Forget those typical back-stories the media touts during the Olympics. You know the ones we’re talking about. Some big name superstar who fills the screen while a melodramatic announcer explains how the athlete overcame adversity by recovering from mild injury, just in time to make it to the games. Instead, check out the story of South Sudan and their constant internal and external struggles as they fight for independence, even amongst themselves. It’s a story of seemingly permanent violence, over 300,000 lives lost and even more displaced, and then a small light at the end of the tunnel. The 2016 Summer Olympics in Rio will mark the first time athletes from war-torn South Sudan will be able to represent their nation in the Olympic games.
To honour South Sudan’s arrival on the world stage (and naturally promote a new product), Samsung has released a truly inspiring video featuring South Sudanese 400-metre runner Margret Rumat Rumar Hassan as she prepares for an event. She puts Samsung’s wireless Gear IconX earbuds in her lobes and soon coursing through her blood is the rich sound of her name being chanted by various people in various locations around her nation. The video cuts across time and space to show thousands and thousands of South Sudanese natives rallying behind her, and while we’re not so starry-eyed as to think that an advertisement has only the sincerest of intentions at heart, it’s nearly impossible not to be moved.
South Sudan is the kind of modern day saga that countries like ours can only identify with through bygone conflicts captured in textbooks. In 2011, South Sudan gained independence from Sudan after a 98.83% vote in favour of the referendum. In the time since, South Sudan has been in constant turmoil, first with Sudan itself over the distribution of assets, and then with its own government over corruption and representation. 2013 marked the beginning of an insanely bloody South Sudanese Civil War. The war ended by peace treaty in 2015 but violence persists and the threat of another civil war looms.
South Sudan was not eligible to compete as a country in the 2012 Olympics because they hadn’t yet joined the necessary organisations. However, South Sudanese marathon runner Guor Marial was one of four athletes to compete under the “Olympic Flag” in 2012, meaning he basically competed with no national affiliation. Likewise, Margret Rumat Rumar Hassan (the athlete featured in Samsung’s advertisement) previously competed in the 2014 Summer Youth Olympic Games – like Marial she participated as an “independent”.
Guor Marial was supposed to represent South Sudan in the 2016 games (according to at least one source he still might), but he failed to make the cut after a mishap during the qualifying race. That’s not going to stop the new nation from celebrating triumph in the face of harsh adversity, however, as Rumat Rumar Hassan and Santino Kenyi are officially competing on behalf of South Sudan. Additionally, five South Sudanese refugees will be participating in the games as part of the first ever Refugee Olympic Team.
As for Samsung, we tip our hats to their extraordinary video that chose to seek out genuine perseverance as opposed to the typical story of some purebred middle class athlete spraining an ankle and still making it across the finish line. We’re so impressed by the commercial, in fact, that we’ll give a nice shout out to the actual product: the Gear IconX Wireless Earbuds. These earbuds were designed to remain intact and deliver top-tier audio during intense workouts or in this case preparation for an Olympic event. The Gear IconX features Ambient Sound Mode allowing for an enhanced awareness of your surroundings, and comes equipped with fitness tracking technology. It also has a built-in music player and is otherwise compatible with all streaming devices.
Check out the earbuds when you get the chance, and keep your eyes peeled during the Olympics for some athletes who overcame the kind of adversity many westerners don’t even want to think about.
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