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Press release

Young torchbearers carry flame for peace

UNICEF Joins Call for Warring Parties to Lay Down Arms During Olympic Games

NEW YORK, 18 June 2004 – Two teenage torchbearers chosen by UNICEF will speed the Olympic Torch onto the grounds of the United Nations Saturday evening in a ceremony to mark an appeal for an Olympic Truce --  the cessation of conflict during the period immediately before, during and after the Olympic Games.

“In too many countries today children are literally running from war," said UNICEF Executive Director Carol Bellamy.  "We are proud of these young people as they carry the Olympic Torch on behalf of peace.  We believe children everywhere have the right to grow to adulthood in health, peace and dignity.  But it is up to us adults to make that right a reality.  The Olympic Truce would show the world that peace is within our grasp."

The two young runners, Toni Jones, 18, Liberia, and Daniel Mejia, 17, of Colombian parents, have been profoundly affected by war and conflict.  Their participation signals the importance of building a protective environment for children, where children can live in safety and dignity. 

The International Olympic Committee – a partner with UNICEF in promoting sports for peace - offered UNICEF several Torchbearer opportunities besides New York City - in Moscow, Rio de Janeiro, and Stockholm.  The Rio run took place the 16th of June.  The Stockholm and Moscow events will be on the 1rst and 3rd of July, respectively. 

UNICEF is grateful to the IOC for its dedication in helping spotlight the rights of children to grow and play in healthy environments.

It will be the first time the Olympic flame has been carried to the United Nations. The Secretary-General will light a cauldron from the Torch’s flame, and the evening's events will be emceed by Barbara Walters. 

Other speakers are: the President of the 58th Session of the General Assembly, Julian Robert Hunte; the Alternate Minister for Culture of Greece, Fanny Palli-Petralia; the ATHENS 2004 President, Gianna Angelopoulos-Daskalaki; the Director of the International Olympic Truce Centre, Stavros Lambrinidis; and Robert Ctvrtlik, representing the International Olympic Committee. 

More on the UNICEF runners:   

Toni Jones, 18, was born in Monrovia, Liberia and lives in Queens. After being forced to flee Liberia in 1990 because of political conflict, Toni and her family spent three years living in a UNICEF-supported refugee camp. During that time, Toni's eight-year-old friend was kidnapped and forced to become a child soldier; he was later killed in the conflict. This experience  inspired Toni to become an influential voice against the use of children as soldiers. Her current project, called ‘Brighter Tomorrow’ involves rebuilding a centre for former child soldiers in Liberia.  She is fundraising and building support with the government, and hopes to go Liberia this winter to begin work.  Toni recently graduated from St. John's Prep in Queens where she was a leader in the Trick or Treat for UNICEF events.  This autumn, she will be heading to University  of Maryland - College Park, where she will be the only woman enrolled in the agrarian economics degree programme.  After graduation, she plans to return to Liberia, open up a food business and help developing countries.  She has six older sisters, and one older brother and a younger sister.

Daniel B. Mejia, 17, was born in Queens, where he still lives. His parents are both Colombian and immigrated to the USA 20 years ago.  Daniel’s uncle was the victim of a political assassination in Colombia in 1994. Many of his relatives received asylum in the United States and now live in Miami and New York City. Daniel just graduated from St. John’s Prep in Queens, where he  received the Principal’s service award. He now plans to attend College of Aeronautics in the Autumn for four years and wants to major in aeronautical science and his dream one day is to fly a 747 jumbo jet.  He has an older half-sister who lives in Florida.

The New York event will be held on the grounds of the United Nations on Saturday evening, from 8:30 to 9:00 rain or shine. 

Attention broadcasters:  The torch relay will be and will be broadcast via live feed. Please consult the media advisory to find out coordinates and further information. www.nyc.gov/mediaadvisory

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For further information, please contact:

Kate Donovan, UNICEF New York, 212 326 7452

For nearly 60 years UNICEF has been the world’s leader for children, working on the ground in 158 countries to help children survive and thrive, from early childhood through adolescence.  The world’s largest provider of vaccines for poor countries, UNICEF supports child health and nutrition including clean water, quality basic education for all boys and girls, and the protection of children from violence, exploitation, and AIDS.  UNICEF is funded entirely by the voluntary contributions of individuals, businesses, foundations and governments.




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