Secretary-General Says Message of Olympic Truce — for Nations to Set Aside Differences, Place Harmony Over Hostility — ‘Dream on Which the United Nations is Built’

27 July 2012

Secretary-General Says Message of Olympic Truce — for Nations to Set Aside Differences, Place Harmony Over Hostility — ‘Dream on Which the United Nations is Built’

27 July 2012
Department of Public Information • News and Media Division • New York

Secretary-General Says Message of Olympic Truce — for Nations to Set Aside Differences,

Place Harmony Over Hostility — ‘Dream on Which the United Nations is Built’


Following are UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon’s remarks at an event on the Olympic Truce and Sport for Social Change, in London 27 July:

Thank you, Foreign Secretary [William] Hague for your leadership and vision for the Olympic Truce through which we promote world peace and security.

Ladies and Gentlemen, Lord [Michael] Bates, it’s a pleasure to see you.  Thank you Secretary, again.

I am delighted to be here for the opening of the London Games.

Over the past 10 days, I have had something of an Olympic tour.

Ten days ago, I was in Beijing, site of the 2008 Summer Games.

Yesterday, I was in Sarajevo, Bosnia and Herzegovina, where the 1984 Winter Games took place.

I did not plan this itinerary with the Olympics in mind.  But I must confess: it has certainly put me in the mood for London Olympic Games 2012!

I had the honour yesterday to be one of the thousands of torch runners.  It was an unforgettable experience, and an extraordinary honour for me and the United Nations.

I felt the Olympic spirit — from the torch right down to my running shoes.

I saw how the citizens of London have embraced the Games.  It was full of life and full of excitement, and I was very much pleased to see such an atmosphere.

The Government of the United Kingdom has done a remarkable job.

I welcome in particular the Government’s strong support for the Olympic Truce.  I would like to congratulate you, Mr. Secretary, for this extraordinary first world record that every one, 193 Member States of the United Nations sponsored this resolution.  Of course, it was adopted by unanimous decision.  This is already a gold medal, and congratulations on that.

The Truce may sound like something from the distant past that has no place in our times.  It may seem naive to think that hardened fighters and their patrons will listen.  But relevant it is, and try we must.

Above all, we should galvanise our efforts to end the violence in Syria.  Like the Foreign Secretary, I am seriously concerned by the escalating violence in Aleppo, Syria.  I urge the Syrian Government to halt their offensive.  The violence from both sides must stop for the sake of the suffering civilians of Syria.

Let me also touch on another important issue which is related to the Truce, the ongoing negotiations on the arms trade treaty.  The negotiation is due to end today in New York.  I once again appeal to all delegations to bridge their differences.  The world is looking to them to yield a robust and legally binding treaty.  This is a noble initiative that is long overdue.  It would be a disgrace if the international community does not grab this opportunity to have a real impact on the lives of millions of people suffering from the consequences of armed violence.

The Olympic Truce is our collective call for a ceasefire during the Games, according to the ideals of the Olympiad in ancient Greece.  Since 1993, the Truce has been promoted through an annual United Nations General Assembly resolution.  Since 2006, we have extended the idea to include the Paralympic Games.  This year’s resolution set the first world record, as I said, the first time that all the Member States co-sponsored.

The Olympics themselves have been targeted by the very violence we oppose.  Forty years ago in Munich, a terrorist attack killed 11 Israeli Olympic athletes, and brought sorrow to the Games.  Let us remember the victims and honour their memory by speaking out against terrorism and armed conflict anywhere, of any kind.

If people and nations can set aside their differences; if they can place harmony over hostility; if they can do it for one day, or for one event, they can do it forever.

That is the message of the Olympic Truce.  That is the dream on which the United Nations is built, and the goal of our daily work.

The United Kingdom has taken up the baton and given life to the Truce with social and development projects at home and abroad that have benefitted thousands of children and young people.

The exceptional International Inspiration programme has showcased how sport-based interventions can help to achieve the Millennium Development Goals.  I am proud that UNICEF is one of the programme’s main implementing partners.

Earlier this year at an Inspiration facility in Zambia, IOC President Jacques Rogge and I saw homeless and orphaned children receiving shelter to meet their immediate needs — and training to build their futures.

I hope that future Olympic hosts will take up the challenge and match the excellent initiatives started by the United Kingdom.  The United Nations is ready to work together with the full range of partners in furthering development and peace through sport.

We all admire the athletes and achievements on display during the Olympic Games.  We are all spellbound by close competition — come from behind victories — world records falling one after another.

But there is another side to the power of sport.  When you see the magic that a ball can create among children in a shantytown or refugee camp, you see potential that we must harness.

We often take sport, play and leisure for granted.  Yet millions of people around the world do not have access to sports, or are actively denied their right to participate.

I call on all Governments and sport organizations to provide opportunities for sport, physical activity and play.  This is not a luxury.  It is an investment in better health, education and skills for coming generations — critical for building inclusive societies grounded in mutual tolerance and respect.

I thank the Government of the United Kingdom and the London 2012 Organizing Committee for their leadership in this effort.  I express my gratitude to the International Olympic Committee.  I attach great importance to the partnership between our two organizations.

Sportsmanship and fair play.

A world without conflict — and with dignity for all.

These are Olympic ideals.  They are UN ideals.

Let our two families work peacefully together during the 2012 London Olympic Games and beyond to build the future we want.

* *** *

For information media • not an official record
For information media. Not an official record.