By Victor Mikhailov
Sport embraces the whole world, gathering hundreds of thousands of fans at stadiums and millions of spectators in front of their TV screens. It is a world of records and defeats, of passions, of determination and of great will. Sporting achievements imbue us with a feeling of success while spiritually strengthening us. It is especially important for youngsters in poor health, who can enjoy the successes of great athletes as their own, feeling optimism and faith in the future, despite their own loneliness and weakness.
The event in Minsk had obvious importance, featuring two famous sportswomen who undoubtedly inspire many Belarusian children — but especially those in need of help and assistance. Funds raised by the charity match between Victoria Azarenko and Caroline Wozniacki have been transferred to the National Children’s Oncology and Haematology Research Centre. The meeting between its patients and the tennis players was just as essential as this financial aid. This was Ms. Wozniacki’s first trip to Minsk. Both tennis players travelled over before their match to chat to the young patients in Borovlyany, creating memorable impressions; it was easy to find a common language.
The participants of the charity match learnt that President Lukashenko had transferred his salary to the National Children’s Oncology and Haematology Research Centre. “It’s wonderful that our President has joined the charity event,” said Ms. Azarenko, adding that she hoped other people would make similar donations. “Generating funds to assist unwell children can be a challenge, but we’ll do our best to help again in future,” stressed Victoria. Meanwhile, Caroline noted that she has been glad to join the campaign to support children with illnesses. “I’m always pleased to take part in charity matches. As soon as I have the opportunity, I always agree,” explained Ms. Wozniacki.
Of course, all those watching the match at the Sports Palace that day made donations via their ticket purchase; they also took part in a charity auction, which offered items from both sportswomen’s tennis outfit and equipment. The funds raised as a result of the match and auction have been transferred to the National Children’s Oncology and Haematology Research Centre.
A truly festive atmosphere reigned at the Sports Palace that evening, with the players offering an autograph session and master classes for young tennis players. The match itself was fascinating, demonstrating professional elements of tennis playing. This was the first time that Minsk had hosted such a tennis event, although the Belarusian capital has previously seen matches between professional tennis players of the Davis Cup World Group. This time, old friends, rather than outstanding rivals, appeared on court; however, their friendship didn’t stop the sportswomen from playing to their full ability. The match was attended by President Lukashenko, whose great interest in sport, particularly tennis, is well known. However, this time, his presence highlighted the charity action of the event, rather than the sporting outcome.
Certainly, Ms. Azarenko had been working hard to ensure the event came together. On receiving congratulations from the Belarusian President on her recent victory at the Kremlin Cup, she promised to invite some of the world’s top tennis players to Minsk. She kept her word, persuading her friend Ms. Wozniacki, the world’s top seed, to take part in the charity match.
The evening will be long remembered by the audience, who were far from disappointed at seeing their idols in person. We’d like to express gratitude to all those who took part in the charity campaign by attending the match. Of course, an even greater number of people were able to watch via a live television broadcast on a central TV channel. For several hours, youngsters countrywide felt the tension of a sporting event, as well as human kindness shown toward those who need it so badly.
Some may secretly dream of one day reaching the same sporting heights, with accompanying popularity and fame. Others will have been admiring the efforts of their countrywoman, Victoria Azarenko, and Caroline Wozniacki of Denmark.
Sport unites those who are strong, bold and determined but is far more beautiful when kind-hearted people occupy the world. Perhaps sport embraces the warmth of humanity more than we realise, since athletes always leave their legacy: not only a collection of cups and medals but their charity work. Just such an event has been hosted by Minsk, featuring Ms. Azarenko and Ms. Wozniacki.