By Maria Spiliopoulou
ATHENS, April 18 (Xinhua) -- The Municipality of Marathon where 2,2000 years ago the Marathon race was born, prepares to host on April 27 the first Marathon Forum aimed to promote sportsmanship and friendship between peoples, officials told a press briefing on Wednesday.
A few hours before at least 2,000 Greek and foreign runners of all ages take up position at the historical starting point of the classic route of the marathon for the 5th annual Half Marathon race of the Marathon Municipality, delegates from as far away as China will explore ways to further promote the "Marathon spirit" across the globe, organizers said.
The event which is hosted under the auspices of the Greek Foreign Ministry, the General Secretariat of Sports, the Greek Athletics Federation and the Chinese Track and Field Association and the Association of International Marathons and Distance Races, aims to highlight the opportunities arising from the organization of marathon races internationally, and showcase Marathon as a global center of culture and sport.
Marathon city is located 42 kilometers from Athens and is the place where the "Athens Authentic Marathon" is also held each November.
The legend, which inspired the modern Marathon races across the world, states that Athenian soldier Pheidippides was sent from the battlefield of Marathon to Athens to announce that the Persians had been defeated in the Battle of Marathon in 490 BC.
After running the distance nonstop and delivering the great news to Athenians, he collapsed and died, but his feat still inspires millions of runners across the world to keep pushing their limits.
"On the occasion of the half-marathon of the Municipality of Marathon which has evolved into a major sports event, we face a great challenge; a big forum which is organized with the collaboration of one of the largest sports associations worldwide, the Track and Field Association of the People's Republic of China. We support this effort," Greek Deputy Minister for Sports and Culture Yorgos Vassiliadis said.
As Greece exits a harsh eight-year debt crisis, authorities are seizing any opportunity which helps the country to highlight its unique history and legacy, as well as comparative advantages on which a bright future can be built, he added.
"Sports and culture unite people.... I believe that the forum is very important for Greece, entrepreneurship, tourism, culture and of course sports," Mayor of Marathon city Ilias Psinakis told the press briefing.
"It is a great honor for us to welcome delegates to exchange views for first time internationally. It is the first ever Marathon forum organized worldwide. And it will be staged here at Marathon with the support of such a great country, China," he said.
Both the Mayor and Chinese Ambassador to Greece Zou Xiaoli underlined that the new initiative is part of the wider framework of Sino-Greek exemplary, deepening cooperation in many fields in recent years.
"China is ready to work with Greece to enhance sharing of organization experiences and advocate the Marathon culture through the forum and use this forum as a media to promote friendship between our two peoples and cooperation between cities of our two countries," Zou said.
In recent years, Marathon races have gained rapid and sustained development in China and in 2017 alone at least 2200 cities in China have held Marathon races, with over 5 million participants, the ambassador noted.
Chinese organizers hope to learn from the experiences and practices of the Greek side, combine the Marathon races with the Marathon culture, and thus provide richer cultural content for Marathon lovers in China, he said.
In addition, Chinese companies engaged in sports technologies and sportswear- production and trade would also like to share and expand the tremendous business opportunities with Greece, Zou added.
"One thing is for sure: in the future China will have the largest number of Marathon enthusiasts, whose demands for Marathon training and facilities, race organization and services, international exchanges, and interest in the Marathon culture will only increase, which means tremendous opportunities as well as challenges," the Chinese ambassador said.