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I decided to drop by Stade Louis II on Saturday afternoon to catch a glimpse of the action at the Sainte Devote Rugby Tournament, as organised for the last seven years by the Monegasque Rugby Federation in collaboration with the Princess Charlene of Monaco Foundation. I coordinated my arrival with the start of Tots Rugby, a free workshop for children ages 3 to 5, thinking I could take some playful snaps.
I left four hours later.
What I learned in those hours is that the Sainte Devote Rugby Tournament is about so much more than rugby. Alongside the fourteen teams in the U12-category – from Europe, Africa, Russia and the UAE – playing across the day in hope of reaching the playoffs, part of the stadium track was used for a rugby workshop for Special Olympics Monaco.
There was also the Tots Rugby, with volunteers teaching various exercises to a scattering of little players that involved some hand and ball coordination, at least for the kids who didn’t run away.
The values of rugby and the Sainte Devote tournament go beyond physical aspects. The Princess Charlene of Monaco Foundation tries to instil team spirit and the notions of solidarity, respect and fair play. It was apparent.
When I walked out on the field, Cape Town had just secured a spot in the finals. The twelve underprivileged boys, age 12, that make up the team from South Africa had been invited to the Principality from March 14 to 20, as part of the “South Africa-Monaco Rugby Exchange”, one of the Princess Charlene of Monaco Foundation’s flagship projects in its Sport & Education programme, in partnership with the South African Rugby Legends Association (SARLA).
In turn, a Monegasque team will travel to Durban in South Africa in July 2017.
Gavin Varejes started Rugby Legends sixteen years ago, and is also part of the Princess Charlene of Monaco Foundation South Africa. He told Monaco Life, “Bringing the kids once a year to Monaco, and participating in the Sainte Devote tournament is wonderful. Some of the kids have never been in a motorcar before, and to put them on an airplane, and bring them to Monaco where they get such an amazing reception from Princess Charlene and Prince Albert, and their families, is absolutely life changing for them.
“These are memories that stay with the boys forever. This has been the most uplifting programme for the kids we’ve brought over the last two years.”
Outside of the Sainte Devote tournament, the young athletes from South Africa and their counterparts from the Principality participate in school and activities providing mutual enrichment through their cultural differences.
They practiced with the Toulon rugby team earlier in the week, which was a real thrill for the boys, many of who dream of playing professionally one day for the South African national team, the Springboks, and becoming the next Bryan Habana, one of country’s greatest ever rugby players, currently playing for Toulon..
And on Friday morning, they had the special privilege of a first aid and water safety session from Princess Charlene at Charles III pool.
I hang out in the bleachers with the team before the big match at 5 pm. They tell me how cool it was to meet the Princess, and try to teach me Afrikaans. It’s as foreign as Quebecois French to me.
They talk about taking a plane (some were nervous, but others said it was really nice) and, as they munched away on baguette sandwiches and Mars bars, they tell me about their siblings back home who wanted to come with them to Monaco.
Polite, friendly, happy … it was hard to imagine these kids coming from villages without electricity or the impoverished surroundings as described to me by some of the SARLA team.
I am reminded about Princess Charlene’s Foundation and its initiative to promote water safety. I presumed incorrectly that the Princess chose this cause because she was living in Monaco and close to the Mediterranean. It was only recently that I learned it’s to educate children in South Africa, and worldwide, who don’t know how to swim. And the story to illustrate this was that of women washing their clothes at the river, kids in tow, when there’s suddenly a flood and the children drown because they’ve never been in water and cannot swim.
This is a world away from where we live.
At 5 o’clock, the boys are back on the field against Lausanne. Ten minutes later they are victorious with a score of 5-0. They are jubilant; they are gracious, immediately shaking hands with the opposing team.
SARLA and the coaches are clearly emotional, too. A fine example of tears of joy. The trophy – “la Coupe de HSH Prince Sovereign” – is presented by Princess Charlene’s brother, Gareth Wittstock, who has indefatigably entertained the Cape Town team and crew since their arrival.
“These kids take home hope and dreams, know things are achievable,” Mr Varejes explained. “And they learn ‘Don’t ever give up on yourself or your friends’.
“This is what rugby does. Rugby is the most incredible sport for uniting people and playing as a team on and off the field. This experience teaches them to believe in themselves.”
Article first published March 20, 2017.
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Since the auction’s first edition in 2005, and under the High Patronage of HSH Prince Albert, Only Watch has raised over €34 million and has financed numerous scientific and medical research programmes. Prince Albert, who was at the event, thanked the “bidders, watchmakers, partners, participants: from the bottom of our hearts, thank you so much” and said, “With money raised together with Only Watch in the past decade, we have changed the face of research on this matter. […] We are getting closer to changing the lives of millions of boys around the world.” Luc Pettavino commented, “We have won many battles together. The battle of altruism and empathy in amongst all of us: brands, partners, donors. The battle of beauty and research of excellence. The battle of awareness for research on Duchenne muscular Dystrophy with the largest media buzz ever. Now, let's continue pushing hard, as we do need to win the battle to cure this disease.” In Geneva on Saturday, all watches did well, but some did a bit better than others. The Patek Philippe 5208T-010 ended up being the topic of a bidding war between two Asian bidders and was eventually sold for €5,335,326 (CHF 6,200,000), nearly six times its high estimate. This timepiece combines an instantaneous perpetual calendar, with a chronograph and a minute repeater and its case is crafted from titanium, which is a material very rarely used by Patek Philippe, making the watch all the more rare.
Tudor set a world record for most the most expensive watch of this brand ever sold at auction, as its unique Black Bay Bronze sold for €301,200 (CHF 350,000), while the watch had a high estimate of only €4,732 (CHF 5,500). With this, it takes the place of the former record holder, which was auctioned at the 2015 edition of ONLY WATCH. Against a high estimate of €34,4214 (CHF 400,000), the FP Journe Chronographe Monopoussoir Rattrapante Bleu sold very well, reaching a final bid of €989,616 (CHF 1,150,000). Especially developed for the ONLY WATCH auction, this watch features a new monopusher rattrapante chronograph calibre, fitted in a 44mm tantalum case, and topped off with a stunning blue chrome dial. The unique Hublot Big Bang UNICO Sapphire Usain Bolt, also nearly doubled its high estimate and was sold for €129,080 (CHF 150,000). The proud new owner will not only receive this very special sapphire-encased Big Bang, but will also meet the world’s fastest man, Usain Bolt himself, as part of making the winning bid. John Reardon, International Head of Christie’s Watch Department, stated, “As the auction partner for Only Watch 2017 it has been a pleasure and honour to be part of this important initiative. The final result has reached beyond our expectations and we congratulate Luc Pettavino and the entire Only Watch family for such a success and like to express our thanks to all the partners who have supported Only Watch.” All lots combined brought in two and a half times more than the highest estimates. Even better is that the cost of the auction is only one percent, making 99 percent of the total amount available for the Association Monégasque contre les Myopathies to find a cure for Duchenne Muscular Dystrophy. Prince Albert also commented before the auction, “We might not all be researchers but I think we all have collectively the power to change things for generations to come.” It is through this goodwill that Paul Pettavino’s name will live on.