Beirut, Oct 4 (efe-epa).- Former champion US cyclist Lance Armstrong on Sunday was in the forefront of dozens of athletes who cycled across Beirut to raise funds for the reconstruction of the Lebanese capital two months after the massive port explosion devastated much of the city.
The three-hour ride, which got under way at the Beirut port, passed by the headquarters of the four non-governmental organizations to which the registration fees will be allocated, with additional funds going to help rebuild the most affected areas.
Armstrong, who has been stripped of seven Tour de France titles because of his past doping infractions, led the “Bike for Beirut with Lance Armstrong” event that arrives at the starting point at 15:00 GMT, just a few minutes before the explosion rocked Beirut on Aug. 4.
“The main inspiration is Tom Berick, a Lebanese guy living in the United States. He asked us to come to raise money and awareness and make a change.” Armstrong told EFE at the port.
Berick took part in the event that aims to raise awareness about the extent of the “problem” resulting from the tragedy – which killed over 190, injured 6,500 and destroyed the homes of some 300,000 local residents – especially among the Lebanese diaspora, he told EFE.
“Through cycling and through sports … we can do this again and … there is hope,” he added.
For people like Asiya Iskakova the presence of Armstrong – who was banned from competitive cycling for life in 2013 after admitting to doping – is an additional incentive to help Beirut.
“In the light of the events, any attention to Beirut is good. At this point it’s already been two months and it seems that people have already forgotten about what happened,” the cyclist told EFE.
On Aug. 4, some 2,750 tons of ammonium nitrate that had been improperly stored at the port for the past six years ignited and blew up, completely destroying a huge section of the port area and sending a mushroom cloud high into the air. EFE-EPA