Press Releases

    14 October 2005

    UNODC Head appoints Olympic Gold Medal Winner Goodwill Ambassador for UN Office on Drugs and Crime

    Italian Gymnast Igor Cassina Role Model for Young People around the World

    VIENNA, 14 October (UN Information Service) -- Antonio Maria Costa, Executive Director, United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) is appointing Italian gymnast Igor Cassina as Goodwill Ambassador for UNODC. The announcement  will be made during the Grand Prix of Gymnastics, an event that showcases top gymnasts from around the world. The 2005 Grand Prix of Gymnastics takes place in Turin, Italy on Saturday 15 October. Turin will also host the Winter Olympics in February 2006.

    In 2004, Igor Cassina won the Olympic medal in the men's horizontal bar at the Summer Olympics in Athens. Mr. Cassina was also the first gymnast to ever perform a giant Kovacs straight with 1/1 turn, a feat that earned him a lasting place in the history of gymnastics -  the gymnastic move was thereafter called the "Cassina straight." Mr. Cassina stresses the importance of community support for sports, and the relevance of sports in communities where less fortunate youth may have few options other than crime and delinquency. "If we want results, we'll have to rely on everything that surrounds us, we can't just count on ourselves," says Mr. Cassina.

    The United Nations has designated 2005 as the International Year of Sport and Physical Education, another reason, according to Mr. Costa, to choose an athlete as a UNODC Goodwill Ambassador.

    "Igor Cassina is living proof," says Mr. Costa, "that sports are more than just activities-they are lifestyles, characterized by beliefs and values incompatible with drug use. Life offers each of us an opportunity to 'go for the gold' - but like Cassina, we have to be ready to make the right choices."

    UNODC is currently sponsoring a counter-drug campaign targeting young people. The theme of the campaign is "Value Yourself," a message designed to encourage self-respect. The UNODC campaign calls on youth to consider the impact of drugs on health and physical well-being.

    "Healthy choices," says Mr. Costa, "are not only about saying 'no' to drugs, but also about saying 'yes' to healthy lifestyles: sports, music, theatre, civil service, and other positive activities."

    The United Nations also hails sports as an avenue to even larger goals. According to United Nations Secretary-General Kofi Annan, "Sport is a universal language that can bring people together, no matter what their origin, background, religious beliefs or economic status." The Secretary-General has said that sports are also a path to realizing the UN Millennium Development Goals - sports also act as a catalyst for development and peace.

    The Grand Prix will take place on Saturday 15 October at the "PalaRuffini" Stadium, which hosts up to 4,000 people. It will be telecast live by RAI National TV. Thirty-six athletes from 11 countries, including eight Olympic Medal winners, will participate in the event.

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    For more information, contact:

    Kathleen Millar, Deputy Spokesperson, UNODC
    Tel: (+43-1) 26060  5629