London Olympics gear up to help refugees

The International Olympic Committee and the London 2012 Olympic Games Organising Committee have joined UNHCR in a campaign to collect sports clothing for refugees.

IOC's Jacques Rogge (left) and LOCOG's Sir Keith Mills hand over a parcel of sports clothing to the UNHCR's Joyce Mends-Cole in Durban, South Africa.  © IOC/Richard Juilliart

DURBAN, South Africa, July 11 (UNHCR) - As athletes around the world train to swim faster, jump higher, throw further in the run-up to next year's London Olympics, the event's organizers have also set a new target: To outdo themselves for the refugee cause.

Last Friday, International Olympic Committee (IOC) President Jacques Rogge launched the "Giving is Winning" campaign at the 123rd IOC Session in Durban, South Africa. The campaign aims to collect at least 100,000 items of sports and casual clothes for refugees and displaced people in UNHCR camps in various parts of the world.

Rogge and Sir Keith Mills, Deputy Chair of the London 2012 Olympic Games Organising Committee (LOCOG) started the ball rolling by handing over a parcel of sports clothes to UNHCR representative Joyce Mends-Cole during Friday's launch ceremony.

This campaign follows two successful editions during the 2004 Athens and 2008 Beijing Olympic Games. In Athens, 30,000 items of clothing, and in Beijing, 75,000 were donated by members and supporters of the Olympic family, such as athletes, National Olympic Committees, International Federations and sponsors. This positive trend is expected to continue for London 2012.

"This campaign is an excellent example of how sport can bring joy to people living very difficult lives, as well as to people who give," said IOC's Rogge. "Let's make a difference to the lives of thousands of men, women and children, just like sport has made a difference to our lives."

This is a fantastic programme and I am very proud that London 2012 will play its part in making 'Giving is Winning' a real success.

Sir Keith Mills
London 2012 Olympic Games Organising Committee

Sir Mills added, "This is a fantastic programme and I am very proud that London 2012 will play its part in making 'Giving is Winning' a real success. I have seen for myself the impact that sport can have on people's lives and it's fantastic that everyone involved in the Olympic Games, from athletes to sponsors, can help spread the Olympic spirit to people around the world."

The British Olympic Association (BOA) has already committed to joining the campaign, and many others have expressed their wish to be involved.

UN High Commissioner for Refugees António Guterres, who was visiting refugees in Ethiopia on Friday, said in a statement, "For many young refugees the gift of sportswear associated with famous athletes from across the Olympic spectrum is a tremendous morale booster - a sign that the outside world does still care."

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