Laureus World Sports Academy Member Sir Ian Botham crossed the finishing line at the Seenigama Cricket Ground on Friday 08 November to mark the end of his greatest ever charity walk.
England cricket legend Sir Ian raised his arms in celebration as he completed the final leg of the epic trek which has taken him from Kilinochchi in the north to Seenigama in the south and has raised more than €160,000 for the Laureus Sport for Good Foundation, with still more donations coming in.
The amazing Sir Ian has maintained an average pace of 20 miles a day for eight days in the Sri Lankan heat to reach his goal and his joy as he crossed the finishing line, cheered on by children in their school uniforms lining the track and waving flags, was clear to see.
Funds raised from Beefy’s Big Sri Lanka Walk, staged with the backing of SriLankan Airlines and Sri Lanka Tourism, will go to help sports-based community projects, including those operated by the Foundation of Goodness in Sri Lanka with the support of the Laureus Sport for Good Foundation.
A tired, but jubilant Sir Ian said: “It’s all over and it’s been terrific, the reception here in Seenigama was magnificent, especially having all the children here. I am delighted we have raised so much for such a good cause. I would like to thank the great sportsmen who have joined me on this walk, but particularly I would like to thank the wonderful Sri Lanka people who have come out to support us every mile of the route over eight days. It was the inspiration that helped us through.”
Alongside Sir Ian as he finished Beefy’s Big Sri Lanka Walk were Sri Lanka’s greatest cricketer Muttiah Muralitharan, Australia’s former cricket captain Allan Border and South African rugby legend Morné du Plessis.
Muttiah Muralitharan said: “Ian coming here has been one of the greatest things to happen to us, for the awareness it has brought for what we do at the Foundation of Goodness. I cannot thank him enough.”
Over the period of the Walk, many great cricketers such as Australian captains Allan Border and Steve Waugh and Indian and Sri Lankan stars Muralitharan, Sourav Ganguly, Sunil Gavaskar, Mahela Jayawardene and Kumar Sangakarra, plus rugby legend Morné du Plessis, have all joined Sir Ian at various stages to support him.
Since the mid-1980s, Sir Ian has taken part in a series of high profile walks, including John O’Groats to Land’s End in the United Kingdom, the 9 Valleys in Wales and the Hannibal Walk in the Alps. He says Beefy’s Big Sri Lanka Walk will raise funds for a cause he is passionate about.
After the Tsunami of 2004, which devastated parts of the country, killed 35,000 people and displaced over 500,000, Sir Ian went to Sri Lanka, on behalf of Laureus, to assess the situation and see what could be done to help. He saw how the creation of a sports-based project in the village of Seenigama could play a significant role in the rebuilding of the community.
Since then Laureus has worked with the Foundation of Goodness in Sri Lanka by providing funds and expertise to help build sports facilities and supply coaching for young people in the rural communities. Seenigama Sports has helped the region to recover its community spirit and rebuild lives, especially through the love of cricket.
Now, many years on, following the ending of the country’s civil war, Laureus, working again with the Foundation of Goodness, is supporting the creation of a second project, this time in the town of Mankulam, in the north of the country, helping children from the two communities to play sport together and to learn to live in harmony.
Sir Ian said: “I remember what it was like in 2004 and 2005 after the Tsunami and you would never believe it was the same place. The point of the walk was to mirror what has been achieved here, in the north, and I think we are going to achieve that, from the Walk alone and the awareness it has created. I’m proud of all the team and pleased that Laureus and I could be involved.”
Beefy’s Big Sri Lanka Walk has been made possible by official Walk partners SriLankan Airlines and Sri Lanka Tourism and associate sponsors Global Rubber Industries (Pvt) Ltd and Lycamobile. Paradise Vacations UK have provided packages for those who wished to join Sir Ian on the Walk.
Sir Ian said: “A great many organisations and people worked long and hard to put my Sri Lanka Walk together and I would like to thank them. They have all shown their commitment to help young people and I could not have completed this great adventure without their backing.”