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Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon

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New York, 27 July 2011 - Secretary-General's remarks at unveiling of London Olympic Countdown Clock

Thank you, Ambassador Lyall Grant of the United Kingdom, Mr. Carl Lewis,

Excellencies, Ladies and Gentlemen,

I thank Ambassador Grant for organizing this very meaningful and historic event.

And I thank Mr. Carl Lewis for your contribution. You are the hero. Everybody knows your Olympic days. I was one of your fans. You were the hero in the Seoul Olympic Games in 1988, winning all the medals. Now you have another, different kind of face, as a UN Goodwill Ambassador for FAO, the Food and Agriculture Organization. For a person like you, for a star like you, for a celebrity like you, you help put a human face on our daily work – this is an immense contribution for humanity, and I really thank you for your contribution.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

The clock is ticking!

To mark the countdown to the 2012 London Olympic Games, we have set up this clock at United Nations Headquarters.

It is a smaller replica of the one in Trafalgar Square, marking the time left until the London Olympic Games begin - exactly 365 days from today, in just 8 or 9 minutes.

Our challenge is what to call this remarkable time-piece.

We all know of “Big Ben.” So I thought to name it “Big Build.” After all, that is the nickname given by the people of London to the construction being done to prepare for the London Olympic Games.

Then somebody suggested to me that another possibility, since this will be placed in the United Nations, we might perhaps name it “Big Ban?”

Actually, I thought, we had best save that for the Winter Olympic Games in Pyeongchang, Korea, in 2018!

Ladies and Gentlemen,

However we refer to this clock, we can be sure of one thing: these Olympic Games will be a big event – not only for the sporting world but for our global mission of peace.

Since time immemorial, the Olympics have been a force for harmony among peoples.

I remember well how South and North Korean Olympic teams marched together, with great emotion and excitement, in the Sydney Olympic Games 11 years ago – in the 2000 Olympic Games. This reflected the hope of people – both South and North alike - for reconciliation and eventual reunification of the Korean Peninsula.

And at the United Nations, and worldwide, through the Olympic Truce, proclaimed by the General Assembly for each Olympics, we hope for a temporary respite from conflict.

Let me also note that, with these Games, London will be the first city to host the modern Olympics three times.

The 1908 Games, I am told, established the modern distance for the marathon - a little over than 26 miles – to be exact 42,195 meters, measured off so that the race would end directly in front of the King's seat in the viewing stands.

At the 1948 Olympics, shortly after the Second World War, wounded and disabled soldiers participated in what was to become the forerunner to today's Paralympic Games.

The 2012 Olympic Games will be dedicated to “sustainability.” As we all know, sustainability is the capacity to endure, as all Olympic athletes must do. Here at the United Nations, it is the necessity to co-exist harmoniously with our natural world.

As Secretary-General of the United Nations, sustainability will be my Number One priority in the years to come. I have already reported to the General Assembly, I am now in the process of consulting the Member States to have all their views and priorities – how we can make this only planet earth environmentally sustainable, where many people – big countries or small countries, rich or poor – can live harmoniously and promote harmonious development.

And so I especially welcome the emphasis, in these upcoming Games, on clean energy and eco-friendly development.

With that, Mr. Ambassador, Excellencies, ladies and gentlemen, let the countdown begin.

Let the London Olympic Games be a clear winner - and the world, as well. I wish you all the best, all the best to not only Olympians, but all the people who will be watching these Games for peace and harmony and development and for common humanity.

Thank you very much.

Statements on 27 July 2011