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Olympic Fest 2016: a grand celebration of Moldovan sport

by Natalia Donets, AIPS Women's Commission member
CHISINAU, May 26, 2016 - On May 21, over 15,000 people of all ages took the streets of Chisinau to celebrate the Olympic Fest, the country's biggest multi-sport event, which turned 25 in 2016. The grand festivities in Chisinau coincided with the celebration of the newly-established national holiday - the Day of the Athlete and the Olympic Movement.

The Olympic Fest is, in fact, an early prelude to the IOC's Olympic Day and an opening of the Moldovan Olympic Month. The popularity and scale of Moldovan Olympic celebrations have steadily grown over the years. What began in 1991 as an Olympic Day Run grew into to a race that attracts thousands upon thousands of participants every year. The main festivities taking place the central square of the capital city of Chisinau turned its heart into a true sporting playground.

On December 17, 2015, the Parliament of the Republic of Moldova adopted the law establishing a new National holiday, the Day of the Athlete and the Olympic Movement. The legislative project was proposed by NOC President, double Olympic Champion Nicolae Juravschi, who has served as a Member of Parliament since 2011.

With less than three months left until the Opening of the Rio Olympic Games, the central square of the Moldovan capital turned into Brazil for a day. The festival reunited 30 federations, associations and clubs - both Olympic and non-Olympic - which organized competitions and mini-tournaments, demonstrations and training sessions in their dedicated sport zones. The participants included football, tennis, karate, handball, modern pentathlon, judo and many others. The official opening of the festival was preceded by a choreographed sport/dance procession with participation of the finest teenage athletes of the country.

President of the NOC, double Olympic Champion Nicolae Juravschi, Youth and Sports Minister Victor Zubcu (first-time co-organizer of the event) and guest of honor IOC Member Valeriy Borzov greeted the festival-goers and joined them in the Olympic Day race and the sport competitions that followed. "It was, indeed, a great pleasure to be a part of the Olympic Fest, especially on such a special occasion. The number of people that have come to celebrate sport is absolutely remarkable, the support for the Moldovan sports community is inspiring. I would like to wish Moldovan athletes good luck at the upcoming Olympic Games and hope that they will be ready to make their mark in Rio," declared Borzov.

The highlights of the event included a stroller race for mothers and babies and a crawling competition for the littlest ones, with both competitions having gained immense popularity during the 2015 edition of the festival. "Trinta" folk wrestling (belt wrestling) became one of the traditional staples of the Olympic Fest. The winner of the wrestling tournament received a live ram, while the runners up were awarded two roosters. Other highlights of the event included competitions between representatives of seven Moldovan TV channels and a relay for university students.

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