I was delighted to not worry about braving New York City traffic to get to the 4th Clinton Global Initiative since Kaiser Network was webcasting the whole thing live starting at 10am today.
Okay, so among the audience were 60 heads of state, 5 Nobel laureates, more than 100 CEO's, other leaders of the world...blah blah...
So then began the Opening Plenary.
Bill Clinton called Lance Armstrong and Mayor Bloomberg to the stage after introducing his cancer initiative.
"This commitment is to broaden the scope and reach of the Armstrong Foundation from a national to an international effort to support cancer survivors and make cancer an international priority. "
"Its an 8 million dollar effort over 5 years to launch an international awareness campaign and create grassroots movements in countries across the globe, to convene the Livestrong Global Cancer Summit in Paris at the end of the 2009 Tour de France, where world leaders will commit to making cancer a priority in their countries."
Lets just hope Lance and his brigadiers won't smash the traditional Paris ending at the Tour. Its still about the race, you know.
"This is an exceptional commitment by an exceptional person", concluded Clinton before stepping off.
Lance was then given the opportunity to speak. He didn't waste any time to start reminiscing how much he missed seeing the massive Magnolia tree in the White House Rose Garden that changed a 7 minute private time limit with the former President to almost an hour (the same lines he told to Vanity Fair). What goes on in the Rose Garden, stays in the Rose Garden.
Well Lance, we would rather that you not talk about trees and grass anymore. Look, get on the bike. And stay away from vegetation. Have you looked at your water bill lately, sir? No more Magnolia trees for you!
Anyway, Lance then said something about the idea that "we have the medicine and the technology to save lives but we do not apply it. If we're not applying the medicines we have, we're failing morally and ethically."
Lance, the terrible fact is, the rich-poor divide unfortunately brings these medicines and technology only to the doorstep of the rich. And major multi-billion dollar drug companies find it more profitable to TREAT as opposed to CURE and ROUT out cancer as long as they have the ability to patent, sell and make profit. Why is there so much indifference to cancer prevention? And wouldn't we all be economically better off if there was no cancer at all? I'm hoping whatever you're planning out addresses root causes as well.
Then his speech slipped into cycling. "For some of you who may have not heard, I have decided to race my bicycle again."
He added that he feels, "racing my bicycle all around the world is the best way to get the word on cancer out."
"Its no different from when Bono goes out to concerts, he talks about these issues (like poverty)"
I see. So you take his concert idea, and he takes your wristband idea in return. Fair trade.
Lance continued about how a single person won't help, and the importance of partnerships.
"Partnerships make it possible.."
Armstrong referred to his partnerships such as with the Nike corporation, whose sale of Livestrong wristbands results in '100%' of all proceeds going to the cancer cause.
"I may not guarantee an 8th Tour victory" and ended his words by saying "..but I will guarantee that the Livestrong message will touch all aspects of society."
Lance, why shying away from an 8th Tour win? Didn't this race kick start your engine well? Bill Stapleton has more optimism than you. But then again, he can't ride a bike.
Lance handed the spot to Mayor Bloomberg who gave his support to Lance's effort.
"This time, its not to win.... but to beat... and its beating cancer thats the real objective."
Somewhere at that point, he looks to Lance and apparently jokes, speaking of his unshaken belief in Lance's cancer initiative:
"Its.. just like riding a bike, you get on and pedal....what's so complicated about all of this?"
Nice one, Mayor. The global politics of cancer...all these team shufflings, and signings and sign offs, all the shakeups going on across the Atlantic from the riders to the fans to the broadcasters to the Tour organizers, all the people who're upset and worried about Lance coming back and putting his legacy on the line, the others who don't want to see him again.... yeah, what is so complicated right?
"With this latest comeback, Lance has come up with an innovative way to galvanize awareness about cancer."
No he didn't. He took Bono's idea. :)
"I will make sure that this opportunity is not wasted. Between now and July next year, my foundation will work with Lance and Livestrong to ensure that when people watch the Tour, they consider cancer prevention."
But will this mean our TV sets in July will be flooded with advertisements left and right?
"..part of our partnership [with Lance] will focus on the anti-tobacco initiatives that my own foundation has launched around the world.."
"We know how to reduce tobacco use, but what we need is the political and community leadership to get it done."
"Only 5% of the world's population is covered by any of the most effective strategies like taxes on tobacco, smoking bans and hard hitting commercials....."
"....that's why my foundation has commited 375 million dollars to empower and encourage governments to take action and make their countries smoke free, and that's why I was thrilled to have enlisted the help of the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation which has contributed another 125 million dollars to this effort."
He talks a bit about why he was unpopular with his smoke free city plan, and how he's been able to reduce teenage smoking in the city by over 50% as a result. True or false?
Finally, the "Lance, you're my hero" lines don't fall out of place.
"Lance is our hero for the day, and for the week, and for the month, for the year, and for all time."
Claps and cheers go around and Clinton gets the mic to say some final, serious words.
"We have been friends for a long time...but I want to say something...."
"The world has its fair share of genuine victims, from the genocide, the children in the conflict, the horrible things that have happened to the people in Darfur, the people hit in Haiti and elsewhere in the recent natural disasters...."
"But its better if the smallest number of them possible think about themselves as victims...and instead think about what they can do to change their own circumstances, to seize control of their own destiny, to build a different future."
And what power do they have to do so to change circumstances? They need help.
"The thing I've always admired about Lance Armstrong [from selling bracelets around the world and surviving cancer and all that], is that the whole message is that do not think about yourself as a victim"
Finally, Clinton concludes about Lance, "He's a walking advertisement that works!"
And that was it. Both the Mayor and cycling ex-champion Lance walked off.
Little else was said about what his "Global Cancer Initiative" is afterall and how he and his team plans on raising the said 8 million dollars from.
Lets hope the follow up press conferences (I hear its packed!) and tomorrow are more fruitful. Pay attention to Interbike.
UPDATE : I couldn't listen to the post press interviews. But I found this on Velonews :
"I look forward to racing with him [Contador]," he said. "Alberto is the best rider on the planet right now. We have to understand that, have to respect that. I'm not sure I can ride that fast right now. I hope it works out."
Is it just me or is the waning confidence a little obvious?
He also denied reports that he was angling to purchase Amaury Sport Organization (ASO), owner of the Tour and other prestigious events, quipping:
"First of all, I don't have that kind of money."
Additionally, from the press conference video, he said , "Second of all, its very hard to believe an American, not to mention a Texan, can buy that event. I'm not aware of anybody who plans to buy ASO or a percentage of ASO."
Whichever clever journalist at Sydney Morning Herald decided to perpetrate that junk...