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  • On the Scene -- UN Adopts Olympic Truce


    10/17/11

    (ATR) The international community pledges to suspend all wars for the 2012 Olympic and Paralympic Games.

    Sebastian Coe addresses the General Assembly. (ATR)
    As part of the 34th plenary meeting of the United Nations General Assembly, the Olympic Truce was adopted Monday without a vote.

    The Truce, reinstated for the 1992 Barcelona Olympics, harkens back to the Ancient Olympics during which the rulers of Greece’s city states would cease all fighting.

    This time around, the resolution was officially titled “Sport for Peace and Development: Building a Peaceful and Better World through Sport and the Olympic Ideal” and was introduced by LOCOG chairman Sebastian Coe.

    “The Truce helps to show the world that peace is a possibility," he said Monday in New York City.

    "It shows the power that sport has to inspire unity, mutual understanding, and respect among different types of people.”

    Coe exhorted all member states of the UN to respect the ideals of the Truce.

    “Countries should feel an obligation to respect the Truce because it holds true to the idea that we can coexist without the need for discrimination and fighting," he urged.

    “It gives us something to strive towards outside of the Olympics and the arena of sport.”

    Coe added: “We always need to search for new ways of thinking and acting. The Olympic Truce, and the Olympic values and the programs that support it, really can promote peace.

    “It would be folly to suggest that sport provides a complete answer, a panacea for all social ills. But it can help to mend broken communities, rebuild trust, rediscover self-respect, and foster the values at the core of our common humanity.”

    IOC member Mario Pescante, who serves as the IOC’s official observer to the UN, closed discussion of the agenda by lauding the role of sport and the Olympics in bringing warring factions together.
    Mario Pescante, the IOC’s official observer to the UN. (ATR)
     
    “The diplomacy of peace has worked on the fields of sport, be it an athletes’ parade at which a people divided by a frontier invented by a war could be together behind the same flag," he said.

    “The case of Germany, united for the first time at the Rome 1960 Games, and of Korea, who paraded with an athlete from the North and one from the South carrying the flag at the Sydney 2000 Games.

    “This is not rhetoric: these are the chronicles of what we have seen during the event that is the Olympic Games, global like none other in these times of globalization.

    Pescante acknowledged the struggle the Olympic Movement has faced in securing peace for the Games.
     
    “Even though during the last century the Olympic Games did not stop wars, but it was wars that stopped the Games, as occurred during the world conflicts that afflicted the 20th century, that spirit of peace, of encounter, of tolerance has been the dominant motive of Olympism’s action,” he said.  

    More recently, conflicts in Afghanistan and Iraq most notably have continued unabated during all Games since 2002.
     
    Perhaps recognizing this history, Cameroon’s delegate assessed the work needed before the 2012 Olympics.

    “It’s quite a task,” he said.
     
    Delegate Speeches

    Following Coe’s presentation, all members of the General Assembly were able to comment on the resolution.

    Representatives from all upcoming Olympic host countries except South Korea spoke to the body. All addressed the work being done for the Olympics and the national priority that the Games have become for their countries.
    LOCOG officials huddle in the Assembly Hall. (ATR)
     
    “We see the selection of Sochi as recognition of the international committee as a sign of our sporting success,” said Vitaly Churkin, Russia’s permanent representative to the UN.

    He noted that his government amended laws in Russia to stage the Olympics and has worked hard to protect the “unique natural environment of the Sochi region.”

    Expanding Russia’s status as a leader in the sporting world is a “a key part of our foreign policy,” Churkin added, saying the Sochi Olympics will benefit the entire region with new, world-class sport facilities.

    His Brazilian counterpart, Maria Luiza Ribeiro Viotti, said her government is preparing for a “decade of sports” culminating with the 2016 Olympics.

    “During this decade, sports will be at the top of our national agenda,” she said.

    “The Brazilian government is well aware that these mega events involve complex preparations. 
    “The Games are the single biggest sporting event Rio de Janeiro has hosted and is taking on the challenge.”

    While the Olympics are supposed to be an apolitical event, every country that spoke Monday used the Games to frame a government's political ambitions. All presentations touched on ideals of peace and using sport to promote development. However, some presentations had a uniquely national theme.

    Cuba’s representative called for an end of “mercantilism in sports” and highlighted the benefit to sports from the Cuban Communist revolution.

    He added that developing countries “deserve” to host multinational sporting events such as the Olympics and said the Cuban government is “certain” the 2016 Games “will be a success for the entire south”, referring to the North/South global divide with developed countries located in the northern hemisphere and the southern hemisphere being almost entirely developing countries.
    UN headquarters in New York City. (ATR)

    Israel took time to note the way sports bring people of all races together, paying special attention to the way Arabs and Jews peacefully compete against each other even as tensions between the two ethnicities continue to flare in the Middle East.

    The delegate also brought up Israel’s more painful sporting history, including being excluded from competition as well as the terrorist attack on Israeli Olympians at the 1972 Munich Games and its lasting impact on the country.
     
    Archbishop Francis Chullikat, the Holy See’s Permanent Observer to the UN, also addressed the assembly. He spoke of sport’s role in promoting human dignity and contributing to a fully developed human, all central tenets of Catholic philosophy.

    Representatives from Japan and Ukraine took time to mention their Olympic bids while extolling the virtues of the Olympic Truce.

    In all, 22 representatives spoke.

    While there was no opposition to the Truce at any stage, the General Assembly Hall for the UN was largely unoccupied for the duration of the discussion.

    Written and reported in New York City by Ed Hula III.

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