World table tennis champion plays for the planet
Nairobi, 24 August 2010 - Proving her table tennis swing remains top-class, 18-time Chinese Olympian Deng Yaping played for the health of the planet on Monday at the Headquarters of the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) in Nairobi. "I love to play table tennis. But here's one thing no one should play with: our planet," she said as she recorded a UNEP public service announcement that will soon be broadcast globally.
By the time she retired at the age of 24, Ms. Deng had won more titles in table tennis than any other player in the sport and was honoured with a coveted spot in the International Table Tennis Federation Hall of Fame in 2003.
She began playing just about the time she could reach the top of the table at age five and never stopped. By the time she went to her first Olympics in 1992 in Barcelona, Spain, she was already a world champion. She took home a gold medal in both the singles and doubles and went on to repeat the feat four years later at the Games in Atlanta, Georgia.
Today, she works with youth as Vice President of the Beijing Youth Federation. It was a natural transition given her young age when she retired, she recalls. "And athletes are good role models for youth. Once they do something, the youth will follow," she adds.
And like the Pied Piper she has become for youth in China, Ms. Deng now hopes they will follow her to protect the environment. "We try to educate youth to do things like to save water and turn off the lights but definitely we can do more to raise awareness about the environment," she says. "We have to make them become the heroes of the Planet."
Ms. Deng pointed out that the Beijing Olympics was a leading factor in bringing environmental awareness to the country on a massive scale. According to the 2009 UNEP Report, Beijing 2008 Olympic Games - Final Environmental Assessment, from reducing air pollution to big investments in public transport and renewable energies, the organizers made major efforts to ensure that the 2008 Games marked a step forward in terms of an eco-friendly mass spectator sporting event.
By the time the preparations were completed, Beijing had kilometers of new railway and metro lines for a cleaner public transport system, some 4,000 new buses were on the roads powered by natural gas, 30 million trees and bushes were planted, some 90 percent of the city's wastewater was treated and some 200 factories had switched to cleaner kinds of production. "Because of the Beijing Olympics, not only adults but also youth had an enhanced understanding of the environment," says Ms. Deng.
Ms. Deng, who was a leading organizer of the 1.7 million youth volunteers working at the Beijing Olympics, congratulated UNEP on its reports before and after the 2008 Games. UNEP has become increasingly active as an environmental advisor for the greening of mass events worldwide, including every Olympics since the Games in Greece in 2004.
Last year, UNEP also released its assessment of Shanghai's efforts to organize an environmentally-friendly Expo 2010 that aims to benefit not only the 70 million expected visitors but also leave a green legacy for the city's over 20 million residents. The report outlined Shanghai's efforts in nine key areas: air quality, transport, energy, solid waste, water, green coverage, protected areas, climate neutrality and the overall situation of the Expo Site.
For more information please contact:
Mia Turner, Information Officer, Tel, +254-20-7625211 and Mobile, +254-710620495, email: Mia.Turner@unep.org