A very special football finds a new home at The Olympic Museum
A very special football, made by children in the slums of Nairobi, Kenya, found a new home at The Olympic Museum on Wednesday as a symbol of the inspirational power of sport and the close cooperation between the International Olympic Committee and the United Nations.
IOC President Jacques Rogge accepted the makeshift football from HRH Princess Haya Al Hussein, an IOC member and a UN Messenger of Peace, and Wilfried Lemke, the UN’s special adviser on Sport for Development and Peace, at a brief ceremony at The Museum.
“This ball was made from discarded material, but it represents something priceless. Sport changes people’s lives, whether they live in a mansion or a refugee camp. This simple football symbolises the cooperation between the IOC and the UN to bring the uplifting power of sport to those in need. It is a welcome addition to a museum that showcases and celebrates the Olympic values and athletic achievement,” Rogge said.
The ball, fashioned from plastic bags, newspaper and string, took a circuitous path to Lausanne. It was given to the UN Special Adviser as a present by a young man from community sports project in one of the Nairobi slums. UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon initially delivered the football to the IOC at the opening of the XIII Olympic Congress on 3 October 2009 in Copenhagen, Denmark.
After being signed by Rogge and the Secretary-General, it went to Dubai, where it was auctioned at a charity event hosted by Princess Haya and Lemke. The football fetched USD 205,000 on a night that raised more than USD 848,000 for sports programmes for children and youth in Palestine. The donor returned the football to allow its installation in The Olympic Museum.
The ball was presented to The Olympic Museum three months after the UN General Assembly gave the IOC official UN Observer status. This solidifies the institutional bonds between the two organisations and gives the IOC the right to participate in UN debates.
Participants in The Museum presentation also offered condolences to the people of Haiti in the aftermath of the devastating earthquake. The UN and its affiliate organisations have taken a leading role in relief efforts, which are currently focused on the immediate pressing need for food, water and other basic necessities. The IOC has been in contact with the National Olympic Committee of Haiti and will coordinate with its National Olympic Committees around the world and the Pan-American Sports Organisation (PASO) to help rebuild the sports infrastructure in the reconstruction phase of Haiti’s recovery.
Acting in her role as a UN Messenger of Peace, HRH Princess Haya is scheduled to deliver an emergency shipment of more than 90 metric tonnes of food and other relief supplies to Haiti within the next week. The shipment was organised by the International Humanitarian City, a global relief supply depot in Dubai, at the request of the UN World Food Programme.