A distance of more than 3,000 miles separates the Czech capital of Prague from Banjul, capital of The Gambia—mainland Africa’s tiniest independent republic.
Yet cycling enthusiasts who’d like to bridge the gap, at least symbolically, can easily do that on June 3, which happens to be World Bicycle Day 2021.
On that day, at 5:30 p.m., some 30 cyclists will gather at the Czech Embassy on Spring of Freedom Street and ride 3.2 miles north along Beach Drive to the Embassy of Gambia, located on Sixteenth Street near the Maryland line.
The symbolic journey should take no more than half an hour, said Czech cultural attaché Jan Woska, who’s organizing the fundraising event on behalf of Czech Bikes for Gambian Schools, an NGO based in Ostrava, Czechia’s third-largest city. Founded by Roman Posolda, the charity has sent thousands of bicycles to The Gambia since its inception in 2012.
Ambassador Hynek Kmoníček, Fadera’s Czech colleague in Washington, has invited cycling enthusiasts to help the group’s efforts by participating in the June 3 event, noting that “for more than nine years, this organization has been delivering old bikes from Czechia—not only for sport but also to make education more accessible.”
Added Woska: “These kids have to walk 10 miles to and from school every day. Bicycles can make the trip faster. In addition, this NGO has also started delivering public bike repair stations, so when something breaks, they don’t have to send the bikes anywhere else to be fixed.”
Money raised by the embassy’s “Ride for Gambia” will fund a public bike repair station at the Jarumeh Koto School in Koli Kunda, a town along the Gambia River in eastern Gambia. The impoverished West African country, home to 2.1 million people, is half the size of Maryland and ranks 174th out of 189 countries in the latest UN Human Development Index.
“The Czech bike initiative for Gambian schoolchildren—especially in hard-to-reach areas—has been marvelous,” said Gambian Ambassador Dawda D. Fadera. “It has a double impact in that it strengthens the physical health of the beneficiaries while improving school attendance in a timely manner, with a significant uptick in academic performance.”
Those who can’t make the event or don’t live in the area can support the project anyway, by completing their own bike ride until June 10 and sharing their stories on Facebook using the hashtag #rideforgambia. In addition, all those who record their journey between the embassies via Cyclers—the Czech-made cycling app—will receive a free four-month premium membership to the app.
Woska noted that 40 people signed up for last year’s Embassy Bike Challenge, held from Sept. 28 to Oct. 28. Participants cycled exactly 19.18 kilometers along the Potomac River in honor of Czech independence, which was established in 1918. The route began at the Chesapeake & Ohio Canal Towpath in Georgetown, under the Key Bridge, and finished at Mile Marker 13 at Great Falls, Virginia.
“We are not doing this just for the sake of sport. We are highlighting the success of a great Czech NGO and also partnering with a unique Czech navigation tool, so this has economic dimensions,” Woska said. “We also want to help people and enable them to reach their potential, and we think that sport is a great tool for achieving this.”
To that end, the embassy—in partnership with the Czech Olympic Committee—has another event lined up. On June 2, it will present “Major Sporting Events: Bidding, Politics and Controversies”—the third in a six-part SPORTSDIP webinar series.
Among the issues to be explored: What are the benefit for countries to host major sporting events? Why have so many recent events found homes in non-democratic nations? Can they still contribute to the well-being of the local population? And what is the perspective of athletes?
Panelists will include Georgetown University faculty member and global sports consultant Marty Conway; Gabriel Waage, president of both the Czech Softball Association and the European Softball Federation; and former Czech road and track racing cyclist Jiří Ježek. The panel will be moderated by sports reporter and Czech Radio correspondent Jan Kaliba.
For more information on this event, please RSVP here.