It is a great pleasure to participate in this event.
I thank the Permanent Missions of Germany, the State of Qatar, the Republic of Korea, the Russian Federation and Tunisia for bringing us together.
Sport has a tremendous – and in many ways unique – power to unite.
So-called “mega sport events”, such as the World Cup and the Olympic and Paralympic Games, can spread that spirit of unity in mega-ways.
These events gather thousands of athletes and millions of fans. They attract media attention and inspire people from all over the globe.
It is a privilege for countries to host such events.
Their influence can also extend far beyond the world of sports.
With planning and vision, mega sport events can advance social development, economic growth, educational opportunity and environmental protection.
They also provide a platform to promote the values and objectives of the United Nations, including peace and human rights.
As we look ahead, mega sport events can and should contribute to realizing the newly adopted Sustainable Development Goals.
This will not happen on its own. Ample experience has shown that the benefits of mega sport events have not always been long-lasting, sustainable or widely shared.
It is therefore crucially important that we learn the lessons of this history.
Starting from day one of the planning stage, mega sports events should prioritize developmental and environmental considerations. Our aim must be to reap the benefits of such events while limiting their carbon footprint, upholding workers’ rights, ensuring transparency and fighting the corruption that so often accompanies endeavours in which enormous sums of money are involved.
By working jointly with local authorities and communities, mega sport events should link their planning with broader projects and objectives, such as rejuvenating cities, fostering growth, stimulating employment and promoting accessibility for people with disabilities.
They need to leave durable legacies by developing equitable, inclusive and accessible facilities and infrastructure that will benefit societies long after the games and competition are over. Too often, people are displaced to make room for facilities that are used for a brief shining moment and then left to gather dust.
There are many positive examples to build upon. Mega sports events have developed and implemented innovative practices, for example in tourism and transport.
Many host cities and countries of past mega sport events have taken the sustainable and inclusive developmental path, and implemented outstanding legacy initiatives at the local, national, regional and global levels.
I encourage all hosts and bidders of mega sport events to integrate, at their core, sustainable and inclusive development strategies in every phase of their project.
I would like to particularly commend the International Olympic Committee, the International Paralympic Committee and Special Olympics for their valuable contributions.
The United Nations is pleased to be working more closely with athletes and sports organizations.
In one such effort, the International Olympic Committee and the United Nations have revived the idea of the Olympic Truce, in which combatants agree to cease hostilities during the period when the Games are held.
As we look ahead to the Rio Olympic and Paralympic Games this year, I urge all warring parties to respect the Olympic Truce.
I truly hope that this year’s Olympic and Paralympic Games, and any future mega sport events will promote sustainability and solidarity.
The United Nations looks forward to working closely with future organizing committees, host cities and governments and all of you to help make that happen.
The Olympic motto is higher, faster, stronger.
Let us work together to ensure that the motto for all future mega sports will also be: cleaner, greener, and more sustainable.