21 August 2003



NEW YORK, 20 August (UN Headquarters) -- Following is Secretary-General Kofi Annan’s message to the 2003 United States Open Tennis Championship draw ceremony, delivered by Shashi Tharoor, Under-Secretary-General for Communications and Public Information, at Headquarters on
20 August:

You are very welcome here at United Nations Headquarters for the draw ceremony to determine the singles pairings at this year’s United States Open Tennis Championship.

You come at a time of great sadness for all of us at the United Nations.  We have violently lost many beloved colleagues.  We are grieving for them.  But we know they would tell us to get on with the job.  And that is why we were determined that this event should go ahead today.

Tennis and the United Nations have important features in common.  Here, at the United Nations, we see many long and dramatic contests.  We see quite a few tie-breakers and nail-biting fifth sets, as well as the odd disputed line call.  And, yes, there are some issues which seem to be hit interminably back and forth over the net.

But there are more important common features than these.  Like the United Nations, tennis is universal.  There are few sports which are played and loved so widely.  Players from 61 countries are expected to take part in this year’s United States Open, which will be televised in 165 countries.

Yet the most important impact of tennis, as with the United Nations, is at the local level.  Communities in rich and poor countries alike are directly touched by the game.  Young people, whether they dream of winning the Grand Slam or of finding their way out of poverty, find in tennis, as in other sports, an important focus of physical fitness and development of character.

That is why I am delighted that today’s draw ceremony is held here at the United Nations, and why I send the organizers and players my best wishes for a successful Open.

I also send my thanks to Vijay Amritraj, one of my Messengers for Peace, for his initiative in proposing that today’s event be held here at the United Nations.  He is a symbol of the universal appeal of tennis and of its capacity to build bridges into local communities, and I am glad that he is with you today.

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