As dusk settled across the streets of Asuncion, the lobby of Hotel Guarani, and the streets outside, began to fill with hundreds of athletes, all wearing their red, white and blue Expedicion Guarani race bibs.
Each bib is personalised with their name and in the colours of the Paraguay flag, and once the race starts they will wear it from beginning to end. Each country and flag is shown too and for the opening flag parade the racers spilled out into the public squares outside the hotel to gather around their national flags, and to assemble behind a band who would lead the parade.
The suppressed excitement and tension of a day of registration formalities was released as the parade began, with the racers now able to relax and enjoy the spectacle and each other’s company as they strolled through the city streets and waved their flags.
The route took them around the 4 central squares: Plaza de la Libertad, Plaza de la Democracia, Plaza Juan E. O’Leary and Plaza de los Heroes. The location, at the heart of Paraguay’s Capital, and surrounded by many historic national buildings, could not have been more significant and was the perfect place to welcome so many international visitors to Paraguay and a World Championship event.
That welcome continued in the theatre in the hotel basement, which was filled with around 400 racers and race staff, and many families and friends of the Paraguayan teams as well. They were welcomed with a lively and colourful display of traditional music and dance, before the formal opening ceremony began.
An emotional Gustavo Borgognon (the race Managing Director), was the first to welcome the teams and said for him it was the realisation of a dream to stage the World Championship in this country.
Before launching Expedicion Guarani and joining the Adventure Racing World Series in 2016 he raced extensively, including competing in 6 ARWS expedition races in 18 months, the World Championship in Costa Rica amongst them.
When introducing ARWS CEO, Heidi Muller, he said, “It was over 10 years ago I was at your race, Expedition Africa, and who would have thought we would be here now.”
Muller said, “We are not just celebrating adventure racing here tonight, but also this man’s dream. I want to thank him and his team for all their hard work over the last 10 years, and for welcoming us all to this wonderful country, so we can follow our own adventure racing dreams.”
She invited the defending World Champions, the Swedish Armed Forces Adventure Team, to stand, followed by world #1 team Estonian ACE Adventure La Sportiva and multiple World Champions, Team Avaya (New Zealand), and all received a thunderous ovation. When she asked all those who were visiting Paraguay for the first time to stand, dozens rose from their seats, and the volume oof applause increased. Then the team introductions began.
By now the noise and excitement in the room had been turned up to the max and as each team was introduced the applause was continuous and deafening. No teams at an expedition race have ever had such an overwhelming welcome.
Some of the Paraguayan teams came on stage with their children and all of the teams received the gift of machete, which was mounted on a piece of wood. As she came off stage Chelsey Magness of Team QuestAR/Bend Racing (USA) said, “I hope we don’t need to use it.” (The jungle and bush on the race course isn’t that dense, so they won’t need to!)
It was a night the racers will long remember, and when they pull on their race bibs once again for the start at noon tomorrow they will know that the supportive and passionate ARWC 2022 community will do everything they can to help them reach the finish line.