Sports diplomacy is not a new practice and since ancient times, sporting events have been used as a powerful means to build bridges, bring people together and shape peace; it builds friendships and draws lines of respect across borders. Now, United Nations’ Secretary-General António Guterres is urging the world to “build a culture of peace” through the power of sport, calling for nations to observe the Olympic Truce, endorsed last week through a resolution of the UN General Assembly.
Guterres said that the Olympic Truce represents “a chance to overcome differences and find paths towards lasting peace”. As the world strives to end the COVID-19 pandemic, he urged everyone to “unite for a safer, more prosperous and sustainable future for all”.
During a recent press conference, he lauded the game Games as being “an extremely important manifestation in today’s world of the possibility of unity”, mutual respect, and cooperation between different cultures, religions and ethnicities.
The UN utilises sport creatively not only to promote peace and international cooperation, but also for fundraising and raising public awareness on pressing human rights issues.
What is Olympic Truce?
The tradition of the Olympic Truce, or “Ekecheiria”, was established in Ancient Greece in the ninth century BC through the signing of a treaty between three kings – Iphitos of Elis, Cleosthenes of Pisa and Lycurgus of Sparta – to allow safe participation in the ancient Olympic Games for all athletes and spectators from these Greek city-states, which were otherwise almost constantly engaged in conflict with each other.
Taking into account the new political reality in which sport and the Olympic Games exist, the IOC decided to revive the concept of the Olympic Truce for the Olympic Games, with a view to protecting, as far as possible, the interests of the athletes and sport in general, and to harness the power of sport to promote peace, dialogue and reconciliation more broadly.
Since 1993, the United Nations (UN) General Assembly has repeatedly expressed its support for the Olympic Truce ideal and for the IOC’s mission by adopting, every two years – one year before each edition of the Olympic Games – a resolution entitled “Building a peaceful and better world through sport and the Olympic ideal”.