By Marisa Russell
U.N. employees from 104 countries around the world have come together to Hofstra to compete in the United Nations Inter-Agency games, held for the first time in the United States this year.
Hofstra University hosted the opening ceremony Wednesday for the 41st Inter-Agency Games. The University worked together with its surrounding community to put on the opening ceremony and will host many of the sports events over the next few days.
This is the latest prestige to arrive on campus in recent years and was made reality with the help of Melissa Connolly, vice president of University Relations, and Johanna Farrell, marketing coordinator, along with many other University staff and students.
Raquel Cona, a senior and public relations major, is an intern for University Relations at Hofstra who participated in making the event happen.
“This has been a great experience for me because I am a PR major, so I got to learn a lot about the whole event and [how to get] in touch with the different departments on the Hofstra campus to make it happen,” Cona said.
Along with Cona, there were many other student volunteers assisting with checking in the athletes and press, handling details and mingling with all of the people in attendance. Student clubs including the Hofstra Dutchmen and the Imani dance group performed at the opening ceremony, with much applause from the audience.
Nassau County Police Commissioner Thomas Krumpter welcomed all of the athletes on behalf of County Executive Ed Mangano.
“These games personify the true spirit of the United Nations, bringing people of many different nations and cultures together, working as one. We welcome all of the athletes. Represent your nation with pride and build your friendships,” Krumpter said.
The games were highlighted throughout the ceremony, but the spirit of the United Nations and the purpose of the event remained the main topic of everyone’s words. Eric Spielmann is a table tennis player from France and shared his passion for working in this organization.
“It’s really something that is part of my life that has driven me for many years, the idea of achieving something at the end of the day,” Spielmann said.
The atmosphere of the opening ceremony, although brief, was one of general excitement and welcoming.
“The best part is being on the team and being a part of all of this. You meet lots of people working all around the world. You get to spend more time with teammates … it’s so cool,” said Camille Prado, a basketball player also from France.
Every athlete greeted countless others, some reuniting after a year apart, having seen each other at the last games. “This is what unites people around the world,” said Jan Eliasson, deputy secretary general of the U.N.
Eliasson also touched on the events occurring in different areas of the world and the difficulty that many people face on a daily basis. “What you do here today is also a distraction from some of the horrors that we are seeing in today’s world. Many of you and your colleagues are out in the most trying circumstances.”
Spielmann, with his first time visiting the U.S. said, “I received the very first email informing me about the games in, I think, October of last year, so it’s been six months that I was waiting to be here, so I am quite excited.”
Spielmann, like others, mentioned the refreshing nature of the games; being a time of both work and pleasure, “Every day in South Africa you are reminded that you are this or you are that, so it’s a bit good to be here with people of any color… It’s the kind of atmosphere I like,” he said. He also mentioned that he is a fan of rap music, and that being in the center of a place that is a home to rap is an enjoyable experience.
Many of the athletes have participated for many years in the games, while others are participating for the first time. Each athlete, regardless of the experience, was thrilled to be a part of such an incredible community.
Through the words of each speaker, each performer and each athlete, the pride of the U.N.’s mission came to life. Eliasson emphasized the importance of the agency’s nature, “We are the reflection and the mirror of the world as it is, and we don’t like it sometimes. And we are also the reflection and the mirror of the world as it should be,” he said. “The United Nations job, my job, and your job, is to diminish the gap between the world as it is, and the world as it should be.”