On July 26, former Ugandan athlete, Julius Acon, was among five former Olympians inducted into the “Olympian for Life” Hall of Fame of the World Olympians Association at the ongoing Tokyo 2020 Games.
Kampala, Uganda | RONALD MUSOKE | The Olympians for Life project was launched at the Rio 2016 Olympics and has so far honoured15 summer and winter Olympians with an exhibition of their images. Five Olympians from each Olympics are inducted, one from each continent.
Acon was picked alongside Japanese, Koji Murofushi (Athletics), Alan Pascoe (Great Britain, Athletics), Rachael Lynch, (Australia, Hockey) and Donna da Varona (the U.S, swimming).
Jöel Bouzou, the President of the World Olympians Association noted that Olympians chosen for the Olympians for Life have drawn on their Olympic experience to make the world a better place by promoting the Olympic values at every stage of their lives.
“This is the essence of what it means to be an Olympian for Life,” Bouzou said.
Prince Albert II of Monaco, the World Olympic Association patron added: “This honour is bestowed upon Olympians who have made a significant and positive contribution to society.”
Acon who participated in the 1996 Atlanta and 2000 Sydney Olympic Games was honoured for his efforts to improve healthcare and education and rebuilding his local community in northern Uganda after decades of civil war.
Meanwhile, Donna da Varona was honoured for her promotion of gender equality, inclusion and sports development in America and Koji Murofushi for his leading role in sports development in Japan and his efforts to help his country recover after the Great East Japan Earthquake of 2011 and more recently the COVID-19 outbreak.
Alan Pascoe was recognised as a pioneer within the global sports marketing industry and his extensive charity work in Britain while Rachael Lynch was recognised for her selfless work as a nurse on the frontline of the fight against COVID-19 in Australia and her role as mental health ambassador.
“It is such an honour and surprise for me,” Acon told The Independent shortly after being inducted, “I am surprised because I did not win an Olympic Medal.”
Born to poor parents and raised in war-torn northern Uganda in the 1980s, Acon started his Athletics career in 1988 in P.6.
He studied at Makerere College School in Kampala on a sports scholarship and started competing on the international athletics circuit in the short distance races.
In 1994, Acon won the 1,500 gold at the 1994 World Junior Championships in Lisbon, Portugal. “I won Gold wearing borrowed shoes because I did not have running shoes,” he told The Independent on July 29. In 1995, Acon won a Bronze in 1,500 metres in Harare, Zimbabwe.
Acon won another sports scholarship in 1995 to the U.S (George Mason University) to study and also pursue his athletics career which lasted over a decade. He once held the 800 metres American Collegiate In-season Record set in 1996 (1:44:55) which lasted for 21 years.
Until July this year, Acon also held Uganda’s record in the 1,500 metres (3:53:38) which lasted 24 years until Ronald Musagala broke it this year.
In 1996, Acon competed in the Olympics Games in the 1,500 metres category in Atlanta, U.S. and in 2000; he competed in Sydney, Australia. He was team captain on both occasions. He also competed twice (1,500 metres) in the Commonwealth Games (Victoria, Canada 1994 and Birmingham, U.K 2002).
Acon told The Independent that he thinks God always wanted to use him. “From the way I suffered growing up in a deplorable environment, I could not afford to pay school fees nor afford a proper meal.”
“During my athletics career, the government was not so much involved in sports. So I never got any help or recognition.”
“But I had a vision to run and go to school so that when my legs are done, my brain could help me to get a job,” he told The Independent in an earlier interview in 2018.
When he finally retired, Acon started several development projects in his home district of Otuke through his Acon Uganda Fund.
In 2011, Acon built a Health Centre III unit in Otuke and named it after his mother, Kristina. He also started agricultural projects giving seeds to farmers (5kg of simsim and 10kg of soybeans) and a hand hoe for each household in his constituency.
In 2016, he entered national politics and was elected Member of Parliament representing Otuke County in Otuke District after people asked him to represent them because of his legacy.
“When I joined politics, I began lobbying for funds for boreholes and for the past five years, I have drilled 46 new boreholes at a cost of about Shs 1billion.”
Acon says he has also bought two ambulances at a cost of Shs 200 million and done projects covering about 18,000 households out of about 26,000 households in Otuke District.
Acon who was recently re-elected to Parliament says he intends to lobby for more funds from well-wishers around the world to continue expanding his projects in health, agriculture, sports and clean water. He wants government to improve health, education and roads.
He also wants to groom young talent to get free secondary school education around Kampala (Old Kampala S.S) and he intends to work with his former coach, Christopher Mugisha.
Born on 12 December 1976, Acon is married with three children including; two boys, Jayden (10), Jerome (6) and a girl Jaylene Acon (3).