Visa International

"Visa Olympics of the Imagination" Offers Young Artists a Chance to Attend the Olympic Games - Visa International Hosting Successful Program in Sixth Olympic Games

    SAN FRANCISCO, CA (ots) - Visa International, a worldwide partner and the official payment system of the ATHENS 2004 Olympic Games, today announced the sixth "Visa Olympics of the Imagination" international youth art competition that will send 30 children from 16 participating countries to the ATHENS 2004 Olympic Games as guests of Visa.

    The program was launched at the 1994 Olympic Winter Games in Lillehammer, Norway. Over the past five Olympic Games, Visa Olympics of the Imagination (VOI) has seen nearly a million school children, ages 9 through 13, submit an original piece of art based on selected themes. One hundred and seventy-five young artists from 35 countries already have attended the Olympic Games as guests of Visa.

    For the ATHENS 2004 Olympic Games, the children will be asked to create artwork that represents "How the Olympic Games Can Help Create a Better Future." The program will be run in participating countries beginning August 2003 through January 2004, and the winners will be announced in March 2004. The program in China was launched on Monday, 4 August 2003.

    "This unique program provides children of diverse backgrounds with the exclusive opportunity to attend the Games while they learn about Olympic values, view different cultures and participate in onsite Olympic activities," said Tom Shepard, executive vice president, Global Marketing Partnerships and Sponsorship, Visa International. "The Visa Olympics of the Imagination program gives children, who might not otherwise have a chance to be involved with the Olympics, a way to participate through art and learning, and experience the thrills of the Games. Visa is proud to be sponsoring this one-of-a-kind program again."

    The winners of the program and a parent or guardian will attend the ATHENS 2004 Olympic Games as the guests of Visa in Athens, Greece, from 12-17 August 2004. While at the XXVIII Olympiad, they will attend a number of Olympic events and activities, will participate in local activities and will have the opportunity to sightsee and explore Athens.

    "Olympic athletes must first have the imagination to win at their sport before they can excel physically and mentally. This ability is developed at an early age, and the Visa Olympics of the Imagination fosters such thinking," said IOC President Jacques Rogge. "For nine years and through five Olympic Games, Visa has encouraged involvement of youth in the Olympic Movement with the full support of the International Olympic Committee. We look forward to meeting the children and seeing their artwork in Athens next year, and we congratulate Visa on creating and managing this wonderful program."

    VOI winners will be selected from Canada, China, seven European counties (including Italy, Greece, Germany, and Norway), Mexico, Poland, Romania, Russia, Saudi Arabia, South Africa, and the Ukraine.

    Artwork of past winners can be found at

    Visa expects hundreds of thousands of entries for the 2004 Olympic Games. Judging will be based on originality, imagination, artistic merit, and how well their art communicates the theme "How the Olympic Games Help Create a Better Future."

    The young VOI winners will have their winning art displayed at a special exhibition in Athens during the Games and featured on screen savers, postcards and other materials. Individual countries will also hold displays of the artwork locally.

    One top VOI "Best of Show" winner will be selected in Athens based on artistic merit. That child will earn a special trip for two to the 2006 Winter Olympic Games in Torino, Italy. Miss Joan Ho, 13, from Canada, was chosen "Best of Show" during the 2002 Olympic Winter Games in Salt Lake City for her painting titled "We've All Got What It Takes," and will accompany this year's program winners to the ATHENS 2004 Olympic Games.

    The program will be promoted through multi-tiered marketing and public relations campaigns worldwide, integrating extensive in- school outreach, with cross promotions involving news media and Visa member financial institutions and their merchants.

    Contest Materials

    Contest entry forms and posters will be distributed to banks and schools in each participating country. In most participating countries, in-school materials will feature a teachers' guidebook that combines the history and images of the Olympic Movement and Olympic Games with creative in-class exercises.

    VOI History

    Originally, the Olympic Games were as much a matter of art as athleticism, with poets, musicians, painters and sculptors competing for medals alongside athletes. Baron Pierre de Coubertin, the founder of the modern Olympic Movement, was keen to revive the link and in 1906 awarded gold, silver and bronze medals for five artistic competitions. Because of the two world wars, these contests were held only sporadically until 1949, when they were dropped altogether and replaced by Olympic cultural programs.

    Visa began its Olympic Games sponsorship in 1986 and since then has sponsored four Olympic Games (Seoul, Barcelona, Atlanta, and Sydney) and five Olympic Winter Games (Calgary, Albertville, Lillehammer, Nagano, and Salt Lake City). In Athens, Visa continues its Olympic sponsorship role as a Worldwide Partner and the exclusive card and the official payment system for the ATHENS 2004 Olympic Games in Athens, Greece.

    The ATHENS 2004 Olympic Games will be held from 13-29 August 2004. Up to 10'500 athletes and 5'500 officials from 200 countries are expected to take part in 37 Olympic sports and sports disciplines. They will be joined by 10'000 media, who will provide various forms of coverage for an estimated worldwide audience of 3.5 billion people.

    About Visa

    Visa is the world's leading payment brand generating US$2.5 trillion in annual card sales volume. Visa has unsurpassed acceptance in more than 150 countries. The Visa organization plays a pivotal role in developing innovative payment products and technologies to benefit its 21'000 member financial institutions and their cardholders. Visa is a leader in Internet based payments and is pioneering the creation of u-commerce, or universal commerce -- the ability to conduct commerce anywhere, anytime and any way. For more information, visit

ots Originaltext: Visa
Mike Sherman
Company: Visa
Phone:    +1-650-432-3923
Mobile:  +1-650-483-2641
Mary Rudkin
Phone:    +61-405-575-361

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