34 celebrities build buzz for a successful World Cancer Day Solidarity Challenge

Mark Crafts, Cancer Survivor and World Cancer Day Solidarity Challenge Rider
10 March 2021

The first edition of the World Cancer Day Solidarity Challenge offered a nail-biting race to the finish, which generated enthusiasm and support for the fight against cancer around the globe.

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.

For more details and images from the event, see the Impact Report and a more detailed summary report of the World Cancer Day Solidarity Challenge.

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*The following celebrities participated in the celebrity race and the community rides :

  • Fabian Cancellara, Cyclist (3x winner Tours de Flanders)
  • Lawrence Dellaglio, rugby player (Six Nations & World Cup Winner)
  • Sir Mo Farah, runner (4x Olympic Gold medallist)
  • Ada Hegerberg, international Football player (2018 Ballon d’Or)
  • Robert Pirès, international Football (World & European Champion)
  • Paula Radcliffe, runner (3x winner London & NYC marathons)
  • Diangelo Williams, US Football and NFL Player
  • Danny Care, rugby player (England National team player)
  • Ryan Jones, rugby player (Former Wales National team captain & Six Nations Winner)
  • Tom Kristensen, motorsport racer ( 9-time 24h Le Mans world record winner)
  • Mike Peters, musician, The Alarm music group
  • Lauren Steadman, Paralympian cyclist (Silver medallist & World Champion in 4×100m)
  • Austin Healey, rugby player (England National team player)
  • Doug Ulman,  pelotonia Chief Executive Officer
  • Gabby Logan, TV presenter and former international gymnast
  • Rebecca Charlton,  cycling commentator and TV presenter
  • Matt Stephens,  cycling commentator and TV presenter
  • Chris McCormack, triathlete, Ironman challenge champion
  • Lucy Charles Barclay, Ironman challenge champion 
  • Mikel Landa, professional cycling rider in Bahrain Victorious cycling club
  • In Chon Yu, South Korean Actor
  • Young Pyo Lee, Football player (National Korea team player and Dortmund, Germany)
  • Valtteri Botteras, Racing car driver, Mercedes
  • Jack Haig, cycling, Le Col pro cycling club

* The following celebrities shared videos motivating their social media followers to join the World Cancer Day Solidarity Challenge:

  • Rita Ora, International Musician
  • Shakira, International Musician
  • Giorgio Chiellini, Football player, Juventus Italy
  • Liv Cook, Freestyle Football player
  • Maro Engle, Racing car driver, Mercedes
  • Lucas Moras, Football player Tottenham UK
  • Toby Alderweireld, Football player Tottenham UK
  • Joe Hart, Football player Tottenham UK
  • Pierre Hojbjerg, Football player Tottenham UK
  • Deborah James, BBC podcast presenter
Last update: 
Tuesday 16 March 2021
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