olympian-smile.jpgA new UN campaign is giving Olympians a chance to be winners in the eyes of refugees. The “Giving is Winning” program, which seeks to encourage athletes to donate their surplus sportswear to refugees in Asia, was launched last week at the Olympic Village in Beijing.

(Photo by Elan Sun Star)

“The gift of sportswear from Olympic athletes around the globe inspires refugees and connects them to the world of sports,” said High Commissioner António Guterres. “Beyond happiness it brings them hope.”

In the run-up to the Olympic Games, some 50,000 articles of clothing have been collected and distributed to refugees in Rwanda, Tanzania, Chad, Moldova, Georgia and Panama.

The program was launched by the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) and the International Olympic Committee (IOC), with IOC President Jacques Rogge voicing hope that many more items will be collected.

“For them, the gift of sportswear associated with famous athletes from across the Olympic spectrum can be an enormous morale-booster and a sign that the world does care,” said Veerapong Vongvarotai, UNHCR’s Regional Representative for China.

The “Giving is Winning” initiative was first set up for the 2004 Athens Olympics, when over 30,000 items were collected for young refugees in Afghanistan, Azerbaijan, Eritrea, Kosovo and Tanzania.

The Greening of the Olympics

In other Olympic good news, the Chinese Government has poured $17 billion into efforts to “green” the upcoming Olympics, including using solar power to light lawns, courtyards and streets at several sports venues.

“Anybody who knows what the situation was like 10 years ago in Beijing will clearly acknowledge that an enormous amount has been done,” said Mr. Steiner, the agency’s head. “The legacy of this Olympic Games will be in part that it has left in place an infrastructure for public transport and cleaner vehicles that will benefit not only the Olympic Games but also the population of Beijing and, hopefully in due course, other parts of China.”

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