The Olympic Flame made a symbolic appearance in Switzerland today before making its way to Brazil for the Olympic Torch Relay (OTR) ahead of the Olympic Games Rio 2016, the first Games to be held in South America.
The flame began the day in Geneva, where it was presented at the United Nations headquarters in a ceremony attended by International Olympic Committee (IOC) President Thomas Bach and UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon. Following the presentation at the Palais des Nations, the flame made its way to The Olympic Museum in Lausanne, where it will spend the weekend before heading to Brasilia on 2 May for the start of the OTR.
At the UN ceremony, the IOC President praised the message of hope and peace the Olympic Games and flame symbolises: “In ancient times as today, the Olympic Games are a message of hope and peace. Sport always builds bridges. Sport never erects walls. The Olympic flame and the Olympic Games are sending the message that our shared humanity is greater than the forces that divide us. In a world shaken by crises, this message is more relevant than ever before. What better place than the United Nations to share this universal message of our shared humanity and peace.” Click here for the full speech.
Calling the flame “a beacon of solidarity with all peoples of the world,” the UN Secretary-General applauded the IOC’s decision to include a Refugee Olympic Team at this summer’s Olympic Games. “For the first time in history,” he said, “talented athletes who have been forced to flee their homes will get a chance to chase gold. Their fellow refugees will see outstanding contenders who give hope to all. And the world will see refugees the way they deserve to be seen: as talented, strong and inspiring people. Win or lose, they are champions of the spirit.”
The IOC Executive Board will name the Refugee Olympic Team at its next meeting in June. For more information on the team, click here.
UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon went on to speak of the “warm partnership between the United Nations and the International Olympic Movement” before complementing the IOC on its efforts to place sport at the service of humanity. “I have seen the IOC’s projects around the world. I have met children who found the courage, through sports, to follow their dreams,” he said. “Sports give children the basic human right of being children who can, at least for a few moments, laugh and play. That is why I so deeply value the IOC’s humanitarian projects.” Click here to read the full speech.
The flame was carried into the Palais des Nations by 13-year-old Brazilian Bruna Gabrielle Pitta Portugal. Natália Mayara, a Brazilian Paralympic athlete and 2015 Pan American Games gold medallist in wheelchair tennis, also spoke at the ceremony.
Also in attendance were IOC Member Prince Albert II of Monaco; Michael Møller, Director General of the United Nations Office at Geneva; Wilfried Lemke, the UN Secretary-General’s Special Adviser on Sport for Development and Peace; Ricardo Leyser, Brazil’s Minister for Sport; Carlos Arthur Nuzman, President of the Rio 2016 Organising Committee; and Regina Dunlop, Brazil’s Permanent Representative to the United Nations Office at Geneva and other international organisations in Geneva.
During the ceremony, President Bach presented the Olympic Cup to the United Nations, an honour accepted by the UN Secretary-General. The IOC awards the Olympic Cup to associations or institutions that provide distinguished service to sport or contribute successfully to the promotion of the Olympic ideals.
Following the ceremony, the flame headed for Lausanne and The Olympic Museum, where it was delivered in an eight-man rowing boat. The boat’s crew included Swiss rower Barnabé Delarze, who recently qualified for Rio 2016, and René Libal, who represented the former Czechoslovakia at the Olympic Games Rome 1960. The team of eight rowers from the Lausanne Sports Aviron club rowed from their clubhouse under sunny skies to The Olympic Museum, where they ascended the Museum’s steps to deliver the flame to Rio 2016 President Carlos Arthur Nuzman, who then lit a Rio 2016 cauldron in front of the public and invited dignitaries. The flame will remain on display to the public this weekend at The Olympic Museum.
The flame was officially lit in Ancient Olympia on 21 April. It then made a six-day journey around Greece before being flown to Geneva. The Brazilian leg of the Olympic Torch Relay will begin on 3 May in Brasilia. For more information on the OTR, click here.
The Rio 2016 Olympic Torch Relay has three Presenting Partners: Worldwide TOP Partner Coca-Cola, which continues its longstanding support for Olympic torch relays, and local Partners Bradesco and Nissan. For further information, please visit the Rio 2016 website.
About the Olympic Games Rio 2016
The Games of the XXXI Olympiad will be held from 5 to 21 August 2016. Approximately 10,500 athletes from more than 200 countries will compete in 28 sports, comprising 98 medal events.