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Secretary-General's remarks at Joint Press Conference with Mr. Thomas Bach, President of the International Olympic Committee, 6 February 2014

Good morning. Dobroye utro.

It is a great honour and privilege for me to participate in the opening ceremony of the Sochi Olympic Games. What an exciting time for me to be in Sochi! I am thrilled to be here. And I thank you [International Olympic Committee President Thomas Bach] for your very kind invitation and your leadership as the new President of the IOC. You can count on the United Nations and on myself, and we can build upon all the foundations and legacies which have been laid down.

I thank the Government and people of the Russian Federation for hosting the Winter Olympic Games. I am especially grateful for the kind hospitality of the citizens of Sochi, this great and beautiful region. This is my second time to be in Sochi.

I applaud the IOC. President Thomas Bach won a gold medal in his own personal capacity as an Olympian. But I think he deserves another medal for his leadership and commitment to make these sports events as a place where we can work together with the United Nations for development and peace of the international community.

President Bach is building on the fine work of former and Honorary IOC President Jacques Rogge, who succeeded in elevating the IOC to observer status at the United Nations and left a lasting legacy of cooperation. Just one example – in February 2012, President Rogge and I made an unprecedented joint visit to Lusaka, Zambia, to see the power of sport for development and peace. President Bach was travelling with us at that time in his then capacity as Vice President of the IOC.

And, as you just saw, I had the privilege of addressing the Olympic Session for the first time as the Secretary-General of the United Nations.

This all reflects the increasingly strong and productive partnership between the United Nations and the IOC. We share the same values, including universality, solidarity and non-discrimination.  
As I told the Session, the Olympics show the power of sport to unite people regardless of age, race, class, religion, ability, sex, sexual orientation or gender identity.

The Olympics give us an opportunity to celebrate everyone’s right to compete on equal terms – no matter what they look like, where they come from or whom they love.

The Olympics also give us an opportunity to further promote women’s empowerment. It is hard to believe that only for the first time in the history of the Winter Olympic Games, women will compete in ski jump. I will of course not compete in that ski jump myself but I’ll be cheering, cheering women that they can jump as high and leap as far as their talent will take them. This is their right; women’s rights in action. We have, President Bach and myself, a moral responsibility to make a platform so that they can jump and leap.

We can build on the Olympic Truce movement, too. I repeat my call once again for all armed combatants to lay down their arms during these Olympic Games. This is a moment of peace and harmony and mutual understanding and mutual respect.  

Many United Nations agencies work directly with the IOC to fight racism, combat AIDS and drug abuse, protect the environment and to promote education. We also work together to advance the Millennium Development Goals, which must be reached by 2015. I am sure that work will continue as we define the sustainable development agenda that must follow the MDGs, including how to tackle climate change.

The convening power of the United Nations and global reach of the Olympic movement make a dynamic global duo. And I am sure we can still do more.

Let the flame of the Olympics be a symbol for sport as a global, unifying power for human dignity, peaceful progress, development and rights for all. 

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