Every two years the Olympic Games come round for the world’s sports fans to be distracted from their everyday activity with a couple of weeks of competition that inspires millions of young people all over the world to participate. In Ancient Greece, the Games were always accompanied by a ceasefire in war. The UN calls on the same thing to happen in the modern era.
As is now customary the UN issued a call in November 2011 for the traditional age-old truce to be observed during this summer’s Olympics in London, urging warring parties around the world to lay down their arms as the Games’ ancient Greek founders did some 2,700 years ago.
In a resolution co-sponsored by all 193 Member States, the General Assembly exhorted all nations to observe the Olympic Truce individually and collectively for six weeks, starting with the opening of the XXX Olympiad on 27 July and ending with the closing of the XIV Paralympic Games for disabled athletes on 9 September.
It called on Member States “to cooperate with the International Olympic Committee (IOC) and the International Paralympic Committee in their efforts to use sport as a tool to promote peace, dialogue and reconciliation in areas of conflict during and beyond the Olympic and Paralympic Games period.” The resolution has itself become a tradition at the UN, being passed every two years preceding the holding of the Summer and Winter Games respectively.
“The fact that the resolution was co-sponsored by all 193 UN Member States shows how much they support the idea of mobilizing the unique potential of sport to advance development and peace objectives, thus providing all actors – including the UN, governments, NGOs (non-government organizations), sports federations – with an ever stronger basis for continuing to leverage that power and to strengthen their collaboration.” Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon’s Special Adviser on Sport for Development Wilfried Lemke said.
Lord Sebastian Coe, double Olympic gold medallist and chair of the London 2012 Organizing Committee, introduced the resolution on behalf of the United Kingdom. “It would be folly to suggest that sport provides a complete answer, a panacea for all our social ills,” he said. “But it can and does help to mend broken communities, rebuild trust, rediscover self-respect, and foster the values at the core of our common humanity.”
A campaign is being promoted from the UK to raise awareness about the Olympic truce with a facebook group inviting people around the world to contribute with their art (https://www.facebook.com/groups/olympictruce/). The campaign has already attracted over 7000 members.
A Ray of Hope, UNESCO Youth Ambassador for the Culture of Peace declared, “Why are we supporting the Olympic Truce? Because in ancient Greece, the Olympic Truce enabled athletes to travel unhindered through the lands of traditional enemies to and from the Olympic Games. So, during intense physical competition, there was created the spirit of ekecheiria, the holding of hands in peace. In 1993, the UN General Assembly agreed to the International Olympic Committee’s appeal to revive the Olympic Truce, to mobilise youth in the cause of peace. So, in the Olympic Village in London, the flags of the United Nations and the Olympic Truce will fly together.”
The UN is also organising a forum in London on the 14th of July. Taking place in the lead-up to the Games, the event will consider the potential for sport to contribute to UN goals, with dedicated sessions on the Olympic Truce and sport as a tool for development. The programme also includes a session on “How to work towards a world free of nuclear weapons.” http://www.una.org.uk/un-forum201
World without Wars and Violence, the International Humanist Organisation, today gave its backing to the UN initiative. “Of course there are arguments in these economic times that the Olympics are a huge waste of money, and the idea of States competing for supremacy is one that, for us, needs aligning to the ideals of a Universal Human Nation without borders or passports. Nevertheless any attempt to shine a spotlight on the need for ceasefires in armed conflict is one that we support. Today the world is spending trillions of dollars on weapons and the military and this money could be much better spent on health, education, human development, environmental sustainability and, of course, sport as a recreational activity that enables human beings to develop their bodies, their minds and their competitive spirit in such a way that it allows them to be the best they can be.”