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International Day of Peace 2004

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The theme of this year's International Day of Peace -- peace through sports -- emphasizes the importance that sports play in establishing a world of friendship and cooperation among nations. The Olympic Games, the most renowned sport event in the world, have been recognized in many UN resolutions for the contribution they make to building a more peaceful world. As Secretary-General Kofi Annan pointed out in his message to the 27th Olympiad in Sydney Australia, "...Olympic ideals are also United Nations ideals: tolerance, equality, fair play and, most of all, peace."

On 28 September, 2003, the General Assembly adopted resolution 55/252 declaring that the International Day of Peace shall be observed "as a day of global ceasefire and non-violence, an invitation to all nations and people to honour a cessation of hostilities for the duration of the Day." This call to stop all fighting everywhere in the world for a day echoes the ancient Olympic Truce that was first observed over two thousand years ago.

Ancient Greece was composed of many self-governing city-states, and rivalries between them often led to war. In the 8th century B.C., King Ifitos of Elis asked the Oracle at Delphi for a solution. The Oracle advised that all soldiers should put their skill and effort into a noble set of athletic games, and that a sacred truce ("Ekecheiria" in Greek) should be set in place during the games. King Ifitos convinced the kings of Sparta and Pisa to agree, and the first Olympic Games were organized in 776 B.C.

The Olympic Truce required all warfare to stop a week before, during, and a week after the Olympics so athletes and spectators could travel to Olympia and return home in peace. This practice continued uninterrupted at each Olympic Games for the next 1200 years. The Greeks hoped the Sacred Truce would continue when the games ended, and that the contests would turn warriors into athletes, whose skills, formerly associated with militarism, would be transformed into demonstrations of beauty and strength.

A truce, even for a short period of time, is invaluable. It can provide a window of opportunity to build bridges and establish communication between people at war or in conflict. This is the dream behind the celebrating the International Day of Peace!



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AllinPeace participants at the Wishing Tree in Delphi.
© Photograph Ohad Romano

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