World Food Day, hosted by the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) in Rome, was a rather peculiar event. Its worthy goal is to focus attention on the need for all people to have access to affordable, nutritious and safe food, as the periodic Earth Days do for the environment. The focus of this year’s event was food price volatility, a big issue when an estimated one billion people live in chronic hunger.
But in a room filled with besuited diplomats and bureaucrats, the celebrities stole the show.
Jeremy Irons, the Oscar-winning British Actor, was named FAO’s newest goodwill ambassador, joining the likes of Susan Sarandon and Canada’s Celine Dion. Looking lean and elegant, he took a gentle shot at the speakers. “If I did a show as long as this at the theatre, I would be booed,” he said.
In his speech, he wondered how there can be so much hunger when there is so much food, with vast armies of obese people waddling around the developed world. His conclusion is that the problem is not lack of food, “but access to it.”
The post-speech centre of attention wasn’t Mr. Irons but one of Italian cinema’s most famous names -- Gina Lollobrigida -- the sex symbol who starred with Burt Lancaster, Yul Brynner, Frank Sinatra, Rock Hudson and other lucky leading men in a string of romantic comedies and dramas.
Her movie career slowed down in the 1970s, but she kept going as a photojournalist, sculptor, political activist and, since 1999, FAO goodwill ambassador. Ever the star, Ms. Lollobrigida arrived at FAO in a flashy red sports car donated by Ferrari -- which will be auctioned off to finance FAO projects in Africa. Clad in an elegant red overcoat, black dress and glittering jewelry, she looked well younger than her 84 years and posed patiently for endless pictures and autographs. Then, this being World Food Day, everyone went to lunch.