Note No. 5872
17 June 2004


Press Release
Note No. 5872

Note to Correspondents

Olympic Torch Relay Event at United Nations Headquarters on Saturday, 19 June

On Saturday, 19 June 2004, the United Nations, in cooperation with the Permanent Mission of Greece to the United Nations and the City of New York, will host a special event to mark the ATHENS 2004 Olympic Torch Relay and the Olympic Truce.

Secretary-General Kofi Annan will light a cauldron from the flame from the Olympic Torch in a ceremony that will take place, rain or shine, at 8:30 p.m. in front of the SecretariatBuildingThe programme will also include performances by the Archdiocese Metropolitan Youth Choir and the Sejong Soloists.

“Pass the Flame, Unite the World” is the theme of the ATHENS 2004 Olympic Torch Relay that travels to 27 countries and 34 cities worldwide over the course of 35 days.  For the first time in the history of this Olympic tradition, the flame will travel through Africa and South America, and will travel through all the cities that have hosted Olympic Summer Games, as well as Beijing (2008), and several other cities along the route.  It is also the first time that the flame has ever been brought to the United Nations.

The ceremony at United Nations Headquarters will highlight the call for an Olympic Truce, an appeal for the cessation of conflict during the period immediately, during and after the Olympic Games.  Speakers will include the Secretary-General; the President of the fifty-eighth session of the General Assembly, Julian Robert Hunte; the Alternate Minister for Culture of Greece, Fanny Palli-Petralia; the ATHENS 2004 President, Gianna Angelopoulos-Daskalaki; the Director of the International Olympic Truce Centre, Stavros Lambrinidis; and Robert Ctvrtlik, representing the International Olympic Committee.  Barbara Walters will emcee the event.

The importance of the Olympic Truce and the international community’s efforts to resolve conflicts and spread peace and hope worldwide is reflected in the selection of the torchbearers who will be carrying the Olympic torch into and out of the United Nations complex -- Toni Jones and Daniel Mejia, two young people whose lives have been deeply affected by conflict.

Toni Jones, 18, was born in Monrovia, Liberia, and now lives in Queens, New York.  After being forced to flee Liberia in 1990 because of political conflict, Toni and her family spent three years living in a UNICEF-supported refugee camp.  During that time, Toni’s eight-year-old friend was kidnapped, forced to become a child soldier, and later killed in the conflict.  It inspired Toni to become an influential voice against the use of children as soldiers.  Her current project, called “Brighter Tomorrow”, involves rebuilding a centre for former child soldiers in Liberia.  She is fundraising and building support with the Government, and hopes to go Liberia this winter to begin work.  Toni recently graduated from Saint John’s Prep in Queens where she was a leader in “Trick or Treat for UNICEF” events.  This autumn, she will be heading to University of Maryland, College Park, where she will be the only woman enrolled in the agrarian economics degree programme.  After graduation, she plans to return to Liberia, open up a food business and help developing countries.

Daniel B. Mejia, 17, was born in Queens, where he still lives.  His parents, both Colombian, immigrated to the United States 20 years ago.  Daniel’s uncle was the victim of a political assassination in Colombia in 1994.  Many of his relatives have received asylum in the United States and now live in Miami and New York City.  Daniel just graduated from Saint John’s Prep in Queens, where he received the Principal’s service award.  He now plans to attend the College of Aeronautics and major in aeronautical science.

In addition to these two runners, through the International Olympic Committee, UNICEF was also offered “relay slots” in Moscow, Rio, and Stockholm.  Similarly, in a number of cities throughout the world, the International Olympic Committee has provided opportunities for other members of the United Nations system to join in the ATHENS 2004 Olympic Torch Relay.  The International Labour Organization, the United Nations Development Programme, UNAIDS, the World Bank and the World Health Organization will all have runners participating in the relay and helping to draw public attention to pressing issues on the global agenda.

Media Information

Only media with United Nations accreditation will be allowed to cover the event at the United Nations.  A television pool has been established at the United Nations so that television media can carry the Olympic Truce Ceremony live.  Live event pool feed will be available at NGW 3 at the Switch.  All media wishing to pick up this feed should contact the Switch directly at tel.: (212) 227-9191.

In addition, there will be a “General Press Riser” for United Nations-credentialed print, radio, still photographers and television producers/correspondents only.  Mult-boxes will be provided on the general press riser.  We ask that if your media organization can rely on the television pool that you not send another camera as space is limited.  Media must remain on the press riser at all times during the event.  Press check-in for the Olympic Truce Ceremony begins at 6 p.m. and ends at 8 p.m. Spots on the press riser are available on first come, first serve basis so arrive early.

All questions regarding press access at the United Nations should be directed to the United Nations Media Accreditation and Liaison Unit (MALU) at tel.: (212) 963-6936, (212) 963-7164/7463, (212) 963-8063, (917) 367-2870; or via e-mail at bolshakov@un.org, zewde@un.org, pinn@un.org, or albertini@un.org.

For additional information, please contact: (UNICEF) Kate Donovan, Media Section, UNICEF, tel.: 212-326-7452, e-mail: kdonovan@unicef.org; (UN) Carolyn Schuler Uluç, Public Relations Section, DPI, tel.: 212-963-1072, e-mail: schuler-uluc@un.org.

* *** *

For information media. Not an official record.