One week before the start of the XIX Olympic Winter Games, the United Nations Secretary-General, Kofi Annan, and the President of the UN General Assembly today called for warring parties to put down their weapons on behalf of the athletes participating in the quadrennial competition.
In an appeal to all countries to demonstrate their commitment to the Olympic Truce, which is based on the Greek tradition of ekecheiria, Mr. Annan and Assembly President Han Seung-soo of the Republic of Korea asked that athletes be allowed to travel safely to Salt Lake City, Utah, where the Games will begin on 8 February.
"The Olympic Movement and the United Nations share fundamental ideals: tolerance and understanding; equal opportunities and fair play; and, most of all, peace," said the Secretary-General, who was in the Netherlands with his wife, Nane, for a private visit.
While limited in duration and scope, the Olympic Truce can offer a neutral point of consensus, a window of time to open a dialogue, a pause to provide relief to a suffering population, said Mr. Annan, who met today with Dutch Prime Minister Wim Kok and discussed, among other topics, Afghanistan and the Middle East. "For these next few weeks, may the serenity of the Olympic flame silence the sound of gunfire."
Meanwhile in New York, Mr. Han made a solemn appeal before the Assembly to observe the Olympic Truce, which he said served as a hallowed principle of the Olympic Games.
"The Olympic movement aspires to contribute to a peaceful future for humankind through the educational value of sport," Mr. Han said. "It brings together the athletes of the world in the greatest international sports festival, the Olympic Games, and promotes world peace, friendship, solidarity and fairness, for which the United Nations also stands."