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An Olympic Winner Turns His Victory Into Child's Play

I’m Steve Ember with the VOA Special English Development Report.

The twentieth Winter Olympics have just ended in Turin, Italy. But for some possible future Olympians, the games are about to begin with help from an American speed skater.

Joey Cheek won a gold medal in the five hundred meter event. And he won a silver medal in the one thousand meter race. The United States Olympic Committee gave him forty thousand dollars in prize money. Twenty-five thousand dollars for his gold medal, and fifteen thousand for the silver.

Joey Cheek announced that he was giving the money to the international group Right to Play. This group is based in Toronto, Canada. It brings sports and play to children in developing countries. Olympic and professional athletes from around the world help support Right to Play with their time and money.

Right to Play uses athletes as ambassadors. It says star athletes are not only the heroes of children, they can also influence decision makers.

The group says well-designed sports and play programs help children develop physically, mentally and socially. Sports can help create connections between children and adults. They can also bring children together to learn teamwork, conflict resolution and cultural understanding. For example, Right to Play has programs in Israel and the Palestinian territories.

In parts of Africa, the group uses sports as a way to build community support for national health campaigns. It says a new project in Sri Lanka and Indonesia will work with people affected by the tsunami in December of two thousand four. Right to Play also has programs in Azerbaijan, Pakistan and Thailand.

Right to Play began as Olympic Aid. It started as a way to show support for people in areas of war and crisis and collect money for them. The Lillehammer Olympic Organizing Committee came up with the idea. That was in preparation for the nineteen ninety-four Winter Games in Lillehammer, Norway.

The president and chief executive officer of Right to Play is Johann Olav Koss. He has four gold medals in speed skating, three of them from Lillehammer.

Right to Play says it reaches more than five hundred thousand children each week.

Its Web site is w-w-w dot righttoplay, all one word, dot com.

This VOA Special English Development Report was written by Jill Moss. Read and listen to our reports at I’m Steve Ember.