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  • Olympic Truce Center Sets Sail for More Peaceful World


    09/23/14

    (ATR) Bronze medalist Virginia Kravarioti will “sail for peace” as part of the International Olympic Truce Center's celebration of the International Day of Peace.

    The Sail for Peace event, scheduled for Friday, is “ a symbolic action supporting the values of peace, reconciliation and the Olympic Truce,” Dora Pallis, deputy director of the IOTC, told Around the Rings in an email.

    The International Olympic Academy was the site of the camp. (ATR)
    Kravarioti will sail from Athens to a nearby island. Afterward, 300 schoolchildren will take part in educational event.

    Friday’s event will be the latest in a busy summer of activities for the IOTC.

    This summer, the IOTC, which is based in Athens and symbolically calls Olympia home, had a booth at the Nanjing Youth Olympic Games as part of the Culture and Education Program. Among the visitors was IOC president Thomas Bach.

    However, the biggest event of the year was the first annual Imagine Peace Camp, which took place at the International Olympic Academy in Olympia.

    A total of 68 delegates, ages 17 to 25, from 28 countries were brought together with the aim of furthering the IOTC’s mission. Before every Olympic Games, the United Nations adopts the Olympic Truce, which is intended to stop all conflicts during the Games-time period.

    That was not enough, Constantinos Filis, the center’s director told ATR.

    “All member states that were signing the Truce, they didn’t feel obliged to follow it,” he said.

    “The core values of the Olympic Truce should be embedded in the youth. They are more open minded and eager,” he explained.

    To that end, the IOTC focused on inviting people from conflict and post-conflict areas while wanting hostile countries to come to the camp and work alongside their traditional rivals. Turkish Cypriots were paired with Greeks while North and South Koreans teamed up to name two examples. If there was a black mark, it is that Palestinian and Israeli youths were invited, but only Palestinian representatives showed up.

    Several organizations pitched in to help stage the camp including the IOC, the United Nations (Wilfred Lemke, the UN’s top sport official attended the opening ceremony and a representative was present the whole week), the British Council in Greece and the Hellenic Education Ministry.
      
    Pallis said the IOTC had worked for three years on the project and hopes to make the camp an annual event. While Olympia was the most logical place for the first camp, she said ideally the camp will be “transferred” throughout the world. Possible hosts for future camps include Qatar and Rio de Janeiro.

    Next year, she said, organizers plan to “open the channel more” for a potentially larger camp with even more diversity in its participants.

    Even if the scope of the camp in the future is being worked out, Filis has plenty of ambition.

    Constantinos Filis (OITC)
    “The youth are here to change the world and create a new generation,” he said.

    “We wanted to give them the best circumstances to realize they need to adapt to a new culture. Our main objective for the camp is these people can be our ambassadors, and can re-think and realize it is better to live under peace.

    “If we win one ambassador, it was worth it.”
      
    Following the camp, the delegates will continue to be involved with the center, being part of an ongoing review process.

    Results are already on display—with several delegates having started programs in their homes including a basketball camp in Zimbabwe for children 13 and younger.

    A professor of international relations, Filis noted there are some 60 conflicts ongoing in the world at the moment.

    “This makes it an imperative to change the course of events. Societies have matured to realize this situation cannot continue.”

    Filis said he hopes the camp becomes “an institution” and will become more than a one-time, week-long event, eventually expanding to provide “the next step” in ambassador and diplomatic training.

    “Now we just lay the fundamentals—it is not enough.”

    Written by Ed Hula III

    Homepage photo: OITC

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