[Dateline: Vienna | Author: UNIS Vienna]
Over 1,200 visitors, plus many staff and members of the diplomatic corps flocked to the Vienna International Centre to participate in the kick-off of the 30th birthday celebrations of the United Nations Headquarters in Vienna on Monday.
Throughout the day, the Vienna Visitors Service offered free guided tours and members of the public braved temperatures in the high 20s (celsius) to wait up to an hour to catch a glimpse of the inside of what is referred to locally as "UNO-City".
"I've lived in Vienna all my life and this is the first time I actually get to look inside," several visitors exclaimed, and were happy to learn that public guided tours of the buildings are offered weekdays at 11 a.m. and 2 p.m. throughout the year.
"I remember when this building was first opened!" was also a comment that was heard over and over again.
Announcements on television and radio ensured that many Viennese took advantage of the offer to visit the UN for free and to learn more about the work of the four Vienna-based organizations and the over 4,000 staff who work here.
Commemorating their 30th anniversary, the United Nations Postal Administration (UNPA) launched a special personalized stamp sheet depicting historical and contemporary pictures of the building, as well as the logos of the Vienna-based organizations.
Staff members were also out in force to take advantage of the many special offers by the various vendors in the Visitors Centre: from 50 percent off a cup of coffee, to 10 percent discounts for the flower shop, Women's Guild and Staff Council Souvenir stand - it was a successful day for all.
UNOV General Support Services had arranged for the production of special commemorative coffee mugs, and handed out flags and balloons to all visitors.
The culmination of the day was a performance of "Happy Birthday" sung in English and German by the children of the VIC Child Care Centre.
Austrian Permanent Representative Ambassador Helmut Böck congratulated the VIC and its occupants on the occasion of this 30th birthday and pointed out that the long queue of people waiting to get in was a good measure to show that the work of the United Nations is still highly relevant, that there is much interest among the general public in the work done here and also that the VIC - despite the necessary security measures - remains a place where peoples and cultures meet and come together on common ground.
UNIS Vienna Director Maher Nasser thanked all participants and organizers and looked ahead to the culmination of the week's celebrations on 28 August 2009, when Secretary-General BAN Ki-moon, together with the Austrian Federal President Heinz Fischer and Federal Minister for European and International Affairs, Michael Spindelegger, will attend a special ceremony in the VIC's M building.