More than 30,000 people lined up today for races associated with the Minsk half marathon, the crowning event of one of the busiest sports weekends of the year in the Belarus capital.
Coinciding with "City Day" celebrations of Minsk's foundation in the 11th century, the weekend also included a large-scale sports and fitness festival, including a 3x3 basketball tournament, and a UEFA Nations League football match at the remodelled Dinamo Stadium, which served as an Olympic venue in 1980.
The Government has been promoting sport for its health benefits and as a vector for a gradual opening of what remains a relatively little-known country to Europe and the rest of the world.
Next June Minsk will host the second European Games, with one leading official indicating that a finish close to the top six in the medals table may be targeted.
Today our Bright Team will challenge themselves within Minsk Half Marathon. And before it begins to look how we have announced our participation, bringing together participants of the marathon under the 25-meters flag of the 2nd European Games #europeangames #brightyear pic.twitter.com/3wh04zGYbn— The 2nd European Games (@2EuropeanGames) September 9, 2018
This weekend's basketball tournament brought women’s teams from a number of neighbouring countries to the Palova Arena, which will also act as a European Games venue.
The Nations League fixture saw the Belarus men's football team defeat San Marino 5-0.
The structure of this new competition appears to hand Belarus, which became a UEFA member only in 1993, with its best-ever chance of qualifying for the finals of the European football championship.
One of the 16 countries in League D, incorporating the continent's lowest-ranked teams, will get a qualifying spot for Euro 2020.
Belarus - currently ranked 78th in the world, just above Canada, by world governing body FIFA - is one of the higher-rated teams in the section.