500 participants from over 20 countries joined Bike4SDGs on the Augustow Canal to support tourism development, promote healthy lifestyle, green mobility, inclusive society and partnership

Aug 28, 2017

Around 500 cyclists and 40 kayakers - representatives of national ministries, the diplomatic corps, UN agencies, the cycling community in Poland, Lithuania and Belarus, as well as residents of the Hrodna region - explored the tourism potential of the Augustow Canal, riding 18.5 kilometers on bicycles and 6 kilometers on canoe along the picturesque historical sites of the unique hydrotechnical structure of the XIX century.

Participants spent the day adhering to healthy lifestyle, learned about the history and culture of the Hrodna region, but also for the most of the day gave up on cars for the benefit of environment. Traditionally, people with disabilities joined the bike ride. Over 20 wheelchair cyclists rolled out on the route, many of whom successfully crossed the finish line in the village of Radziwilki. The pit stops were organized on the territory of local farmsteads, where cyclists could relax, enjoy cold beverages and the beauty of local landscapes.

"Belarus has done a lot of work to make this not only a peaceful and stable society, but an inclusive society. Of course, like in every country much remains to be done. The infrastructure, for example, that was built decades ago, we need to find the ways to make it barrier-free space; employment issues, education; we need to find a way to make sure that women get the same pay and the same job as men; children with autism, for example, how we make sure that they have education and employment”, -  said UNDP Resident Representative in Belarus Sanaka Samarasinha.

"According to the latest information, about 10 000 spectators and tourists will attend the festival today. In the bike ride there are over 400 participants, and a number of other sport disciplines, that's why I would consider this format as a new approach to a healthy lifestyle in the country today: promotion of healthy lifestyle, physical culture. This is the foundation for tourism development, - said the Minister of Sports and Tourism, Alexander Shamko. - It is a good example of organizing an event for youth. So, I think that the festival will succeed today, and this way we will involve more and more people in a healthy lifestyle."

For those who decided to explore the sights of the Augustow Canal by foot, a walking tour was organized. The route began with the floodgate "Dambrouka" and ran through the defenses line Molotov (1939-1941), farmsteads "Tartak", township Sopotskin, the palace and park ensemble of the Volovich family in the village Svyatsk, farmstead in the village Radzivilki.

"Today the whole world dynamically develops tourism, therefore Hrodna region sees tourism as a priority direction of its development. Considering that we have a lot of historic monuments, architecture, memorial places in Hrodna region, organizing many interesting events, just like the festival today. This attracts people from all over the world: from Europe, from the American continent, and even from Australia," - noted Vladimir Kravtsov, Governor of the Hrodna region.

Bike4SDGs participants and guests of the festival could learn more about UNDP activities in Belarus, as well as about how implementing local initiatives contributes to  achieving of the Sustainable Development Goal through the exhibition of UNDP projects, located next to the start of the bike ride. The exhibition materials clearly demonstrated how UNDP and its partners help the Republic of Belarus to implement the Global Agenda by 2030.

Visitors of the exhibition could also buy handmade souvenirs from the initiatives of the UNDP-USAID "Local Entrepreneurship and Economic Development" project, the "Supporting the Transition to a Green Economy in the Republic of Belarus" and "Support to Local Development in the Republic of Belarus" projects, funded by the European Union.

The day ended with an inclusive concert with dance performances by the Silver medalists of the European Championship in 2016, the winners of the German Open  Championship in 2017 in wheelchair sport dancing Irina Makeichik and Yevgeny Yarmoshko; the winners of the World Cup in wheelchair sport dancing Anna Ivanova and Mikhail Zhigalov; the winners of World Cup in 2016, participants of the project "Everybody Dance" (Ukraine), World Champions in Latin American dance program in wheelchairs Darya Kulsh and Aleksandr Lyakhovich; a member of the international dancing and parachuting project Natalia Astanina together with Yevgeny Yarmoshko.

"We want to do this every year in a different place to visit Belarus, because there are so many beautiful places around the country. We want to introduce the beauty of different parts of Belarus to the rest of the world. So, next year I hope to do this in Belovezhskaya pushcha. And we would go around the country every year," - said UNDP Resident Representative in Belarus Sanaka Samarasinha.

Bike ride Bike4SDGs was organized in partnership with the Festival of Folk Art "Augustow Canal in the Culture of Three Nations" with the support of the Hrodna Regional Executive Committee and the Ministry of Sports and Tourism of the Republic of Belarus. Among the partners of the event were clothes and lingerie production "Mark Formelle", communication agency "EZERIN Communication", logistics service "TUT&TAM Logistics", juice production and distributor of food "Leto Trade", "Molochny gostinets".