More than 20 sports and entertainment celebrities* kicked off the first edition of the World Cancer Day Solidarity Challenge with a unique race concept. Four-time Olympic Gold medalist Sir Mo Farah ran on a running machine in Ethiopia, while other stars cycled to overtake him on the virtual Zwift route of the Champs-Elysées, with a handicap system designed to even the field. Ten other celebrities motivated their fans on social media to support the event and donate to the cause of cancer.
The race was broadcast on 4th February, interspersed with the celebrities sharing their personal experiences with cancer. Interviews with and videos from members and partners of UICC highlighting the cancer community and their work on the ground completed the broadcast programme. The result was a more than hour-long broadcast filled with suspense and emotion – where Mo Farah crossed the finish line only seconds ahead of the first cyclist, former English rugby player Austin Healey, with former Swiss pro cyclist Fabian Cancellara not far behind.
The six "community rides" staggered throughout the day on 4th February with different starting times attracted more than 8,000 cyclists of the Zwift community from 71 different countries. Riding sometimes shoulder-to-shoulder with a celebrity leading a particular community ride as “captain”, participants covered a combined total of more than 100,000 kilometres, or two and half times around the World. The race took place on the 28.6km "Magnificent 8" Zwift route.
“It was heartwarming to see so many people from different walks of life join with such enthusiasm for this first edition of the World Cancer Day Solidarity Challenge. Celebrities, Zwift subscribers, staff of UICC member and partner organisations, sports afficionados as well as one-off participants – all were united in a common cause to raise awareness and save lives from preventable cancers. I thank everyone involved for their time, commitment and energy in making this World Cancer Day Solidarity Challenge such a success.”
– Dr Cary Adams, CEO of UICC
The Solidarity Challenge received a lot of attention on social media, mainly through Instagram and Twitter, with an estimated reach of 30 million thanks to catchy videos and social media cards with celebrities, partners, broadcasts, cycling and football clubs, and individuals taking part in the challenge or supporting someone racing in the community rides. Coverage of the ride also featured in a number of prominent outlets including Eurosport, Africa News, EI Universal and the Daily Mail.
UICC member organisations and partners participated in the World Cancer Day Solidarity Challenge. Some recorded video messages to be part of the celebrity race programme broadcast; others were interviewed for the broadcast programme; and many supported the event via their social media channels, including Love, Hope Strength Foundation, USA; World Cancer Research Fund International, UK; Friends of Cancer Patients, UAE; Basic Health International, USA, the Cancer Association of South Africa; and the American University of Beyrouth, Lebanon.
ICON Group Australia, a UICC partner, also contributed to this first edition by became a global partner on social media. The CEO, Mark Middleton, shared his expertise and ICON’s role in cancer control during the TV broadcast.
Another UICC partner, the National Cancer Centre Korea (NCCK) organised a team participation in the community ride in their offices, inviting two VIPs from South Korea: Mr In Chon Yu, an actor and former Minister of Culture and Tourism; and Mr Young Pyo Lee, a national Korea team football player. The two celebrities teamed up with NCCK’s new President, Dr Hong Gwan in the community ride. The team enjoyed a memorable experience pedalling together and were delighted to watch the broadcast of the celebrity race on SBS Sports, one of the most popular sports channels in South Korea.
The 2021 World Cancer Day Solidarity Challenge allowed UICC to raise about €250,000 through sponsoring, partnerships, broadcasts, merchandising and donations. The collected funds collected will benefit UICC in supporting the global cancer community by providing training programmes, mentoring, advocacy guidance, workshops and knowledge exchanges.
*The following celebrities participated in the celebrity race and the community rides :
* The following celebrities shared videos motivating their social media followers to join the World Cancer Day Solidarity Challenge: