Secretary-General, at Inauguration of Olympic Torch Display, Calls Sport ‘A Powerful Tool for Empowering Girls and Women’

18 December 2012

Secretary-General, at Inauguration of Olympic Torch Display, Calls Sport ‘A Powerful Tool for Empowering Girls and Women’

18 December 2012
Department of Public Information • News and Media Division • New York

Secretary-General, at Inauguration of Olympic Torch Display, Calls Sport


‘A Powerful Tool for Empowering Girls and Women’


Following are UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon’s remarks, as prepared for delivery, at the inauguration of the Olympic Torch Display in New York on 18 December:

This exhibit brings back many powerful emotions.  July 26 was a memorable and emotional day.  I spent the morning in Srebrenica, with mothers of those slain in the horrendous massacre.  Later that same day, I was in London, where the joy of our common humanity was evident in the faces of all the spectators and competitors I saw.  The swing of emotions, and the sense of common purpose in both places, was deeply moving, both personally and because of the work of the United Nations.

I ran with the torch and, later, proudly carried the Olympic banner in the stadium.  Of the eight outstanding personalities who shared that honour with me, no less than four were acknowledged for their United Nations connections.  The great Muhammad Ali, a former Messenger of Peace, and musician Daniel Barenboim, who serves in that role now; Haile Gebrselassie, a Goodwill Ambassador for UNDP [United Nations Development Programme] in Ethiopia, and Marina Silva, the former Environment Minister of Brazil who is a UNEP [United Nations Environment Programme] Champion of the Earth.

That the organizers chose to honour the United Nations so visibly spoke volumes to me about the close links between the Olympic Movement and the United Nations.  Those ties go far beyond shared principles and ideals.  They translate into everyday collaborations that are helping improve the lives of people in need in all regions.  For these Olympic and Paralympic Games, the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees collected sports equipment for refugee camps around the world.

The “International Inspiration” social legacy programme, implemented primarily by UNICEF, has reached millions of people in 20 countries through Sport for Development and Peace, and education programmes.  UNESCO [United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization], the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime [UNODC], UNAIDS [Joint United Nations Programme on HIV/AIDS] and the World Health Organization (WHO) also collaborated with the organizers or held events during the Games.

The United Nations Environment Programme worked closely with the London Organizing Committee on greening the Games.  And my Special Adviser on Sport for Development and Peace worked, particularly in the context of the Paralympic Games, to raise awareness of the International Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities.

The city of London and the United Kingdom deserve immense credit for hosting such a successful Olympic and Paralympic Games.  I also commend the United Kingdom for its strong support for the Olympic Truce.  This year’s resolution set a record — it was co-sponsored by every one of our 193 Member States, the first time this has ever happened.

Achieving a universal end to hostilities, even for a day, may seem a dream, but it is a dream we must resolutely pursue each day — just as Olympians follow their own dream.  Our honoured guest today, Sarah Hughes, had a dream that few thought possible.  But she and her family believed — and her dream came true.

Before they even began the London Olympics had a second world record:  for the first time, all participating nations had female competitors.  This is a huge success.  Sport is a powerful tool for empowering girls and women.

The Olympic and Paralympic Games may be over, but the legacy lives on.  Let us thank the Government of the United Kingdom, the city of London and the Organizing Committee for setting new standards for sustainability and raising the bar for future hosts.

I am proud of the role the United Nations played, and honoured that I was invited to participate on the opening day.  I cannot match the legacy of the Games, but wanted to make my own small contribution to Sport for Development and Peace by offering the Olympic Torch and tracksuit to charity.

And I very much look forward to next’s years International Forum on Sport for Peace and Development, which we are organizing with the IOC [International Olympic Committee], and which will take place next June here in New York.  This will be a further opportunity to explore what more we can do together to use sport to advance our shared goals for the world’s people.

Thank you.

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