UNESCO and SEGAS announced the beginning of their cooperation in view of the 2011 Athens Classic Marathon, during a Press Conference that was held yesterday afternoon in Athens.

This Press Conference was attended by the President of SEGAS, Vassilis Sevastis, the Chairman of the Athens Classic Marathon Organizing Committee, Kostas Panagopoulos, the Ambassador and Permanent Delegate of Greece to UNESCO, Theodore Passas, as well as the President of the Hellenic National Commission for UNESCO, Aikaterini Tzitzikosta.

The Chairman of the Athens Classic Marathon Organizing Committee, Kostas Panagopoulos, stated: “This is a very special Press Conference. We all know by now that the Athens Classic Marathon is not just a major sport event. It is much more than that; it is a bridge between the past and history, the present and the ideals and values that this races promotes.
The legacy of last year’s event, during which we honored the anniversary of the 2,500 years from the Marathon Battle, is of major importance, especially as far as it concerns the relation that was created between the event and the local society, as well as its appeal to the world movement of Marathon runners. The Hellenic Athletics Federation, which is the Organizer of the Athens Classic Marathon event, has decided to exploit and expand this legacy to the maximum. On that basis, we decided to connect this year’s Athens Classic Marathon with values of unique meaning, especially during the difficult period we are going through. These are the values that we intent to spread out during the race as well as before it, and invite everyone to embrace them through a wide charity program that we will be launching.
As you very well know, SEGAS has already developed a charities’ program over the last years in cooperation with runners’ clubs as well as Charities Organizations. However, what is going to happen this year is much bigger and quite different. This is going to be what the Athens Classic Marathon is all about. And by all means, we could not ask for a better and more trusting partner in this project than UNESCO.”

Ms Aikaterini Tzitzikosta, was the next person to address the audience. “Our constructive cooperation with SEGAS started after the end of the 2010 Athens Classic Marathon following an initiative of the Hellenic National Commission for UNESCO. Today, we are in the pleasant position to officially announce this cooperation, which will be sealed in Paris on June 20, 2011. During the meeting of the UNESCO Executive Board in Paris that day, Ms Vassilis Sevastis will announce the framework of our cooperation. The significance of the cooperation between the two organizations is also underlined in a letter sent by Ms Irina Bokova, in which she expresses her wish for this cooperation to be expanded in other fields as well in the future.
Being an international organization of the United Nations, UNESCO plays an important role, since it was first founded, in the areas of science, education, communication, respecting at the same time the values of the different cultures. UNESCO works hard in order to inform the general public on these issues and at the same time enforce and coordinate the cooperation among governments and non-governmental authorities at national, continental and international level. It promotes research and develops programs that aim at changing the policies applied in order to face the challenges of the contemporary societies.
However, despite our efforts, millions of children today, mainly girls in Africa, are not given any opportunity to education. Our effort to secure their right to education is one of the biggest moral challenges we are dealing with. On that ground, we suggested to the General Manager of UNESCO to accept part of the 2011 Athens Classic Marathon resources for this program. I am happy to say that she gladly accepted our suggestion. I know, and I experience in my everyday life, the economical, political and social crises that our country is currently facing, within a difficult international background. However, I would like to point that even in such difficult times we should not forget the meaning of contribution, the solidarity and sensitivity we always show towards those who need it, especially in Africa.
Moreover, I would like to underline the cultural and social benefits of the cooperation between UNESCO and SEGAS in the framework of the 2011 Athens Classic Marathon, which is one of the most important sport and social events around the world.”

The President of SEGAS, Vassilis Sevastis, stated: “One of the main aims of our Federation since the last 13 years, apart from developing athletics, is to highlight the values and ideals that are born through sports. We strongly believe that unless sports promote higher values and transmit solidarity messages throughout the society and mostly among the youth, they lose their educational and cultural meaning. On that ground, we wish to spread out the meaning and message of the Athens Classic Marathon not only within our country, but to the entire world.
Today is very important to us, given the international cultural status of UNESCO. I believe that we are all here today because we share the same concerns and have the same aims. I hope that with the support of our two Ambassadors, Mr Oikonomou and Mr Passas, and most of all with the help of Ms Tzitzikosta, the cooperation inaugurated here today will be expanded and will last for many years. This year we have set the Athens Classic Marathon under the service of UNESCO, so that a certain amount of money is collected in order to be used for the programs launched by UNESCO related to the girls in Africa. I really hope that the general public will embrace this initiative. We are also planning for a number of activities in order to promote our goals and collect money for children in Africa. Once more, I would like to thank Ms Tzitzikosta for her contribution which helped us reached this point. I hope that also our two Ambassadors will stand by our side.

Last but not least, Mr Passas stated: “I have to say that as an athlete myself I feel a certain respect and appreciation towards Mr Sevastis, an ex-athlete himself. At the same time, I deeply respect Ms Tzitzikosta for her energy and positive attitude. I also need to say that Mr Oikonomou stands by our side regarding our requests and always in the framework of the possibility we have to produce politics. During this difficult period that our country experiences we need to think again about politics. We need to have ideas. And what proves that better than the perfect idea to connect the Athens Classic Marathon with the goals of UNESCO and more specifically its programs regarding the girls in Africa. In general, I would like say that these programs appeal the overall women’s population, as 2/3 of the 700 millions of people who do not even know how to read are women, as young girls are quite often forced to leave school in order to support their family, get married, have children, etc.
UNESCO, of which I have always wanted to be part, has a fabulous and variable work to show. Its programs are totally connected with the human values. Despite the problems we are facing, Greece is an important partner of UNESCO. What anyone could say about our civilization and history! We need to think positive, and work to our maximum in order to promote these ideals. I would personally say that running a Marathon is a unique experience. I have already run more than 45 Marathon Races.”

Answering questions, Kostas Panagopoulos clarified the fact that the amount of money to be offered to UNESCO will be the highest possible, and in no case less than 100,000 Euros.

Furthermore, Vassilis Sevastis made a request to Ms Tzitzikosta asking her to try its maximum through her contact with the rest of the UNESCO delegations in order for the counties of Africa to send major Marathon Runners to participate or just attend the Athens Classic Marathon this year.

The cooperation between UNESCO and SEGAS will be sealed in Paris on June 20, 2011 through a Memorandum of Understanding to be signed by SEGAS representatives and Ms Irina Bokova, UNESCO General Manager.