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1 - "Play for the Planet" Marks Global Launch of New Environment and Sports Initiative.

Nairobi, 6 March 2003 - Sport and the environment are inextricably linked. Sporting venues, from football pitches to cricket fields, are often vital "green spaces" in cities and towns. They bring people closer to nature and, if properly managed, can act as urban refuges for birds, insects, plants and other wildlife.

Meanwhile, pollution of rivers, the air and the land can have a detrimental impact on sport and athletes. The performance and the health of those taking part can be undermined by poor quality air, contaminated freshwater and coasts and chemicals used in parks and play areas.

Sports can also affect the environment. The insensitive construction of sports stadia, courses and venues can affect water supplies, wildlife habitats, rates of soil erosion and local pollution.

Some forms of sports, such as artificial ice-skating rinks and ice-hockey stadia, flood lit golf ranges and tennis courts, can be energy intensive triggering emissions of the gases linked with global warming.

The United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP), through its new Michezo initiative, aims to foster links between the environmental and sporting worlds in the quest for sustainable development.

Klaus Toepfer, UNEP’s Executive Director, said: "Sustainable development is about economic development that respects people, that respects the planet, and delivers lasting prosperity for all. Everyone has their part to play, including sports men and women".

“Indeed in many countries they have come together to form powerful groups that lobby for a cleaner and healthier environment. For example in Britain, Surfers Against Sewage, have played an effective key role in persuading government, local authorities and water companies to reduce coastal and marine pollution. The International Mountaineering and Climbing Federation in Switzerland have raised awareness of the threats from global warming and other environmental dangers to mountain ranges. In Canada, many ice hockey stadia, have been active is championing energy efficiency to reduce greenhouse gas emissions,” he said.

Kenya, with its long and distinguished history of gold-medal winning running, its emerging force as a cricketing nation and impressive record in other sporting fields, has been chosen as the launch-pad for Michezo under the slogan “Play for the Planet”.

Theodore Oben, Head of UNEP’s Children and Youth Sports and the Environment Unit, said: “ We are kicking off with four thousand children and adults here in Nairobi, but it does not end there. Billions of people are passionate about sports across the globe. Michezo means to harness this enthusiasm for the environment. Meanwhile, millions of people including youth and children, look up to sports men and women as role models who define values such as cooperation, team work and respect. Many of these athletes are already doing their bit for the environment and we aim to enlist the support of many more”.

The Play for the Planet sports day, involving junior and senior teams, will take place at Nairobi University Sports Ground on Sunday 9 March from 9.00am to 5.00pm.

Notes to Editors: The junior soccer categories will have the group phase from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. The quarterfinals from 1.30 p.m. - 2.30 p.m. The semi finals from 3 p.m. - 4 p.m. The finals from 4 p.m. to 5 p.m. The trophies will be awarded from 5 p.m. to 6 p.m.

It is a follow-up to the "Plant for the Planet" the International Tree Planting Campaign. This was launched on 8 February 2003 at the Ngong Forest Sanctuary by 50 young people from 45 countries together with Kenyan school children and an international group of Environment Ministers.

The Play for the Planet event is being sponsored by the Japan-based Global Sports Alliance, and the Foundation for Global Peace and Environment, Total Kenya Limited, Coca Cola – Nairobi Bottlers Limited, Nestle Kenya, the Village Market, BOC Kenya and the St. John Ambulance.

UNEP started its work on sport and the environment in 1994 when it signed a cooperative agreement with the International Olympic Committee. That same year, in recognition of the importance of the protection of the environment and sustainable development, the environment became the third dimension of Olympic philosophy, alongside sport and culture.

The Olympic Committee established a Sport and Environment Commission to advise its Executive Board on the integration of environment issues in the preparations and staging of Olympic Games. Today, the environment has become one of the key criteria in the selection of venues for the Olympic Games.

UNEP is currently participating in the United Nations Secretary-General’s Task Force on Sports for Development and Peace. The Task Force is an interagency initiative by the Secretary-General to review activities of various United Nations entities with sport organizations with a view to promoting the implementation of the United Nations millennium development goals.

UNEP also organizes a Global Forum for Sport and Environment in Tokyo, Japan and supports a Nature and Sport Training Camp for children from Kibera and Langata Nairobi.

For More Information Please Contact Eric Falt, Spokesperson/Director of UNEP's Division of Communications and Public Information, on Tel: 254 2 623292, Mobile: 254 (0) 733 682656, E-mail: eric.falt@unep.org or Nick Nuttall, UNEP Head of Media, on Tel: 254 2 623084, Mobile: 254 (0) 733 632755, E-mail: nick.nuttall@unep.org, or Angele Luh SY, UNEP Regional Information Officer on Tel: 254 2 624292, Mobile: 254 722 429770, E-mail: Angele.Luh@unep.org

UNEP News Release 2003/13