As 120 world leaders gather in New York this week for the UN general assembly and take the podium for their moment in the spotlight, we’re sure get some interesting tidbits – and some unscripted moments.
While leaders are officially allotted 15 minutes each, the limit doesn’t appear to mean much. The award for the longest ever speech goes to Cuba’s Fidel Castro, who in 1960 spoke for a full 4hr 29min – but can that record be broken?
As we sit back and wait for the latest from the chamber, let’s look back at some of the craziest moments from years past.
Here are five of the top laughworthy – or cringeworthy – moments:
2009: After being introduced as the “king of kings of Africa”, the late Libyan dictator Muammar Gaddafi gave a speech that ran for more than an hour and a half. In his speech, he suggested that UN headquarters should be moved to Libya to spare world leaders the agonies of jet lag and the intense security at New York's airports.
Gaddafi brought his own translator along for the occasion, claiming he would be speaking a special dialect; 75 minutes into his speech, the interpreter reportedly collapsedand cried, "I just can’t take it any more," and had to be replaced by a second translator. The infamous leader then brought his remarks to a close by tearing up a copy of the UN charter and throwing it over his shoulder.
2006: Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez took the podium a day after then US President George W Bush, and wasted no time condemning US foreign policy and, well, the president himself. Chavez said, in what seems were unscripted remarks: “The devil came here yesterday. Right here. Right here. And it smells of sulphur still today.”
In case it wasn't clear who he was referring to, Chavez drove it home, saying, “Yesterday, ladies and gentlemen, from this rostrum, the president of the United States, the gentleman to whom I refer as the devil, came here, talking as if he owned the world. Truly. As the owner of the world.”
2002: US President George W Bush, on the warpath against Iraq, made it crystal clear to his fellow world leaders that the US would act, with or without the UN. In so doing, he also managed to question the point of the entire organisation, asking: “Will the United Nations serve the purpose of its founding, or will it be irrelevant?" Not one to let things lie, Bush continued to press his point during a bilateral meeting, when he called on the UN to show some “backbone”.
1973: In his appearance before the UN general assembly, ruthless Ugandan President Idi Amin reportedly "praised" UK prime minister Edward Heath by likening him to Adolf Hitler. Amin, who had previously expressed approval of the Nazi killing of the Jews, quickly shifted his ground under questioning from a journalist, saying that he'd meant to say Heath was like Winston Churchill.
1960: In one of the most talked about – and hotly debated – moments, Soviet premier Nikita Khrushchev removed his right shoe, waved it in the air and then may or may not have banged it loudly on the table over and over again. This reaction came after the premier took offence at a statement by another delegate who said that eastern Europe had been "swallowed up by the Soviet Union" and effectively "deprived of political and civil rights". While there is widespread agreement that Khrushchev took off his shoe, photos cannot confirm whether or not he actually banged it on the table.
Luckily for us, general assembly speeches are now available on YouTube.
Sources: Avaaz, Economist, New York Times, Daily Mail, Chicago Tribune, CNN, UN, Guardian, TIME, BBC