World leaders celebrate spirit of Olympic Games Rio 2016
Leaders from sport, government, business and culture gathered in solidarity on the eve of the Olympic Games Rio 2016 to celebrate the unifying power of sport and the Olympic Games.
“Your presence is another demonstration of how the Olympic Games go beyond sport,” International Olympic Committee (IOC) President Thomas Bach told guests at the traditional IOC President’s Dinner Thursday night. “Your presence shows that sport is in the middle of a diverse and modern society. Like the athletes, we have come together from different parts of the world to celebrate our diversity. Thank you for coming and for sharing with us this Olympic spirit of peace and solidarity.”
Heads of state and government from countries around the world, as well as UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, joined luminaries from other sectors of society at the dinner.
The guest list included the King of the Netherlands, Willem-Alexander; the President of Argentina, Mauricio Macri; the Vice Premier of China, Liu Yandong; the President of France, François Hollande; the Prime Minister of Italy, Matteo Renzi; the President of the Swiss Confederation, Johann Schneider-Amman, as well as other heads of state and government from Africa, Asia and Oceania.
Nobel Peace Prize laureate Muhammad Yunus, the father of social business and microcredit, was among the representatives from civil society.
Representatives from the world of sport included five-time Olympic champion Nadia Comaneci of Romania, world-renowned cricketer Sachin Tendulkar of India and Olympic swimmer Kirsty Coventry of Zimbabwe, a seven-time Olympic medallist who served as the dinner’s Master of Ceremonies just a few days before her scheduled competition in Rio 2016.
“With my swimming competition starting in just four days’ time, I should probably be in the pool to train right now,” she joked. “These will be my fifth Olympic Games, and I can tell you that I am still as excited as I was before my very first Olympic Games.”
Earlier in the day, the UN Secretary-General, a strong supporter of the Olympic Games, visited the Olympic Village to meet with members of the Refugee Olympic Team.
“Now you can show your strength, your capacity to run faster and become stronger,” he told them.
In his remarks to the dinner guests, President Bach cited the refugee athletes as another example of the Olympic spirit of solidarity. He said, “Like no other human activity, sport is about bringing people together in the spirit of friendship and respect. Sport always builds bridges. Sport never erects walls. In a world shaken by crises, we need the unifying power of sport more than ever.”