Brussels 20km draws thousands, including protestors
The 42nd edition of the Brussels 20km drew over 33,000 participants representing at least 137 nationalities, but it also drew the ire of environmental organisation Greenpeace.
Greenpeace was present at the race in order to protest the event’s sponsorship by TotalEnergies, which donates €50,000 towards the 20km event each year.
“You might be one of the tens of thousands of athletes training for the 20k of Brussels, but did you know that your participant shirt will bear the name of a company that is hugely damaging to the climate?” Greenpeace stated in a press release.
“The French company TotalEnergies has made huge profits in recent decades from the extraction and sale of gas, oil and coal. To continue this profitable activity, the company uses all kinds of strategies to slow down any real climate action.”
The organisation says that the fossil fuel industry uses advertising and sponsorship of events like the Brussels 20km in order to influence public opinion as one of these strategies.
“Cultural and sporting organisations, such as the Brussels 20 km race (but also the Queen Elisabeth race, the Antwerp 10 Miles, etc), promote values that are positive for our society. Based on their social mission, they should not allow themselves to be used as propaganda tools by climate-damaging companies,” the organisation said.
Greenpeace argued that the €50,000 from TotalEnergies could alternatively be raised through cooperation with local businesses, including those active in green initiatives.
They and 20 other NGOs launched a petition calling for a Europe-wide ban on advertising and sponsorships from companies in the fossil fuel industry.
The Brussels 20km kicked off in Cinquantenaire Park, where participants began their athletic pursuit through the Belgian capital in five waves.
For the men, Belgian Amaury Paquet won with a time of 1:00:01, followed just over 20 seconds later by Arnaud Dely with a time of 1:00:22 and Pierre Denays in third with a time of 1:01:44.
Paquet also won last year’s 20km in September, but his second victory in a row was tinged with slight disappointment due to confusion near the finish line: officials placed a welcome banner for the winner before the actual finish line itself, and Paquet stopped after crossing the banner in order to be photographed by journalists.
After realising he was still a few metres from the actual finish line, he continued on to record his final time.
“I would have done less than one hour if they hadn't stopped me before the line,” Paquet told La Libre, joking that “the journalists wanted to be there before me.” Nevertheless, he said he was “satisfied with the victory.”
For the women, British racer Sophie Wood, in her first participation in the Brussels event, won with a time of 1:11:11, followed by Roxane Cleppe and Irène Tozi in second and third place.
A number of Belgian politicians were on hand for the start of the race, and Queen Mathilde walked the course with her son Prince Emmanuel.
The Red Cross had to intervene 299 times during the race, mainly for minor injuries such as foot blisters. Four people had to go to hospital for more thorough care.
Photo: Amaury Paquet © Belga/Hatim Kaghat