Thursday, 24 April 2014

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UN Torchbearers Play Their Part in London Olympics

bansarajevoAt 18.20 on 26 July, UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon carried the Olympic torch through Westminster in the heart of London. Before bearing the torch in London, Mr. Ban visited the Olympic Stadium in Sarajevo on Thursday morning, the city that hosted the 1984 Winter Olympics. Mr. Ban took part in a symbolic run alongside Sarajevo's marathon runner Islam Djugum, who managed to train daily during Bosnia's 1992-95 war, but only after dark to avoid snipers.

Mr. Ban is not the only representative from the UN to carry the flame. Bianca Kopp, an Austrian national and staff member of the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC), bore the London Olympic Torch on 15 July as it made its way through the UK coastal town of Portsmouth. Less than one year ago, however, she was caught in the midst of a savage terrorist attack on the United Nations House in Abuja, Nigeria on 26 August 2011. The attack killed 25 people, including one UNODC staff member, Ingrid Midtgaard, a 30-year old Norwegian national, and 10 other United Nations staff members. Despite experiencing such painful and traumatic circumstances, Ms. Kopp decided to stay with her colleagues of the UNODC country team to provide support, demonstrating courage, resilience and dedication to the core fundamental principles of the United Nations.

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Bianca felt humbled to be selected as a participant in the Olympic Torch Relay, saying: "I carry this torch to remember my departed colleagues who so needlessly lost their lives." She calls on governments to increase funding for the security of United Nations staff who work in some of the most dangerous places on earth. "United Nations staff work in tough and life-threatening situations. They need to be better protected."

Wilfried Lemke, Special Adviser to the Secretary-General of the United Nations on Sport for Development and Peace, carried the torch on 18 July through Dover. The former Bremen Senator for the Interior and Sport and former general manager of Werder Bremen soccer team had this to say about the laudation: "The Olympic torch is a symbol of human understanding and collaboration and it is my honour to carry this symbol as a Torchbearer for the 2012 Torch Relay and leading up to the London Olympic Games to support the Olympic ideal and the Olympic Truce as a United Nations representative".

UNHCR's Representative to the UK, Roland Schilling, has also carried the Olympic torch through the city of Leicester on 2 July. Mr Schilling has been the most senior representative of the UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR) in the UK since July 2009. He started his work for refugees in Hong Kong 20 years ago when rescuing boat people who fled across the South China Sea. He was engaged in finding protection for Somali and Iraqi refugees in Yemen. Afterwards he moved to Moldova to help the Government to deal with displacement. When the tsunami hit several Asian countries in December 2004 he was based in Sri Lanka. He helped coordinated emergency relief and built shelter for those who lost their homes.

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