10 July 2008

Burundi Catches the Exercise Bug

I came across this article today from South Africa's Mail & Guardian Online: Athletic Escapism in Burundi. We've heard that there are walking and hiking clubs for touring the hills around the city. But it sounds amazing to see all these people meeting on the beach for socializing and aerobics.
This particular 2km stretch of beach regularly welcomes hundreds of young and old Burundians who've caught the exercise craze. But the rest of the city will also be buzzing with citizens walking in groups belonging to the 20 or so sport clubs, or with family and friends.

We've also heard of an equestrian club and we're looking forward to learning to ride horses. The hills around the city will be great training for Kilimanjaro. According to the article there's also karate lessons. The city seems to be a workout paradise.

I wonder why that is? Burundians are poor and civil-war weary. You'd think they'd be concerned with survival. But it seems that exercise and socializing has become part of that survival instinct. They are relieving stress and staying healthy. A Bujumbura aerobics instructor theorizes:
"People lacked things to do during the war as all work stopped. A lot of people started to exercise to pass time and when they started to meet regularly, that's when many clubs were formed. This was an activity to rid them of negative thoughts."

In other Burundian athlete news, Burundi sent its first athletes to the Olympics in 1996 and one of their runners won the gold medal in the men's 5,000-meter race (1). What an exciting Olympic debut! Burundi has sent a handful of runners and swimmers to the Summer Olympics ever since (2). They are slated to send some athletes this year but I haven't found any information on which events they'll be competing in. We'll be arriving in Burundi during the first weekend of the Olympics. It should be a lot of fun to watch them there.

(1) Burundi's First Olympics Ends with a Gold Medal
Burundi at the Olympics

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