Press Conference on Four-Part Global Swim for Millennium Goals

29 October 2009

Press Conference on Four-Part Global Swim for Millennium Goals

29 October 2009
Press Conference
Department of Public Information • News and Media Division • New York

Press Conference on Four-Part Global Swim for Millennium Goals

In an initiative to unite the world and bring awareness to the Millennium Development Goals, Dominican long-distance swimmer Marcos Diaz today announced plans to connect the five continents of the world, through four long-distance swims.

At a Headquarters Press Conference on the promotion of sport and the Millennium Goals, Ambassador Federico Alberto Cuello Camilo of the Dominican Republic said Mr. Diaz launched his project and “called the world to join in”.  He noted that Mr. Diaz overcame asthma through his training to become one of the greatest swimmers in the world.

Ambassador Cuello Camilo then introduced Kiyotaka Akasaka, Under-Secretary-General for Communications and Public Information; Sering Falu Njie, Deputy Director of the Millennium Campaign Office; and Felipe Payano, Minister of Sports of the Dominican Republic.  He welcomed the representatives of several of the countries involved with this landmark swim, including Djibouti, Indonesia, Morocco, Spain and the United States,

Noting that throughout his career as a swimmer he had witnessed “the best and worst of the world”, Mr. Diaz stated, “There are people out there, including my own country, that await for real transformations and real action.  So I decided to stand up and act to do something the way I know best through ultra-distance open water swimming.”  It was his responsibility as an athlete, as a Dominican and as a person to help eradicate extreme poverty around the world. 

He said he would begin the swim in 2010, the tenth anniversary of the Millennium Development Goals.  Beginning in May, the first swim would connect Oceania to Asia from Papua New Guinea to Indonesia.  The second swim, in June, would unite Asia to Africa with a swim from Yemen to Djibouti.  In July, the third crossing would connect Africa to Europe with a swim from Morocco to Spain, and the last swim in August would be from Russia to Alaska across the Bering Straits, connecting Europe to the Americas.

Mr. Diaz promised during the week of the September 2010 Millennium Development Summit being held at the United Nations, he would swim from the Hudson River to the East River, right to the front of the United Nations to commemorate the tenth anniversary of the Millennium Development Goals.

Ambassador Cuello Camilo said the countries involved could not be more representative of the reality the international community was facing, and by bringing those voices to the United Nations on the occasion of the launching of the Millennium Development Goals Summit, the barriers to achieving the Goals could be challenged.  The Summit had to be a success, he emphasized, so that the international community could “end poverty once and for all”.

Under-Secretary General Akasaka said he was excited about the project, and commended Mr. Diaz and his team for their “wonderful goal to unite the world through his swim”.  The swim would be receiving support from the 63 United Nations Information Centres around the world.  Mr. Akasaka also commended the Government of the Dominican Republic for its own outstanding commitment to the Millennium Development Goals.

He said the swim came at the right time since 2010 was a crucial year for the Goals.  With only five years left to 2015, even with the significant progress made in many areas, “we are not on track to achieve the Goals”.  He stated that the Secretary-General hoped that the Summit next year would galvanize action and the funding needed to ensure the Goals get met. 

Mr. Akasaka noted the growing awareness about the Goals, recalling that earlier this month, more than 173 million people -- a “mind-boggling” and Guinness-world-breaking record of people participating in one event -- joined together during the three-day campaign to “Stand-up and Take Action Against Poverty Now”.  The Information Centres worldwide helped mobilize the campaign by connecting the participants to their Government leaders, and asking those leaders to keep their commitment to achieve the Goals.

Mr. Njie said the Millennium Campaign Office was pleased with such initiatives as Mr. Diaz’s swim.  The recent October campaign, mentioned earlier, included more than 5,000 events in 121 countries around the world.  “We will no longer remain seated in the face of extreme poverty and the many broken promises to end it,” he said. 

He added that it was clear from the largest mobilization ever that not only were citizens around the world determined to see the Goals succeed, but that they understood that they were all connected.  This was something that swimmer Marcos Diaz was going to dramatise by his swims to connect the five continents.  The world’s poor, he said, played no role in the recent global crises but suffered the most.

Sports Minister Payano, famous in his own right as a professional basketball player, noted that the Dominican Republic, although a small country, brought home a silver and a gold medal from the recent Olympics in China.  It was a big challenge to unify the world around the Millennium Development Goals, but through Mr. Diaz’s initiative, not only would the Dominican flag, but all the flags, would be flying really high thanks to his efforts.  “This will be a signal to all the young people in the world that with our efforts we promote real change in the world,” he said.

Asked about the challenges and training required for such extensive swims, Mr. Diaz said that each crossing was very different and each scenario brought different challenges.  In open water swims, long distances could sometimes be covered quickly, while some distances took a long time, depending on weather conditions, currents and sea life, among other factors.  Since his planned swims were taking place over four months, his trainers would have to keep his physical level high during that time.  The biggest challenge had nothing to do with the physical part, but with the logistics of travelling and bringing his message to each country, and connecting to the people through meetings and speeches.

Asked about any dangers, Mr. Diaz said that he was sure he would be swimming in very difficult areas, not only with the danger in the water but perhaps also with the danger outside.  However, he believed that the message and the purpose of his swim would not bring conflict to any of the political or religious ideas of the countries he was swimming to.

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For information media • not an official record
For information media. Not an official record.