World of sport rises to relief challenge

Federer at the Thai Open in Bangkok last year Keystone

World number one Roger Federer has called on fellow tennis players to join other sports stars in raising money for victims of the Asian tsunami disaster.

This content was published on January 11, 2005 - 13:51

His appeal comes after Switzerland’s Adolf Ogi, the United Nations special adviser on sport, urged athletes around the world to help rebuild the region.

Federer, who won the 23rd tournament of his career in Qatar on Saturday, said tennis players should follow the example set by the world’s top cricketers.

They played a one-day international in Melbourne, Australia, on Monday which raised more than $10.7 million (SFr12.5 million) for the relief effort.

“I was thinking straightaway about different options for us to help,” said the 23-year-old Swiss star.

“If we can help just a bit, then I’d definitely play as much as they [the organisers] like. Obviously we can’t be there to help, but I’ll play in as many matches as possible throughout the year.”

More than 150,000 people are estimated to have died in the tidal waves triggered by an undersea earthquake off the Indonesian island of Sumatra on December 26.

Message of support

Federer, who hails from Basel, posted a message of support for the victims on his website within 48 hours of the catastrophe.

He said he had developed a strong bond with the region, having won the Thai Open in Bangkok and holidayed in the Maldives and the Thai resort of Phuket, which were both struck by tidal waves.

“I would like to give expression with all my heart to my hope that the situation in the affected areas can get back to normal as soon as possible,” he wrote.

“I wish that all those suffering and left homeless find the necessary strength to get over this dreadful situation.”

Reconstruction effort

Former Swiss cabinet minister Adolf Ogi, who is coordinating the 2005 UN Year of Sport, appealed to the sporting world to help reconstruct countries affected by the disaster.

“The international Year of Sport should have got off to a joyful start. It has begun in chaos and desolation,” said Ogi, who was appointed head of the UN’s Sport for Development and Peace Office in 2001.

“Everyone is devastated by this unprecedented catastrophe. A wave of solidarity must respond to this wave of destruction.”

Ogi mapped out three ways to help: financial contributions to the aid effort; joint projects with clubs and sporting associations in affected countries; and the mobilisation of volunteers to help the reconstruction effort.

On Monday the Lausanne-based International Volleyball Federation (FIVB) said it would donate $3 million to the UN to assist in relief work.

“We are going to contribute to rebuilding schools and playing fields in the affected regions, which are home to more than eight million volleyball players,” said Rubén Acosta, the federation’s president.

He added that the federation would also support sports programmes for children orphaned and traumatised by the catastrophe.

“Sport can lead the fight to win back life in southeast Asia,” said Ogi, welcoming the donation.

Sporting pledges

The FIVB pledge outstrips the $1 million given by the Geneva-based International Olympic Committee and the $2 million promised by Fifa, world soccer’s governing body, whose headquarters are in Zurich.

Fifa also plans to organise a high-profile charity match to raise money for the aid effort, although details have not yet been announced.

Other sports individuals and organisations have made major contributions to charities joining in the unprecedented global effort to help nations hit by the tsunami.

Seven-time Formula One champion Michael Schumacher, who lives in Switzerland, has pledged $10 million to Germany’s aid efforts.

One of Schumacher’s bodyguards was among those killed when the tsunami struck Phuket.

swissinfo with agencies

In brief

Switzerland’s Roger Federer wants the tennis world to help raise money for tsunami victims.

His comments come as sports personalities and organisations in Switzerland and abroad pledge money to the relief effort.

Former cabinet minister Adolf Ogi, the UN special adviser on Sport for Development and Peace, says the world of sport has a big role to play in getting the region back on its feet.

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