In April, Ismailis travelled by plane, car, bus and boat to take part in the 2009 Unity Games held in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania. The Games drew Jamati members from all over the country, as well as Kenya, Uganda and even Canada to compete in the spirit of brotherhood. Athletes were joined by spectators who came to support their respective cities and celebrate an enjoyable experience for all.
The Games were inaugurated with an exciting opening ceremony, in which athletes paraded into the Diamond Jubilee Hall behind signs representing their cities. Jamati leaders and spectators rose to greet and welcome them. They also acknowledged the hard work of all the volunteers whose dedication made the event possible. A “Presentation of Trophies” that the winners would take home was also on display. The highlight of the event was when Zahir Jivani, President of the Ismaili Council for Tanzania, declared the Unity Games open.
Matches began right after the opening ceremony and continued through the weekend. Athletes participated in traditional volleyball, soccer, throw ball, tennis, swimming, badminton, table tennis, darts and pool. The games began early each morning and continued well into the night.
One of the more exciting matches was a traditional volleyball game featuring long time rivals Dar es Salaam and Mwanza which ended at 2:30 AM. The football final between Dar es Salaam and Zanzibar thrilled a capacity crowd. In every sport, athletes put forward their best effort and represented their teams with pride.
The weekend also included many non-sporting activities. A talent show proved popular, with over 30 acts featuring song, dance and recitations by youth and elders of the Jamat. Captivating the audience's attention were three acts in particular – a traditional New Zealand dance performed by a young woman from Dar es Salaam, a Hindi song performed by a young boy from Dar es Salaam and a dance performed by two young men from Mwanza.
To formally close the Games, an elegant banquet and medal presentation ceremony was held at the Diamond Jubilee Hall. Teams and individuals received awards, recognising the achievements of many athletes during the weekend. When the Canadian traditional volleyball team was called to receive their medals and trophy, their opponents rose and gave them a standing ovation. The evening was filled with encore performances from the talent show, young members of the Jamat dancing to the traditional Kiswahili song Malaika, and a group called Mama Afrika.
Maintaining the spirit of the Golden Jubilee Games held in Nairobi in 2008, the Unity Games brought together Ismailis through sport, encouraging a healthier lifestyle. They highlighted the talent within the Jamat and provided a platform on which to aspire, compete and excel. But the success of the Games was also a testimony to the wonderful tradition of voluntary service within the Jamat and the spirit of brotherhood and camaraderie that is at its core.
All those who were a part of the Unity Games left with a sense of pride in the community and with numerous friendships made and renewed.
Adapted from an article featured in the July 2009 edition of The Ismaili Africa.