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FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
PR- 366-04
December 31, 2004

MAYOR MICHAEL R. BLOOMBERG HONORS EIGHT OF THE WORLD'S GREATEST ATHLETES IN NEW YORK AS CITY RINGS IN THE NEW YEAR

Ian Thorpe, George Weah Headline Star-Studded Lineup; New NYC2012 Ad to Debut during Countdown to 2005

Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg and NYC2012 today hosted a breakfast at the Bryant Park Grill in honor of eight of the world's greatest athletes representing all five Olympic continents, who traveled to New York City to be in Times Square for New Year's Eve and to show support for New York's bid for the 2012 Games. The athletes include Australian swimmer Ian Thorpe, gymnast Nadia Comaneci of Romania, Liberian football great George Weah, triple-jumper Francoise Mbango Etone of Cameroon, diver Gao Min of China, hurdler Felix Sanchez of the Dominican Republic, and Paralympian swimmer Trischa Zorn and gymnast Bart Conner, both from the United States.

"It is a remarkable privilege to have these great athletes from all around the globe join us in New York City as we look forward to a healthy and happy New Year," said Mayor Bloomberg. "From all corners of the world they join a million people at the 'Crossroads of the World' to celebrate the past year and to look forward to the coming year.  These athletes demonstrate that, no matter who you are or where you are from, sport provides everyone an equal opportunity to excel based on ability, determination and drive.  The Olympic Games unite us all with respect for our common humanity and the heroic deeds of these athletes who each pursue their personal dreams."

A portion of the program in Times Square on New Year's Eve will include an Olympic theme as NYC2012 unveils its first ad for the international phase of the bid process, titled "Bugler's Dream," at 9:00 PM (EST) as the crowd builds towards the midnight hour. "Bugler's Dream" captures New York's passion for hosting the 2012 Games through the eyes and instruments of New York City musicians and performance artists.  It was created entirely pro-bono by New York ad agency Young and Rubicam, director Joe Pytka and New York's commercial production industry, with assistance from the Mayor's Office of Film, Theatre & Broadcasting.  "Bugler's Dream" will start airing in January on local stations through donated time by the television industry.

During the New Year's Eve celebration in Times Square, the crowd will be given NYC2012 flags as part of a huge show of support to showcase the energy and enthusiasm for a New York Games, and the athletes will lead the countdown to the premiere of the spot. The athletes, who represent the more than 100 international athletes, Olympians and Paralympians from around the world who support New York's bid, include:

  • Ian Thorpe is perhaps one of the most popular Olympians ever. At the 2000 Games in Sydney, Australia, he won three gold and two silver medals, and in 2004, he followed up his Sydney performance with two gold, one silver and one bronze medal in Athens.  In 2000, he established Ian Thorpe's Fountain for Youth, a trust with the goal of providing children in need with the opportunity to live healthy and fulfilling lives.

  • Nadia Comaneci from Romania, scored the first perfect ten in the history of gymnastics in 1976 before a frenzied crowd in New York City's Madison Square Garden. She went on to become an international media darling with seven more perfect scores during the 1976 Games in Montreal, taking home three gold medals, one silver and one bronze. Four years later she won two gold medals, two silver and a bronze at the 1980 Games in Moscow. An inspiration to gymnasts who have followed in her footsteps, Comaneci is currently a gymnastics coach.

  • George Weah became an icon in Africa through his amazing talent in football (soccer) and his selfless devotion to the welfare of his continent.  Attributing his success to the people of Liberia, Weah is the only African ever named FIFA Player of the Year (1995) and European Football Player of the Year (1995), among many other prestigious awards. He was also named African Football Player of the Century in 1998.  Because of his role as a UNICEF Ambassador and his commitment to the welfare of his people, Weah is often mentioned as a future candidate to lead Liberia.

  • Francoise Mbango Etone hails from Cameroon, and has participated in two Olympic Games, Sydney in 2000 and Athens in 2004, in the triple jump, coming away with the gold medal in Athens.  In Athens, she produced one of the finest championship series in history, recording five jumps over 15 meters, twice hitting the winning distance of 15.30 to reclaim her African triple jump record along with the gold. She has been awarded a scholarship to the prestigious DeKalb International Training Center in Atlanta, Georgia.

  • Gao Min from China is one of the most dominant divers in the history of the sport.  Undefeated in world competition on the 3-meter springboard between 1986 and 1992 (including Olympic Games gold medals both in 1988 in Seoul and 1992 in Barcelona). During those seven years, she was named the Woman's World Springboard Diver of the Year every year. She also tied the legendary Greg Louganis by receiving the most international awards on one board.  These accomplishments made Min one of the most prestigious athletes of her era and a national hero in China. She is currently the head diving coach at the Kinsman Pool in Edmonton, Alberta, Canada.

  • Felix Sanchez is a New York native from the ethnically-diverse Washington Heights neighborhood in Upper Manhattan. Sanchez is a dual citizen of the Dominican Republic and the U.S. He won the first Olympic gold medal ever for the Dominican Republic at the 2004 Olympic Games in Athens in the 400-meter hurdles. He also won the 2000 NCAA 400-meter title while at USC and was named the 2003 USA Track & Field News Athlete of the Year.

  • Trischa Zorn, a California native, is the most decorated Paralympian in the history of the Paralympic Games with a remarkable 55 medals in swimming (forty-one gold, nine silver and five bronze) during a career that has spanned every Paralympic Games since 1980 - seven in total. In 1988, she was nominated as a candidate for Sports Illustrated Woman of the Year. With all her accomplishments, she counts two other honors among her highest achievements - being an Academic All-American all four years at the University of Nebraska and being the first visually impaired athlete to earn a Division I scholarship.

  • Bart Conner was a U.S. national team member for three Olympic Games, winning 2 gold medals at the Los Angeles Games in 1984. One of the more popular male gymnasts in the history of the U.S., Conner also starred on the collegiate level at the University of Oklahoma, winning the individual NCAA all-around title in 1978, as well as helping the school win the team championship that year. He retired after the 1984 Games to become a television commentator and to open his own gymnastics academy in Norman, Oklahoma.

An Olympic Games in New York would leave a powerful legacy that will restore New York's connection to Olympic sports, creating new world-class venues, training centers for elite athletes and renovated fields for youth.  Additionally, the Games would spur the largest single investment in parks and recreational facilities in the City's history and bring a regional economic impact of over $12 billion and over 135,000 jobs.  New York is competing against four other cities for the right to host the Olympic Games in 2012: London, Madrid, Moscow and Paris. The International Olympic Committee will name the Host City for the 2012 Games on July 6, 2005.







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