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Right to Play: Inspiring Olympians to Become Humanitarians
    2008-08-21 11:01:00     CRIENGLISH.com

The host of the auction is showing the audience a torch with signatures of athletes on it. [Photo: CRIENGLISH.com]

World-class Olympians often donate money to charity. To help them realize the positive impact they can have on others, international humanitarian organization Right to Play formed to inspire Olympians to donate to acts of kindness.

Yesterday, more than 20 current and former Olympians attended a live benefit auction at the Olympic Games Pavilion to support Right to Play.

Norwegian Johann Olav Koss, a four-time Olympic gold medalist in speed skating, is the founder of Right to Play. Eight years ago, he founded this organization to help children affected by war, poverty and disease.

"I realize that children in many places around the world do not have access to sport and play program and I feel that every child has the opportunity to play. Every child should be able to grow up healthy, happy, inspired, growing physically, cognitively and learning well about preventing diseases. And sport and play is critical elements for child's development. So I found we need great global organizations all around the world and in China to help the children."

Right to Play is an international humanitarian organization that uses sport and play programs to improve health, build life skills, and foster peace for children and communities affected by war, poverty and disease. Its programs aim to teach children important life skills and values, educate communities around health issues and disease prevention, encourage integration and tolerance and empower people to make a difference in their communities. It has projects in more than 20 countries in Africa, Asia and the Middle East. Top athletes from more than 40 countries already volunteer their support for the organization.

Renowned Australian swimmer Ian Thorpe, who has won five Olympic gold medals, is a member of "Right to Play".

"In 2000, I donated one of the swimsuits I wore during the 2000 Olympics, and we auctioned it. I've continued to support because I do believe that around the world everybody has the right to play. An important thing is to be able to raise kind of finance and to be able to do good things. A lot of people don't know how to go about it, so this is one of the ways, and there are a lot of Olympic athletes supporting this organization."

Not only foreign athletes, but Chinese athletes too have taken part in the organization. Gao Hong was consistently one of the top goalkeepers in the world and she has been an "athlete ambassador" with Right to Play since the fall of 2005. According to her, about 10,000 children in China have benefited from the organization since the program started in China last year.

In the auction yesterday, Olympic items available for bid included USA Men's and Women's Basketball team autographed team jersey, USA women's gymnastics leotard. There was also a torch with athletes' signatures on it. Finally, the torch was bid by Xu Xiaoping, a teacher. He also got a colour from American's Dream 8 basketball team. He thought it was good opportunity to be part of the Olympics.

"Since we cannot compete in the Olympics, but we can do some contribution by participating in this auction to support charity course Right to Play. It has made much effort to help children to have the fund of sports so it's just one way for me to join the team by getting one or two items."

According to Johann Olav Koss, the funds raised will be used for charity programs such as HIV and AIDS education and prevention in Liberia, development and rehabilitation of safe play spaces in Uganda, and sport and play equipment for children in Azerbaijan. Let us be one with their slogan: When Children Play, the World Wins.

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What do you think will impress foreign visitors the most during the Beijing Olympics?
The friendliness of the Beijing people
The Water Cube and other Olympic venues
The Forbidden City
The Great Wall
Beijing "siheyuan" (Chinese traditional courtyard houses)
Peking Opera
Wangfujing Street
Beijing Roast Duck