Sport & Peace: the Olympic Truce

Sport alone cannot enforce or maintain peace. But it has a vital role to play in building a better and more peaceful world” said Dr Jacques Rogge, International Olympic Committee (IOC) President, on October 2007. Sport can be a powerful tool to promote peace, tolerance and understanding by uniting people together across boundaries, cultures, religions and despite conflicts across the world. It has the power to create social cohesion and peaceful coexistence in a world dominated by hate and violence. Although sport alone cannot stop or solve an acute conflict, it represents a chance for post-conflict relief work and peace building as well as conflict prevention.


Its relevance today: the Olympic Truce for PyeongChang 2018

The UN General Assembly recently adopted the resolution, by consensus, “Building a peaceful and better world through sport and the Olympic Ideal” supporting the Olympic Truce aimed to ensure the safe passage and participation of athletes and spectators at February’s XXIII Olympic Winter Games, The PyeongChang 2018 Olympic and Paralympic Winter Games, in the Republic of Korea.

Calling on the nations of the world to uphold the Olympic Truce for the time of the Olympic Winter Games, the resolution’s first operative clause specifically asks Member States “to ensure the safe passage, access and participation of athletes, officials and all other accredited persons taking part in the Olympic Winter Games and Paralympic Winter Games”.

By adopting the resolution, the international community at the United Nations recognises again the power of sport and the relevance of the Olympic and Paralympic Games to bring the world together in peaceful competition, providing hope for a better future.


History of the Olympic Truce

The Olympic Truce, or “ekecheria”, is based on an ancient Greek tradition, dating back to the ninth century B.C. all conflicts ceased during the period of the Truce, which began seven days prior to the opening of the Olympic Games and ended on the seventh day following the closing of the Games.  Athletes, artists, their relatives and pilgrims could travel safely to the Olympic Games and afterwards return to their countries. Its adoption was dictated by the oracle of Delphi as a way to put an end to the wars that at the time devastated the Peloponnese. The longest lasting peace accord in history was thus created.

The Olympic Games were revived by Baron Pierre de Coubertin on 23 June 1894 in Paris, with the first Games of the modern era taking place in Athens in April 1896. During the course of the 20th century, the Olympic Games become the largest and most widely followed sporting event in the world.

However, it was not until 1992 that the International Olympic Committee (IOC) decided to reintroduce the Olympic Truce. In making a worldwide appeal for it to be observed once more, the IOC negotiated with the United Nations (UN) to allow athletes of the Former Republic of Yugoslavia to participate in the Olympic Summer Games Barcelona 1992 under the Olympic flag.

At its 48th Session, in 1993, the UN General Assembly urged Member States to observe the Olympic Truce at all future Games. Following concerted diplomatic efforts, the Olympic Truce was observed for the first time in the modern era at the Olympic Winter Games Lillehammer 1994.

UN resolution entitled “Building a peaceful and better world through sport and the Olympic ideal” was presented to the General Assembly and has been adopted prior to every Olympic Games since Lillehammer 1994. The presentation and adoption of this UN resolution every two years is far from the only support the Olympic Truce receives from the international community before and during the Games.


The symbol

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.


The Purpose of Olympic Truce: International Olympic Committee (IOC) and its action

The main objectives pursued by the IOC through the Olympic Truce are to mobilise youth for the promotion of the Olympic ideal, to use sport to help build bridges between communities in conflict, and, more generally, to create a window of opportunity for dialogue and reconciliation.

The Organising Committees for the Olympic Games (OCOGs) all contribute fully to promoting these themes, while the IOC’s undertakings for the Olympic Truce extend beyond the period of the Olympic Games and have led to the implementation of a series of “sport for peace” activities through its more than 200 National Olympic Committees.

In the framework of promoting peace through sport and the Olympic ideal, it was established an International Olympic Truce Foundation (IOTF) in July 2000 and an International Olympic Truce Centre (IOTC), which is responsible for the implementation of projects related to the global promotion of a culture of peace through sport and the Olympic ideal.