As Rio Games approach, UN calls for cessation of hostilities during 'Olympic Truce'

Syrian refugee Hanan Dacka takes part in the 2016 Olympic Games torch relay in Brasilia, Brazil, on 3 May 2016. Photo: UNHCR/Gabo Morales

25 July 2016 – Ahead of next month's start of the Olympics in the Brazilian city of Rio de Janeiro, United Nations Secretary-General, Ban Ki-moon today called for a worldwide cessation of hostilities and the of the President of the General Assembly, Mogens Lykketoft, appealed to all UN Member States to observe the historic 'Olympic Truce' during the Games.

“A respite in fighting would manifest the values that the Games seek to promote: respect, friendship, solidarity and equality,” said Mr. Ban in his message.

“I call for a push to match efforts to win medals on the playing fields with work to silence guns on the battlefields,” he added.

The Secretary-General, recalling the late Olympic Gold Medallist and the UN Messenger of Peace, Muhammad Ali's message that he 'used boxing because it's a platform to get to people,' urged everyone to press all warring parties to lay down their weapons during the symbolic truce period.

In a solemn appeal adopted by the General Assembly, Mr. Lykketoft said: “[I] call upon all warring parties of current armed conflicts around the world to boldly agree to true mutual ceasefires for the duration of the Olympic Truce, thus providing an opportunity to settle disputes peacefully.”

The ancient Greek tradition of the ekecheira, or 'Olympic Truce', began in the eighth century B.C., and serves as a hallowed principle of the Olympic Games. The International Olympic Committee (IOC) renewed this tradition in 1992 by calling upon all nations to observe the Truce.

The appeal follows a resolution adopted last October by the General Assembly in which it urged all Member States of the UN to observe the Truce, individually and collectively, throughout the period from the seventh day before the start of the Rio Olympics until the seventh day following the end of the Paralympic Summer Games, also in Rio.

Emphasizing the importance of sports for sustainable development, the senior UN official said that the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development acknowledged that sport is an important enabler of sustainable development and recognized its contributions to the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), including its goals related to the empowerment of women and of young people and individuals and communities, health, education and social inclusion.

The Assembly President highlighted that, for the first time ever, a team of refugees will participate under the Olympic flag in the Games, acting as a powerful symbol of inclusion and shared humanity.

He also welcomed the leadership of all Olympic and Paralympic athletes in promoting peace and human understanding through sport and the Olympic ideal.

“The Games will bring together athletes from all parts of the world in the greatest of international sports events as a means to promote peace, mutual understanding and goodwill among nations and peoples – goals that are also part of the founding values of the UN,” he said, adding, “As an expression of these common objectives, the IOC has decided to fly the UN flag at Olympic Park.”

Mr. Lykketoft also noted the that UN system and the IOC have strengthened their cooperation and joint endeavours the in fields such as human development, poverty alleviation, humanitarian assistance, health promotion, HIV and AIDS prevention, child and youth education, gender equality, peacebuilding and sustainable development.

The Rio Games run from 5 to 21 August and the Paralympic Games run from 7 to 18 September.


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