Situated in the middle of the Ionian coast and stretching on the slopes on the Etna, Catania was the much-appreciated host of the 3rd Military World Games on 04-11 December 2003.
This baroque city founded by Greeks colonists in 725 BC was destroyed several times by the volcano’s eruptions but has managed to preserve its traditions and folklore. Its treasures include the splendid cathedral plaza, at the centre of which the city’s symbolan elephant known locally as “u liotru”features prominently. What best characterises Catania are first and foremost its folklore and religious feasts, the most important of which is “Sant'Agata” day, celebrated twice a year in early February and again in August. The faithful march by the hundreds in traditional attire (the “sacco”, or bag), accompanying the saint’s relics. Also pervasive are the traditional “pupi’s” (puppets) and “caretti” (carts), manufactured locally according to age-old techniques.
In addition to its folklore, antique monuments, nice weather and colourful food, the city of Catania has sport infrastructure that was decidedly up to the event.
Despite organisational issues due to the very short time available to prepare an event of such magnitude, both the civilian and military authorities demonstrated their know-how to allow the thousands of athletes and their delegations to make an unforgettable experience.
For memory, the City of Catania replaced Madrid as the organisers of the MWG at a moment’s notice and, without the combined perseverance of our President, Colonel Gianni Gola, the Italian delegation and the General Secretariat in Brussels, the odds are that this major sport event would never have taken place.
As it is, the heart of Catania beat for seven days to the rh
ythm of the performances of the world’s best military athletes, competing in 11 different disciplines, and of the presence of all support personnel.
Impressive logistical support was available in all respects to meet the requirements of the 87 nations that were represented.
As for the athletes, they were assigned by disciplines to different hotels in and around town, which enabled them to meet with their foreign counterparts, thereby both forging bonds and building their international experience.
One of the momentous events of this third edition of the Military World Games was undoubtedly the Opening Ceremony, enhanced by the presence of all delegations on the field and by our President’s address, which attracted a lot of attention. A party followed the speeches, with as its grand finale a concert by Lucio Dalla and an astounding fireworks display.
While December may not be considered the best month to produce world-class performances, many athletes showed great adaptability and abnegation to set a number of new military world records. These Military World Games were also characterised by perfect harmony among all delegations: fair play, brotherhood and Friendship Through Sport prevailed throughout the week.
The closing ceremony was another defining moment in this emotion-rich week that crowned months of untiring voluntary efforts.
The volcanic city is now back to its normal life and Sicilian folklore, but this event of global dimensions will certainly live on in its memory for a long time.
See you in four years in Hyderabad, India, then for another major celebration of sport.