The Olympic Truce – Creating a Lasting Legacy

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An Olympic tradition and tool with vast untapped potential is the Olympic Truce.

The tradition of the Olympic Truce or Ekecheiria embodies the peace-building mission of sport. In the 9th century BC, in Ancient Greece, during the Truce period, the athletes, artists and their families, as well as ordinary citizens, were able to travel in total safety to participate in or attend the Olympic Games and return afterwards to their respective countries. As the opening of the Games approached, the sacred truce was proclaimed and announced by citizens of Elis who travelled throughout Greece to pass on the message.

The IOC decided to revive this ancient concept during the 1992 Olympic Games. A first UN General Assembly Resolution was passed in 1993 and is renewed every two years in advance of the Summer and Winter Games. The goals are to inspire young people to learn about the Olympic ideals, use sport to establish contacts between communities in conflict, offer humanitarian support in countries at war, create a window for dialogue and reconciliation, protect, as far as possible, the interests of the athletes and sport in general, and encourage the search for peaceful and diplomatic solutions to the conflicts around the world. The Olympic Truce is symbolised by the dove of peace with the traditional Olympic flame in the background.

The IOC established an International Olympic Truce Foundation (IOTF) in July 2000 to encourage the study of world peace and the Olympic ideal, as part of its efforts to promote peace through sport. Through the IOTF, the IOC seeks to: encourage political leaders to act in favour of peace; organise conferences on sport and peace; mobilise young people for the promotion of the Olympic ideals; develop initiatives with other organisations specialising in the field of peace, including the United Nations; and develop educational and research programmes to promote the Olympic Truce. IOTF projects promote a culture of peace through sport and the Olympic ideal.

The Olympic Truce is well-known in the Olympic Family, but less so in the wider world. Efforts to raise the public profile of the Olympic Truce aim to mobilise opinion to put pressure on governments to heed it and give it practical relevance. Russia’s invasion of Georgia just before the Beijing Olympics in 2008 publicised the Olympic Truce (through the breaking of it).

The London 2012 Olympic Truce resolution, ‘Building A Better World Through Sport And The Olympic Ideal,’ urged nations to support the IOC “in its efforts to promote peace and human understanding through sport.” The U.K. submitted the resolution to the UN in October 2011. In an unprecedented show of support, all 193 UN Member States co-sponsored the Resolution—the highest number in the history of the UN. The resolution was grounded in the vision that the London 2012 Games would be a catalyst for long-term positive change and to inspire young people. UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon expressed his hope that London 2012 would provide great momentum to solve the many conflicts presently facing the world.

The UK Government and LOCOG have worked with the IOC, other member states and civil society on Truce-related activities, both in the UK and around the world. They reach out to people in different walks of life so that the ideals of the Truce have a long-lasting positive impact. Activities include: (a) Get Set for the Olympic Truce, that encourages young people across the UK to learn about the history of the Olympic Truce, to debate and discuss what the Olympic Truce means to their lives and to undertake an activity to promote peace within their school or community. (b) Truce Inspire, a truce strand of the Inspire programme through which LOCOG specifically sought projects inspired by the London 2012 Olympic and Paralympic Games, which use sport or culture to promote conflict resolution, reconciliation, and peace; (c) the Cultural Olympiad and the London 2012 Festival organised by LOCOG and the NGO Peace One Day, is delivering a truce strand of the Film Nation Shorts project through which 14-25 year olds are invited to create films focused on the truce theme; and (d) the Department for International Development and the Foreign and Commonwealth Office in the UK promote the ideals of the Olympic Truce internationally under the themes of: Local Solutions to Local Problems; Legitimate Politics; and Building a 2012 Truce Legacy.

Olympic Truce Logo

The Olympic Truce is symbolised by the dove of peace with the traditional Olympic flame in the background. In a world that is plagued by wars and animosity, the peace-dove symbol represents one of the IOC’s ideals to build a peaceful and better world through sport and the Olympic ideal. The Olympic flame has brought warm friendship to all the people of the world through sharing and global togetherness. In the symbol, the flame is made up of colourful effervescent elements – reminiscent of festivities experienced in the celebration of the human spirit. These elements represent people of all races coming together for the observance of the Truce.

Source: Berkley Centre for Religion, Peace and World Affairs

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