Sport has many benefits. Not only on a health level, but on a mental and social level as well.
Decathlon’s purpose is to make the benefits of sport accessible for all.
In a maximum security prison in Oudenaarde, we launched the first eCycling team for prisoners. Using Zwift, a virtual cycling platform, inmates are able to ride and race with 3 million cyclists from the outside world. They even raced the Minister of Justice and a team of law inforcers in a Zwift race broadcast live on Facebook. Reconnected with society from behind bars.
We didn’t just change 6 prisoners’ lives. We proved that a virtual sport can make rehabilitation a reality. After racing them in a race broadcast live on Facebook, the Minister of Justice decided to expand the project to all prisons in Belgium.
The project reached 15 million people so far and generated 1.3 million euro in earned media for Decathlon.
Watch the original launch video here.
Meet John Doe
The team members will remain anonymous. We’ll only judge their performance on the bike.
Their avatars are all named John Doe: A name used by law enforcement officers to identify an anonymous person.
Follow their rides on Zwift and Strava.
Hear the experts
Can eCycling help the reintegration of inmates?
Pieter Van CaeneghemDirector of Oudenaarde prison.“The separation between prisoners and people from the outside disappears.”
Heather LoontjensSports Officer at De Rode Antraciet vzw.“This is nearly impossible in prison.”
Sarah Van PeltPsychologist“We need to give inmates a chance to connect with the society they will eventually return to.”
Thomas Lejeune DebarreMarketing & Communication Decathlon“This project gives them a chance to not be a prisoner for once, but a sportsman.”
Podcast: The Escape
Attempts to escape usually fail.
Can this virtual escape attempt succeed?
This podcast puts you on the trail of The Breakaway.
The participating prisoners are all Dutch speaking — it’s why this podcast is only available in Dutch.
Teaser The Breakaway
Sport is freedom. Sport is escape. But is that even possible when you’re always within four walls? When your daily reality is behind bars?
Episode 1: The riders
Who are the riders, and what are their motivations for participating in this project? What do they want to achieve, or prove?
Episode 2: Paris is still far away
Is everyone still in the saddle?
Or have some of the prisoners been left behind?
Episode 3: The demons in their heads
For Diederick and Ismail, sport means more than just freedom: it is their salvation.
Episode 4: Death or flowers?
Who will cross the finishing line first in the ultimate race, Team Breakaway or Team Justice?
Feel like riding with one of our inmates?
Discover their time schedule and use Zwift’s “Ride With” feature.
The Breakaway vs. Team Justice.
The race was broadcast on Decathlon Belgium’s Facebook Channel
Watch the live event with UK subtitles here.