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Basketball Star Yao Ming Becomes First UNEP Champ

Basketball star Yao Ming becomes first UN Environmental Champion

9 August 2008 - The Olympic athlete and Chinese basketball star Yao Ming has become the United Nations Environment Programme's (UNEP) first-ever Environment Champion, the agency announced today in Beijing.

Mr. Yao will work with young people around the world to raise awareness about green issues and to try to inspire them to plant trees, use energy-efficient light bulbs, harvest rain water and personally advocate for a healthier environment, UNEP said in a press release.

Mr. Yao has become a national icon in his homeland and carried the Chinese flag in last night's opening ceremony of the Beijing Olympics, where he will compete. He also plays for the Houston Rockets in the National Basketball Association (NBA) in the United States.

"I am delighted and greatly honoured to accept" the offer of UNEP, Mr. Yao said, pledging to "work with governments, the private sector and the public to promote good and effective management of our environment so we can preserve the planet for future generations."

Noting the joint efforts of the Beijing Olympics and UNEP, he called on the organizers of all major sports events to ensure they use public transport, build proper waste management systems and use greener forms of energy.

"I sincerely believe small actions done by many over a long period of time can really bring about positive change. By doing a little now, we can avoid doing a lot later."

UNEP Executive Director Achim Steiner welcomed Mr. Yao's decision to become an Environment Champion.

"As one of the most high-profile athletes in these Games and with a fan base of millions across the world, I am sure he can help us raise public awareness on the environment and climate change issues," Mr. Steiner said.

ENDS

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