As the international professional tennis caravan stopped off today at United Nations Headquarters in New York for the men's and women's singles draws for the United States Open, a senior UN official spotlighted the shared values of tolerance, teamwork and respect.
Under-Secretary-General for Communications and Public Information Shashi Tharoor said the world of sport can play a key role in achieving sustainable development and other global goals.
Mr. Tharoor said leading sportsmen and sportswomen have strongly supported the UN's efforts to reduce poverty, help children and fight diseases such as HIV/AIDS.
"By its very nature, sport is about participation and inclusion. It is a way of bringing individuals and communities together, as players and audience, showcasing what we have in common and bridging differences," he said in a speech at the draw ceremony.
"Like you in the world of sports, the UN upholds the principles of tolerance, cooperation, understanding and respect."
This year's theme of the International Day of Peace, which the UN observes on 21 September, is "Peace through sport," and 2005 has been designated the International Year for Sport and Physical Education.
This was the second consecutive year that the draw ceremony for the US Open, one of four Grand Slam tournaments in tennis, was held at UN Headquarters - the inspiration for the venue came from Vijay Amritraj, a former top tennis player from India and, since 2000, a UN Messenger for Peace.
Mr. Amritraj told the UN News Centre that sport, along with music, is among the most effective methods of communicating across cultural, national, ethnic or religious divides.
“If you’re competing at the highest level, it doesn’t matter where you’re from, or what your background, religion or nationality is. It just matters how good you are,” he said.
“And if you’re an average person playing sport, well then it’s the best way to communicate with people...anywhere in the world, if you go to a public park somewhere, you can be invited to play - and the next thing you’re having dinner with these people. It’s a wonderful way to make friends.”
Wearing national dress, UN tour guides from Bangladesh, China, Colombia, the Republic of Korea, Syria and Zimbabwe helped US Open officials conduct the draws to determine the singles match-ups at this year's tournament, which starts on Monday.
Mr. Tharoor was the first person to reach into the trophies and select a chip with number corresponding to one of the US Open players. He chose Russia's Anastasia Myskina, the French Open singles champion and one of the leading contenders in the women's singles.