Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon recalled today the “many powerful emotions” experienced on 26 July 2012 – the day he took part in the torch run for the 2012 Summer Olympic Games in support of the Olympic Truce – and voiced hope that future international sporting events would continue to promote the goal of global peace.
Speaking at the inauguration of an exhibition entitled ‘The UN and the Olympics,’ at United Nations Headquarters in New York, the Secretary-General remembered that the day had been defined by stark contrasts, having first spent the morning in Srebrenica, in Bosnia and Herzegovina, among the mothers of those slain there in the 1995 massacre. Later that day, Mr. Ban said he arrived in London, where “the joy of our common humanity was evident in the faces of all the spectators and competitors I saw.”
“The swing of emotions, and the sense of common purpose in both places, was deeply moving, both personally and because of the work of the United Nations,” he told those gathered for the inauguration, which included the Permanent Representative of the United Kingdom to the UN, Mark Lyall Grant, the UN Under-Secretary-General for Communications and Public Information, Peter Launsky-Tieffenthal, as well as US Olympic gold medallist in figure skating, Sarah Hughes.
As part of a wider effort to promote the positive role of sport and athletes in fostering inter-cultural understanding, reconciliation and peace – particularly under the auspices of the UN Office of the Secretary-General’s Special Adviser on Sport for Development and Peace – the ‘The UN and the Olympics,’ exhibition will remain in the UN Headquarters’ visitors lobby until next year.
Afterwards, the items on exhibit – which include the torch carried by the Secretary-General as well as his track suit – will be donated to a charity event for the benefit of peace and development projects around the world.
“I cannot match the legacy of the Games, but wanted to make my own small contribution to Sport for Development and Peace by offering the Olympic Torch and tracksuit to charity,” Mr. Ban stated.
Returning to his experience running with the torch, the UN chief underscored the importance of the Olympic Truce in an effort to bring a universal end to hostilities, “even for a day.”
Although it may seem a dream, he continued, “it is a dream we must resolutely pursue each day just as Olympians follow their own dream.”
Based on the ancient Greek tradition whereby athletes, artists, their relatives and pilgrims could travel safely to the Olympic Games and afterwards return home safely, the Olympic Truce called for the cessation of all conflicts during the sports event.
The modern-day version of the Truce has been promoted annually through a General Assembly resolution since 1993, and it was extended to the Paralympic Games for disabled athletes in 2006.
The resolution for this year’s Games was the first time that all 193 UN Member States co-sponsored it and passed it unanimously. Member States exhorted nations to observe the Olympic Truce individually and collectively, starting with the opening of the XXX Olympiad on 27 July and ending with the closing of the XIV Paralympic Games, on 9 September.
“This year’s resolution set a record,” Mr. Ban said. “It was co-sponsored by every one of our 193 Member States – the first time this has ever happened.”
The Secretary-General thanked the Government of the United Kingdom, the City of London and the Games’ Organizing Committee for “raising the bar for future hosts” with their work on the 2012 Games and expressed enthusiasm regarding next year’s UN-organized International Forum on Sport for Peace and Development, to be held in June 2013 in New York.
“This will be a further opportunity to explore what more we can do together to use sport to advance our shared goals for the world’s people,” Mr. Ban added.