Background

In 2004, it was the first time that the Olympic flame had ever been brought to the United Nations.

The Olympic flame was brought to the United Nations for the first time in 2004.
UN Photo/Evan Schneider

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, so that athletes, artists, their relatives and pilgrims could travel safely to the Olympic Games and afterwards return to their countries.

The sacred Greek tradition of ekecheiria (truce) constituted the cornerstone of the Olympic Games in ancient times, providing safety and a peaceful environment for both the athletes competing in the Games and for the spectators in attendance. Its very 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.

Olympism was revived in 1896, aiming at contributing to a peaceful future for mankind through the educational value of sport. The Olympic Movement brings together the youth of the world in a great sports festival, promoting peace, friendship, solidarity and fair play.

Since 1993, support for the Olympic Truce has grown steadily within the General Assembly, reaching the unprecedented unanimous co-sponsorship of the latest resolution. During these turbulent times, Member States are demonstrating their confidence in the Olympic Truce Ideal.

Today the Olympic Truce has become an expression of mankind's desire to build a world based on the rules of fair competition, peace, humanity and reconciliation. Moreover, the Olympic Truce epitomizes a bridge from the old and wise tradition to the most compelling purpose of the United Nations – the maintenance of international peace and security. As the most visible illustration of this connection in goals and aspirations between the Olympic movement and the United Nations, the International Olympic Committee decided, starting from 1998, to fly the United Nations flag at all competition sites of the Olympic Games.

The application of the Olympic Truce to the Paralympic Games and its relating recognition of the rights of persons with disabilities is another important achievement building on the General Assembly resolutions. The power of sport to achieve social inclusion and encourage the active participation of persons with disabilities on an equitable basis with others was directly demonstrated. (A/65/270, para.7)

Valiant attempts have consistently been made by the United Nations in an effort to bring peace and stability to the troubled regions of the world. That goal may still remain elusive, but if the Olympic Truce can help us to bring about even a brief respite from conflict and strife it will send a powerful message of hope to the international community.