- The Washington Times - Thursday, February 23, 2006

NEW YORK — It was a night for the U.N. Security Council to forget scandals, global conflicts and divisive debates and watch cheerleaders, tumbling acrobats, a lopsided basketball game — and even catch a glimpse of filmmaker Woody Allen.

At the invitation of U.S. Ambassador John R. Bolton, council members headed to Madison Square Garden on Wednesday to watch the New York Knicks get trounced 103-83 by the Miami Heat, their 17th loss in the past 19 games.

“It was a fun game despite the outcome, and I think it gave the ambassadors a real view of what happens in everyday America and gets them out of their bubble,” said Mr. Bolton, who holds the Security Council’s monthlong rotating presidency. “I can’t think of an event that’s both more international … but more American as well.”

To get in the spirit but maintain his neutrality, National Basketball Association Commissioner David Stern handed out red NBA caps to the ambassadors.

“We think that basketball is the international language,” Mr. Stern said. “It’s a sport that was invented in America, but it travels the world. It has been an Olympic sport since 1936, and we have worked with many of the countries here.”

Ambassador Kenzo Oshima of Japan, where the sporting passion is baseball, said he had watched basketball on television but was excited at seeing “the real thing on the ground.”

“I enjoyed it very much,” he said. “But the closest the Knicks came was 10 points behind — a bad night for New York.”

The experience was no first for Chinese Deputy U.N. Ambassador Zhang Yishan. It was in Madison Square Garden that he saw his first basketball game more than 30 years ago — soon after communist China took over the Security Council seat from Taiwan in 1971.

“We have some minutes of being ordinary people,” Mr. Zhang said. “Forget about the security, forget about the peace, you just enjoy yourself.”

The diplomats later attended a VIP dinner where Mr. Allen and his wife, Soon-Yi Previn, were at one table.

“Am I in any danger?” the film director quipped when asked whether he knew he was sharing the room with the Security Council.

Did he want to meet Mr. Bolton or any of the other council ambassadors?

“No, I’m not a very social person,” Mr. Allen said.

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