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Message by the Executive Director of UNEP, Mr. Klaus Toepfer, for the 5th World Conference on Sport and Environment

Every four years, the eyes of the world are on the Olympics. The five interlocking Olympic rings are universally recognised. They speak of a world united under one banner, an advertisement for common values of friendship, cooperation and fair play. The Olympic torch, which travels the world, is a beacon of hope for the human family that we can live in peace and harmony.

The power of these symbols is immeasurable. In a world where exemplary leadership is too often lacking, the fact that the Olympic movement has embraced the environment so wholeheartedly is beyond value. It is less than a decade since the Centennial Olympic Congress brought sport and the environment into focus, less than five years since the publication of the Olympic movementís own Agenda 21, yet in that time the principles of environmental sustainability have become firmly embedded in the Olympic movementís consciousness and planning.

The examples of Lillehamer and Sydney are a step forward from which there can be no going back. Todayís Olympics must be organized according to cleaner, greener principles. That, however, often presents considerable challenges. The theory of environmental sustainability is usually easier than the practice. The programme for this fifth World Conference on Sport and Environment provides an opportunity to look at the movementís progress and difficulties, successes and failures, and to chart a way to a sustainable future. UNEP is honoured to have been a partner of the International Olympic Committee during its emergence as an environmental trend-setter, and looks forward to continued collaboration as the wave of environmental responsibility that the Olympic movement has started continues to gather force.