000 runners complete the course, Barcelona hosted 50,000, Athens 30,000, Santiago 15,000, Dublin 20,000, Port of Spain 15,000, Melbourne 10,000 and countless millions of further runners set out at the same time to run around their local village or park, or simply to take part in this global event. In the United States New York City, Chicago, Atlanta, and San Francisco participated (along with several other Running Clubs in smaller towns) – with New York being the key race.
The New York Times reported, “With 200,000 Londoners setting the pace, more than 20 million runners in 76 countries ran today in Sport Aid, a global benefit to raise money for the starving of Africa. Today, Sport Aid is still the biggest sporting event ever organized".
- Lohr, Steve (26 May 1986). "20 million run to raise money for the starving in Africa". The New York Times. Retrieved 16 April 2016.
- By the way: Mary Kay Magistad. The Rotarian. 148. Evanston, Illinois: Rotary International. June 1986. pp. 4, 7. ISSN 0035-838X. Retrieved 16 April 2016.