UN fetes volunteers’ contributions to Beijing Olympics

7 August 2008 –

The United Nations and the Organizing Committee of the Beijing Olympics, which kick off tomorrow, have celebrated the work of volunteers to help prepare for the Games and their contributions to development in China.

“No matter who wins the most medals at the Games, one thing is clear – these volunteers will win the hearts and minds of visitors to Beijing,” Achim Steiner, Executive Director of the UN Environment Programme (UNEP), said at today’s festivities.

He voiced hope that the volunteers can inspire millions of others to contribute to their communities.

The celebrations heard from four volunteers – ranging in age from 15 to 87 years old – who have been making a difference by leading environmental programmes, mentoring migrant youth living in cities and helping victims of the devastating earthquake that struck Sichuan province in May.

“By dedicating their time and talents in the service of others, these Olympic volunteers illustrate the powerful role that volunteers can play in assisting vulnerable groups of society,” said Khalid Malik, UN Resident Coordinator and the Resident Representative of the UN Development Programme (UNDP) in China, said in a message from Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon.

It is hoped that skills, such as recruiting, training, motivating and managing volunteers, honed in the run-up to the Games will be transferred to post-Olympics volunteer programmes in development fields including environmental awareness and education.

Also in attendance at today’s celebrations were Shen Qianfan, Deputy Director of the Volunteer Department of the Beijing Organizing Committee for the Olympic Games (BOCOG); former Olympic champion Yang Yang; Zhou Xun, an award-winning actress and UNDP China National Goodwill Ambassador; and Tessa Jowell of the United Kingdom, who serves as Minister of London and the Olympics, which are being held in the UK capital in 2012.

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