Adolf Ogi says that his appointment as Kofi Annan's special sports advisor shows an increased level of awareness at the United Nations as to the significance of global sport.This content was published on February 28, 2001 - 17:56
"The creation of this new post shows that the UN has recognised the great rise in importance of international sport," Ogi said shortly after his appointment was announced.
Describing his new assignment as an interesting challenge and a major exercise, the former Swiss sports minister gave a recent example of the way in which sport can help to influence the political agenda.
"One only has to think about what happened after the two Koreas marched together at the opening ceremony of the Sydney Olympics," Ogi recalled. "Once again sport got there before politics."
From wartime football matches between opposing armies to Goodwill Games and the Olympic spirit, sport has often been portrayed as a stepping stone towards mutual respect and friendly competition.
But it cannot be overlooked that sport has also on occasion found itself a victim to political enmity, with high ideals devolving into international boycotts or the manipulation of major sporting occasions for national propaganda.
With his experiences of political corridors and sporting arenas, Ogi is clearly seen as a capable man to tackle such potential headaches. His first international success came in his time as director of the Swiss skiing federation, when he presided over Switzerland's medal feast at the 1972 Winter Olympics.
One year earlier Ogi had taken up the vice-president's post on the International Ski Federation's world and European committees, a position which he held until 1983.
Ogi's formal sporting connections were temporarily severed when he joined the Swiss cabinet. But the defence department's takeover of national sporting responsibilities in the mid-1990s saw the man from Kandersteg resume work in his favourite field.
Despite leaving the cabinet at the end of last year, Ogi has been keen to maintain a high profile in the world of sport, most recently presenting medals to Swiss athletes at the world skiing championships in St Anton.
Now Ogi will be looking to win laurels of his own in a job that appears to have been tailor-made for him.
by Mark Ledsom
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