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Olympic flame visits UN office in Geneva

Published 29/04/2016

From left to right, Thomas Bach, Ban Ki-moon, Carlos Arthur Nuzman and Prince Albert II of Monaco pose with the Olympic flame in Geneva (AP)
From left to right, Thomas Bach, Ban Ki-moon, Carlos Arthur Nuzman and Prince Albert II of Monaco pose with the Olympic flame in Geneva (AP)

The Olympic flame has visited the United Nations office in Geneva, where officials said a team of refugee athletes will bring a message of hope to people around the world.

The flame, which was lit in Greece last week, was brought to the UN for the first time before it heads to Brazil for the torch relay ahead of the opening ceremony in Rio de Janeiro on August 5.

UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said the flame is a "beacon of solidarity with all peoples of the world".

He hailed the decision of the International Olympic Committee (IOC) to create a team of refugee athletes who will compete in Rio under the Olympic flag.

"For the first time in history, talented athletes who have been forced to flee their homes will get a chance to chase gold," Mr Ban said.

"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. I welcome the refugee team - and I will be cheering for them with all my might."

The IOC has identified 43 refugees as contenders for the team, which is expected to consist of between five and 10 athletes.

It will announce the line-up at its next executive board meeting in early June.

A Syrian amputee, Ibrahim Al-Hussein, carried the torch as it passed through a refugee camp in Athens on Monday.

IOC President Thomas Bach said: "By welcoming this team of refugee Olympic athletes, we want to send a message of hope to all refugees in our world that they are not forgotten.

"In our fragile world, the Olympic values of solidarity and peace are more important than ever."

The flame was also being taken to the Olympic Museum in Lausanne, home of the IOC, on Friday.

The flame will reach Brazil on Tuesday, starting in the capital of Brasilia and kicking off a nationwide relay involving 12,000 torchbearers that covers 20,000 kilometres (12,000 miles) by road and 16,000 kilometres (10,000 miles) by air.

The Olympics approach at a time when Brazil is in the grip of political, economic and public health crises.

President Dilma Rousseff is facing impeachment, the economy is in severe recession and the country is at the epicentre of the Zika virus outbreak.

The IOC and Brazilian organisers said the games - the first in South America - will overcome the challenges and be a success.

"These will be spectacular Olympic Games," Mr Bach said.

"In just a few weeks, the Brazilian people will enthusiastically welcome the world and amaze us with their joy of life and their passion for sport."

Carlos Nuzman, head of Rio's local organising committee, said the city is ready to "deliver history".

"These will be great Games," he said.

"They will help our people to feel more confident. The Games will confirm that Brazil will always come out of troubles stronger than before. We will host our visitors with grace and charm."

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From Belfast Telegraph