|Contact:||Sunny Mindel / Lynn Rasic (212) 788-2958|
Holly Taylor (Rubenstein Associates) (212) 843-9220
Mayor Rudolph W. Giuliani today joined Brendan Sexton, President of the Times Square Business Improvement District, Jeffrey A. Straus, President of Countdown Entertainment, and John Birmingham of Discover Card, to announce that Muhammad Ali will be the special guest who will signal the ceremonial ball lowering in Times Square on New Year's Eve.
"I am thrilled that Muhammad Ali will help us lead New York City and the rest of the world into the New Year," Mayor Giuliani said. "I will be proud to stand next to him on New Year's Eve as we push the button that will signal the start of an exciting New Year at the Crossroads of the World, in the Capital of the World."
"I have received many honors in my lifetime, but this one is particularly meaningful to me," said Muhammad Ali. "I hope that by officially ringing in the New Year, I will serve as an inspiration to people around the world who will be watching, particularly the children; for they are our greatest hope not only for the New Year but for our entire future."
Muhammad Ali was selected for the New Year's honor not only because of his legendary athletic achievements but also for his personal character and indomitable spirit in the face of adversity and challenges. Forty years after he first gained worldwide recognition as an Olympic champion when he won the gold medal in boxing at the Rome Olympics, Muhammad Ali continues to captivate the world and earn international recognition for his courage to stand up for his beliefs, his outreach to the less fortunate, and his courageous battle against a devastating disease.
Muhammad Ali is committed to assisting domestic and international charities, while he himself fights a battle with Parkinson's disease and lends his time and support to the National Parkinson's Foundation in search for a cure.
"Muhammad Ali is the greatest champion of the spirit of humanity in our lifetime," said Brendan Sexton. "He is not only a sports champion, but an example of how to live life courageously, creatively, and with true kindness to all. It is impossible to express in mere words the gratitude, the joy we feel knowing he will join us on New Year's Eve.
"One of the greatest and most loved individuals of this millennium is the ideal person to lead us into the next millennium," said Jeffrey Straus. "We are honored to have Muhammad Ali welcome the New Year here with us in Times Square."
Muhammad Ali's selection continues a tradition established five years ago by the BID and Countdown Entertainment of honoring outstanding individuals by giving them the opportunity to signal the lowering of the New Year's Eve Ball. This past year, for the Times Square 2000 celebration, Dr. Mary Ann Hopkins, representing the Nobel prize-winning organization, Doctors without Borders, was selected for her group's contributions to alleviating illness and spreading goodwill around the world.
NEW YEAR'S EVE FESTIVITIES & BALL LOWERING
At 11:59 p.m. on December 31st, Muhammad Ali will join Mayor Giuliani and Brendan Sexton on the Countdown Stage in the middle of Times Square to push the Waterford Crystal button that will signal the descent of the Times Square New Year's Eve Ball. More than five hundred thousand people are expected to come to Times Square for the celebration, and more than one billion people worldwide are expected to witness this spectacular event on television.
Since 1904, Times Square has been the center of international attention on New Year's Eve, when The New York Times, which then owned One Times Square, first began the tradition of conducting rooftop celebrations to usher in the New Year.
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