Toronto, 2 August 2000 - Five Olympic Athletes began a eight-day journey to the Sudan and Eritrea. The team will be working in cooperation with Olympic Aid, the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) and various national Olympic committees and governmental organizations.
The team of Olympians is led by quadruple gold medallist Norwegian speed skater Johann Koss. He is joined by Canadian rower Silken Laumann, Australian swimming legend Shane Gould, American champion gymnast Trent Dimas, and American track star Mike Powell.
The mission is a grassroots initiative organized by the athlete-run international humanitarian organization, Olympic Aid, and the athletes themselves. Their goal is to deliver hope and relief to Eritrean refugee children and raise awareness of their desperate situation. This will be accomplished through the organization of Olympic Festivals in the refugee camps of Kassala and the displaced persons camps of Asmara, as well as through the generous donation of Nike sporting equipment. Confronted by the horrors of armed conflict and the boredom of refugee camp life, sport and recreation are the only outlets for these children.
Johann Koss, Chairman of Olympic Aid, is excited about the mission. “Although often overlooked, a child’s right to play is fundamental and I am confident that our mission will help to reinforce this right, emphasizing its importance to the global public,” Koss stated. Canadian rower Silken Laumann shares his vision stating that “It will be hard to make a long term difference in their lives, but maybe we can show them that the world is watching, that the world cares about them. Isn’t that what the Olympics is all about? The coming together of nations?”
Gould, Koss and Laumann will arrive in Khartoum, Sudan this evening and Powell and Dimas will follow a separate agenda in Asmara, Eritrea. The team will meet up again on August 4th at the Sudan-Eritrea border and continue their mission together. The mission will consist of visits to various refugee camps, Olympic Festivals, touring of medical and educational facilities and a meeting with Eritrean Olympic hopefuls. Additionally, a Toronto production company is accompanying the team in order to film a documentary entitled “The Right to Play” which is scheduled to air during the Olympic Games.
Based on the true Olympic Spirit of peace, goodwill and human dignity, this mission underscores the true meaning of the Olympic Movement. These Olympic athletes are eager to show the world that the Olympic Movement and the Games are about more than simply competition and victory; the Olympic movement is about friendship among nations and people and it is defined by a desire to both strive for personal excellence and help others to achieve excellence.
Should you have any questions, please contact:
Phone: +61 2 9220 5856
Fax: +61 2 9220 5877
Mobile: +61 411 277 089
PO Box Q897
QVB Post Office NSW 1230
Assistant to the Chairman
Media Relations Officer
Phone: +1 905 726 7190
Fax: +1 905 726 7177
337 Magna Drive
Or visit Olympic Aid website at www.olympicaid.com
THE OLYMPIC AID MISSION TO THE SUDAN
The Olympic Aid Team, made up of Olympic athletes, coaches and a film crew, is travelling in The Sudan and Eritrea from July 31st to August 8th. Its aim is to bring the Olympic Spirit of participation, hope and human dignity to those who need it most – the child refugees living in the horn of Africa.
Recent bouts of fighting have driven more than 80,000 Eritreans – over half of whom are children – to neighbouring Eritrea in search of safety. These numbers are in addition to the 150,000 Eritrean refugees already living in Sudan. Although most of the refugees’ immediate needs have been met, there still remain major food, water and shelter shortages; these conditions, once exacerbated by 40 degree temperatures in the region, are now further intensified by the current rainy season.
Olympic Aid’s goals during its mission are two-fold. First, Olympic Aid will deliver relief to the children of Sudanese and Eritrean refugee camps. The Team will spend a week in the refugee camps surrounding Kassala and in Eritrea itself in order to visit medical and education centres as well as organize Olympic Festivals for the children. Two Norwegian coaches will be sent ahead of the Olympic Aid team in order to train Eritrean refugees through a “Coach the Coach” program so that Olympic Aid’s efforts might lead to sustainable programming in the future. Additionally, Olympic Aid will be delivering sporting equipment – generously donated by Nike – whi