Germany shoots down France as Cannonball race grips Galle Face
After last year’s refurbishment, the annual Cannonball Run was back in style at the Galle Face Hotel. With perfectly manicured lawns, glorious sunshine and, thankfully for the runners, a refreshing sea breeze, the famous colonial hotel was looking the part for this historic event.
The runners are generally members of the diplomatic community and competing in this year’s race were French Ambassador to Sri Lanka, Jean-Marin Schuh and German Ambassador, Juergen Morhard. The Master of Ceremonies introduced the contenders in a light-hearted, entertaining manner, explaining that “the winning title will last just one year but the name will be immortalized forever!” The race became more than just a contest between these two diplomats; it was a battle between Germany and France! This was encouraged by the crowd who were given miniature flags to wave and thereby pledge allegiance to their chosen country.
As the guests gathered around the hotel Chequerboard sipping on delicious juices, Master of Ceremonies, Eshan, theatrically retold the story of the Galle Face Cannonball. Since 2008, the Cannonball run has become an annual tradition celebrated on the Galle Face Green, to commemorate the extraordinary incident of a cannon misfire by a member of the British Artillery in 1845. The 30- pound cannon accidentally fired, during a practice session around the southern ramparts of Colombo Fort, came crashing through the roof of the now Galle Face Hotel, leaving a heavy dent on the drawing room floor and came to rest under a chair. The Cannonball is now preserved in the museum in the South wing of the hotel but once a year it is brought out to become the centre-piece of this event and the finish line of the running race.
Over the years the length of the race has been shortened at the request of the contestants, which was welcomed by both crowd and participants due to the blistering heat this March. Therefore this year’s race, probably only 100m long was over in an exciting flash! It was a close race right up until the very end but to no avail Juergen Morhard crossed the line, touching the infamous cannonball just before his fellow competitor, making him the winner of the 2016 Cannonball Run.
The afternoon was full of entertaining quirks and all the pomp and ceremony expected to accompany such a British event. There were bagpipes leading the procession of contestants to the lawn, ceremonial cloaks and flag bearers adding to the amusement of this special event. After a short awards ceremony the crowd stayed to enjoy cannonball punch cocktails and scrumptious canapés – all that was missing were cucumber sandwiches!