Tyre's ancient hippodrome hosts gruelling military Olympiad

UNIFIL’s Force Commander Reserve (FCR) team captain raises the Military Olympiad Cup - 2017.

An Indonesian UNIFIL peacekeeper pulls a truck tyre during one of the competitions of the 2017 Military Olympiad. 

UNIFIL peacekeepers and LAF soldiers run through a web of ropes during the Olympiad. 

French peacekeepers carry a stretcher, with a colleague strapped to it, through the menacing lattice of ropes about 50 cm off the ground.

Ghanaian peacekeepers pull a 6,100-kg truck during the Olympiad. 

A Lebanese Army soldier pulls a truck tyre.

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24 May 2017

Tyre's ancient hippodrome hosts gruelling military Olympiad

The unit of six UNIFIL French peacekeepers, carrying a stretcher with a colleague strapped to it, turned the corner and saw the menacing lattice of ropes about 50 cm off the ground glinting in the afternoon light. They hardly broke their pace as they yelled instructions to each other, and then leopard-crawled at haste under the web of ropes, dragging their stretcher-bound teammate with them. The crowd watching roared in appreciation. Close on their heels were teams from the Lebanese Armed Forces, UNIFIL Malaysia, Ghana and Republic of Korea contingents. The dust kicked up by the competition caught the evening sun as it no doubt used to during Roman times when chariots entertained the crowds.

The archaeological Roman hippodrome in the Lebanese city of Tyre is one of the largest and best preserved hippodrome in the world. The site once seated around 20,000 spectators and hosted dramatic chariot races. Last Sunday, this ancient site was a fitting backdrop for the annual Military Olympiad between UNIFIL and the Lebanese Armed Forces (LAF).

As teams of Lebanese military personnel and UNIFIL peacekeepers sweated it out in friendly, but gruelling competitions, Brigadier General Liot de Nortbecourt, UNIFIL Chief of Staff, contextualised the event, “The reason we're here today is to support two associations that take care of wounded soldiers, their families and children of martyrs. The first one is a French association based in Paris ‘Terre Fraternité’ and the second association ‘Association of the Martyr Lt Col Sobhi Al Akoury’ is named after the first LAF martyr in Nahr al-Bared battles and it protects and supports the families and children of these Lebanese Army martyrs.”

Each association received a donation of US$ 23,000, but not before military personnel had to compete in boot-camp style events. These included “Chronos”, where teams of 10 personnel race to pull a 6,100-kg truck for 150 metres, and the appropriately named “Hades”, where teams of seven each had to do a rugged cross fit relay circuit. 

By far the most dramatic event was “Ares”, where teams of six personnel competed in an additive-relay circuit that included running over ropes in one section and leopard crawling under ropes in another. On each lap, a new accessory was added to weigh down the competitors. By the penultimate lap individual participants were each carrying a flak jacket, helmet, water can, backpack and dummy rifle - over the ropes, and then under the ropes. In the final lap the entire team had to carry the equipment as well as a colleague strapped to a stretcher - over the ropes, and then under the ropes - dragging the casualty with them. The crowd vocalized their support. After the event, both UNIFIL and LAF participants high-fived and congratulated one another for completing the gruelling event.

“This is another way of showing [that] the Lebanese Army are our brothers in arms, through games, laughs, and songs,” said a smiling UNIFIL Chief of Staff, Brig. Gen. Nortbecourt. “This is another way of connecting with the families of the martyrs and the wounded soldier, and to strengthen our relationships and support to the LAF.” 

Since 2006, UNIFIL has operated in south Lebanon under UN Security Council Resolution 1701. One of the key aspects of this mandate is supporting its strategic partner, the LAF, the local population.


Article: Aoibheann O’Sullivan 
Video Camera: Mohamad Hamze, Aoibheann O’Sullivan
Video Editor: Suzane Baderddine 
Photos: Pascual Gorriz